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VMware's Casado talks about evolving SDN use cases, including a prominent role for security

John Dix | Oct. 7, 2014
Martin Casado, who helped launch the Software Defined Networking concept in the labs at Stanford, was recently elevated to the top business slot in VMware's Networking and Security Business Unit, giving him the rare opportunity to see the technology through from the incubator to the data center. Network World Editor in Chief John Dix sat down with Casado for an update on the company and his thoughts on how the technology is maturing.

NW:     Do you have to call on different people, or is this still a network sale?

MC:      That's a great question. Originally, in the days of Nicira, we'd go to the networking guys and it was so hard. It was like we were fighting against the Cisco sales force. It was a very difficult, long sales cycles, very technical. With VMware the discussion is very different. We talk to virtual admins who have shown enormous value to their company and used to working with us, and we say, "We touch everyone you've impacted today in software already. We have for ten years and things are great. Let us go ahead now and tackle some networking problems."

So we're entering on a much more friendly foot through the virtual admin, and then have the discussion with the security guys and the network guys, but normally the procurement goes through the virtual admin guys.

NW:     Given that, who you most often stack up against competition wise?

MC:      Through some stroke of serendipity we have become the number one competitor to Cisco. John Chambers said it on an earnings call, and we've heard this many times. I don't know how these things happen, and I actually don't believe it's true. We'll never sell physical gear, ever. Our technologies are very complementary. We'd love to cooperate with ACI. I totally don't see us as competitive. But somehow there's this perception that we're competitive, and the number one competitor at that.

Again, I'll be very clear with you. I don't believe we're competitive. But the result has been we're now part of every network procurement discussion. Two years ago, if you had a guy at some bank buying network kit, which companies would he call? Cisco and HP and Extreme or Juniper or whatever. Today they have to call us because of this positioning, just for basic procurement due diligence. And this is a conversation we would never been a part of a year ago. Never.

But we've been brought into every one of these discussions and that's 100% upside for us. Let's say I convert just 2% of those. That's a billion dollar business. This is unbelievably serendipitous. Basically it's created an enormous sourcing funnel for us. A year ago it was about going out and hunting and finding leads, and now it's just qualify, qualify, qualify, because we've got this huge pipeline of people.

NW:     Are most of the sales still coming from the VMware customer base?

MC:      No. We get it from all over. We sell to a lot of non-VMware accounts. Those sales deals are more difficult for us because we don't have an established relationship, we don't have an established procurement structure, we're not the incumbent, but we convert them. It's just a much more difficult motion.


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