They were created from the beginning to think about networking as a distributed systems problem, rather than a networking problem. It's very important to think about it that way if you're going to achieve the type of scale you need to be in charge of all parts of your network. This is the group that founded and started OpenFlow, so the technology side represents the best-in-class thinking of how networking is evolving. The other side is that they didn't work at all in the VMware environment and we didn't have much that worked in a non-VMware environment.
And that gets to the higher level of our strategy. Our goal is to deliver a cloud suite that makes it as easy as possible to build a software-defined data center, but we've also gotten clear feedback to enable choice. Most customers, we believe, will use the VMware environment for most of their production workloads, but they also may want to be able to interoperate with other platforms, such as OpenStack, Amazon and others. The key goal of networking, almost by definition, is that it has to connect everything. By buying Nicira, we got the technology as well as the best solution that is in already production, as Nicira has announced eBay, AT&T, Rackspace and others as some of its customers.
NW: So you really see SDN as a transformational shift for networking?
Herrod: It's pretty clear. After watching the server virtualization world for 15 years, it looks exactly like that. I think it's as easy of a bet as you can make that the network will be changed to be virtualized. It'll happen both within the data center and I think even more interesting to watch will be when it can expands across multiple data centers.
NW: How does Nicira's approach to SDN differ from others in the market, say for example Cisco?
Herrod: Nicira was really the first and is now the largest of the SDN strategies being used so far. We actually collaborate quite a bit with Cisco. The good news is that everyone recognizes the same problem, which is the rigidity of the network is keeping you from moving things around as much as you'd like. There are a number of different solutions to do that and Nicira represents a mostly pure software approach that still uses hardware on the back end. Cisco, by its heritage, is taking a more ASIC-oriented [application-specific integrated circuit] approach and using more hardware aspects.