But I wouldn't say they are application developers. If you are an application developer, you don't want to [program the network], but the people that build systems, they definitely want to. My original assumption was that programming a network was just programming. But what I learned is solving a problem for networking is very different for solving a problem for computation.
The large telcos have really embraced software-defined networking and network functions. How close are we from bringing this into the average enterprise?
VMware just announced a couple months ago that NSX was a billion-dollar run rate product. It's a really significant product that has a very broad customer base. Of the many things that I learned [at Nicira] is that there is no one network. There isn't "A Network." There is the data center network, the campus network, the wireless network, the WAN, and they're all going to evolve at their own pace. When it comes to virtual networking for VMs [virtual machines], NSX is classic SDN, which is fairly mature.
There are other areas that are starting to mature, like the white box. We're seeing a massive deployment of white boxes in traditional enterprises. Cumulus is the leader in this space, and they are seeing fantastic uptake from customers, even very traditional large customers. I think SD WAN is another area that we are seeing real maturation.
What do you think about what Barefoot Networks is doing with network hardware and programming?
One of the frustrating things about building networking software is that you don't have programmable chips. If you are building software for compute, you have general programmability. But for us, all of the networking chips were from traditional vendors, like Marvell and Broadcom, with fixed functions, and we'd go to them and say we just want some basic programmability, and they would always say no, basically.
It's not just a startup thing [at Nicira]. It's also the case for VMware. Either they didn't know how to do it or they didn't want to do it. But as a software player, it's impossible for us to have them put any functionality. We got zero in 10 years of trying. The great thing about Barefoot is it's got programmability built in by design, and probably the fastest chip on the planet, with full expressability. If Barefoot had existed, we would have been able to use that to do the functions that we wanted. I think this is a huge improvement.
What are your thoughts on the conference 10 years after you started Nicira?
In the very beginning this was a group of dreamers. There were academics and startups that didn't know what they were doing. Just a bunch of dreamers. There was almost no substance: there were talks, there were papers, there were ideas. But there was very little that you could point to.
The biggest difference is—the topics haven't changed, the people haven't changed, the ideas are largely the same—but now this is mature. There are real production deployments, real companies, real products, real success cases. Being part of this journey for 10 years, it's awesome to see this happening.