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NSX, and its new chief, take center stage at VMWorld

Brandon Butler | Sept. 2, 2016
VMware hopes NSX will be the central platform for managing public clouds from Amazon, Microsoft and Google

July 23, 2012 was a big day for VMware. It was the day the company, which up until then had been known mostly for bringing server virtualization to the enterprise, entered the networking market. By spending $1.26 billion to buy startup Nicira, VMware got something else too: Martin Casado, considered one of the forefathers of the software defined networking movement.

Fast forward to Feb. 24, 2016 and it was another big day for VMware. It was the day Casado left the company for a position at Venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Thrust into the spotlight to replace Casado on the day of his amicable departure was Rajiv Ramaswami, a former executive at Broadcom and Cisco who now leads VMware's networking and security business unit. This week at VMWorld in Las Vegas Ramaswami and VMware's network virtualization product, NSX, took center stage.

+MORE FROM VMWORLD: VMware CEO pledges cloud computing freedom | Cloud Foundation integrates virtual compute network and storage | Hot products at VMWorld 2016 +

Casado's four years at VMware could be thought of as the incubation phase for NSX at VMware. It was a period of transition for the company, says Eric Hanselman, head analyst at the 451 Research Group. “(Casado) did good work in educating VMware employees, partners and executives in networking and the opportunity in software defined networking,” Hanselman says. During Casado’s tenure at VMware integrations were developed between NSX, which at its foundation is the Nicira product, and VMware's other core products.

rajiv ramaswami 2

Rajiv Ramaswami

As the new head of the NSX division since April, Ramaswami is now charged with executing the next phase of NSX growth both in terms of product development and sales. As more of VMware’s core server virtualization business is eroding as workloads move to the public cloud, the company is positioning NSX as a platform for managing and securing hybrid cloud computing. “NSX is their crown jewel,” said Greg Ferro, host of the networking podcast Packet Pushers. It’ll be Ramaswami’s job to sell that to enterprises.

NSX today

NSX is more popular today than ever. There are 1,700 paying customers, growing 100% year-over-year; eight of VMware’s 10 largest deals in the second quarter included NSX. A slide at VMWorld of NSX customers included names such as Citibank, Columbia Sportswear and Johnson & Johnson. In January, VMware said NSX is on a $600 million annual sales run rate.

Ramaswmai says the targets for NSX are broken down into three categories:

-Security and microsegmentation: NSX gives customers the ability to create flexible security policies for what traffic is allowed on virtual networks created by the software. Whereas traditional security has relied on a “north-south” perimeter based approach, microsegmentation allows for east-west traffic inside a data center to be visualized and secured using virtual firewalls and other software-based security tools. About 40% of NSX sales are driven by the security and microsegmentation use case.


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