VMware’s Nicira Emphasizing Virtual Switches Over OpenFlow for SDN
Nicira CTO Martin Casado, who created the popular OpenFlow protocol, says virtual switches are a better tool for network automation and programmability.BOSTON—Martin Casado was at the ground floor in the development of OpenFlow, the protocol that has become a cornerstone of the burgeoning software-defined networking trend that promises to gain steam in data centers as the industry moves into 2013. Casado—now the CTO of Nicira, an SDN pioneer that earlier this year was bought by virtualization technology vendor VMware for $1.26 billion—was a doctoral student at Stanford in 2007 when, looking to address the problematic automation issues in data center networking, saw a way of moving the networking functions, such as security, billing, quality of service and inventory, from traditional networking hardware and putting it into OpenFlow-based controllers in hopes of creating more flexible, scalable and cost-efficient networking infrastructures. OpenFlow was born, and is now being embraced by established networking vendors and SDN startups alike as a key enabler of SDN. At the same time, Casado now looks at OpenFlow and says he was all wrong about the protocol and its approach to more flexible, programmable networking. During a recent whiteboard meeting with journalists at VMware’s offices here, Casado talked about the development of OpenFlow, and his eventual belief that it was the virtual switches in hypervisors—particularly the vSwitches in VMware’s offerings—that offered the best solution for greater automation and programmability of data center networking infrastructures. Nicira executives switched their focus away from OpenFlow and to the virtual networking capabilities found in VMware’s virtualization platform.
He also mentioned that Nicira next year will roll out an SDN offering that will be independent of the virtualization hypervisor, enabling it to work not only with VMware’s virtualization technology, but also with virtualization platforms from other vendors. Casado didn’t go into any detail about the product, but said it would come to the market by mid- to late-2013.