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VMware SDN Executive Casado Leaves for VC Firm

Martin Casado, a pioneer in the SDN field and head of VMware's NSX business, will be a general partner of venture capitalist firm Andreessen Horowitz.

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Martin Casado, the software-defined network pioneer who joined VMware when the virtualization company bought his startup almost four years ago, is leaving the virtualization technology vendor to become a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley.

Casado will become a general partner at the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz. He and colleagues at Stanford University were the drivers behind the idea of using software to run data center networks and the developers of the OpenFlow protocol. In a blog post, Marc Andreessen wrote about first meeting Casado in 2009, when he and others first pitched the firm about software-defined networking.

They launched Nicira Networks, and "very quickly the rest of the networking world followed the lead of Martin and the Nicira team toward what we now know as software-defined networks (SDN)," Andreessen wrote. Firm co-founder Ben Horowitz was a member of Nicira's board of directors.

SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV) have since helped transform enterprise and service provider networks by putting the network control plane and networking tasks into software that can run on low-cost commodity hardware. The result is networks that are more programmable, agile, flexible and affordable.

In 2012, VMware became a player in the SDN space when it bought Nicira for $1.26 billion, enabling it to compete with the likes of Cisco Systems. Casado became executive vice president and general manager of VMware's networking unit, running the NSX business that has since grown to a $600 million run rate.

VMware will replace Casado with Rajiv Ramaswami, who comes to the company from Broadcom, where he was vice president and general manager of that vendor's Infrastructure and Networking Group. Broadom is being bought by Avago Technologies for about $37 billion. Casado will continue to be an external strategic adviser to VMware, the company said.

Casado told Re/Code that Dell's $67 billion bid to buy EMC—whose collection of federated companies includes VMware, as well as RSA, Pivotal and others—had nothing to do with his decision to leave VMware. The deal, which this week received the approval of U.S. antitrust regulators, has hurt the share prices of both EMC and VMware. EMC owns about 80 percent of VMware.