Meet Big Switch, The Next Billion-Dollar Network Startup

Kyle Forster Big Switch
Kyle Forster, cofounder, Big Switch

[credit provider=”Big Switch”]

Nicira isn’t the only startup with tech that’s going to disrupt corporate networks. Big Switch Networks is another.With yesterday’s news that VMware was spending $1.26 billion to acquire Nicira, we talked to Big Switch cofounder Kyle Forster, formerly a rising star at Cisco.

“We had about three management team meetings in last 24 hours,” Forster told us. “We’re a little like kids in a candy store.”

That’s because, Forster and his team feel, Big Switch is sitting pretty. This is the start of a multibillion-dollar market for the stuff his company makes, and his biggest competitor has already been swallowed.

Not surprisingly, sources close to the company say acquisition offers are raining on them. Big Switch backers Index Ventures and Khosla Ventures have to be smiling. (Forster is a protégé of Index partner Mike Volpi, who hired him at Cisco.)

Forster is also excited because he thinks Nicira will alter some of its plans, letting Big Switch pick up the slack.

Big Switch is like the baby brother to Nicira. It is two years younger but from the same Stanford University stock. Nicira’s founders invented the open-source software that is at the heart of all the excitement, known as OpenFlow. But Big Switch cofounder Guido Appenzeller was also involved with OpenFlow. And he and Forster delivered a next-generation version. So two companies know each other well.

Big Switch’s main software product competes with Nicira, but it’s the added applications that set them apart. Big Switch was careful to avoid too much overlap with Nicira. They didn’t want to be “two startups shooting arrows at each other,” Forster says.

But he believes “a whole bunch of Nicira’s apps are a horrible strategic fit to VMware’s portfolio,” so it’s time to open fire.

Big Switch is not officially launched, though it will be in the fourth quarter. That said, Forster says that they already have a handful of paying commercial beta customers.

Plus interest is insanely high in the product. Big Switch rather quietly released its software as an open-source project in January—mostly to try and lure developers to build apps on top of it. Since then it’s been downloaded 5,000 times, and they get contributions to improve it every week, Forster told us. That means that thousands of large enterprises are playing with it.

It sure seems likely that this company will fetch a big fat price someday soon, too.

Don’t miss: Ben Horowitz Explains Why Tiny Startup Nicira Was Worth $1.26 Billion To VMware