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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:     How many customers do you have today?

MC:      We've quoted the number as being over a 150 paying customers. Medtronic is one we just announced recently, which is a Midwest manufacturing company. USDA, which is federal. We've got a number of financial customers, including four of the five top banks. We've got beverage companies, telcos, service providers, SaaS providers. It's pretty much all the verticals.

And why not? I mean, to see the future all we have to do is look under the covers of existing data centers. One of the most significant things in networking that nobody talks about is, if you look at modern third generation data centers, which are typified by the mega data centers run by the Yahoos and Googles and Facebooks, but not just them, anybody that's building a new data center, and you look at the network architectures, they all look the same. They're all generic Layer 3 fabrics. They do almost nothing. They just pass packets, and all the functionally is in software. These are the most scalable, most successful businesses on the planet. So in many ways Darwin has already spoken.

NW:     But those folks have the luxury of having a very small mix of applications, right?

MC:      Yeah. And they have control so they can rewrite security and performance as part of the application, and most people don't have that luxury. But the people that do have proven that is a better way to build a data center. The CapEx is lower, the OpEx is lower, the innovation speeds are much faster. There's just no argument there. This happened organically. And if you look, the traditional vendors don't have the same representation in these data centers as they do in the traditional enterprise, and that's the future.

Large customers can do the same thing. There's no reason for me to buy networking kit with all the bells and whistles from the top vendor and pay top dollar for that if all I need to do is pass packets. I can go to the same vendor and buy a lower dollar SKU that does less, or I can go to another vendor and do price comparison between the two. So this pretty much unifies the acquisition discussion across all vendors. All I need is the cheapest L3.

 NW:     So you expect to see more folks reaching for white box alternatives to the name brands?

MC:    White box is somewhat of a different discussion. The cheapest we can ever get is white box, so it's sexy to talk about that, but there's a lot of complicated logistics in procurement. ODMs aren't really set up for onesies, twosies and those are still very niche and very rare.


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