Secretive Startup Nicira Poaches A Star From Cisco

Diane Greene
Diane Greene

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The startup backed by VMware founder Diane Greene has hired away Cisco Fellow Bruce Davie.Cisco Fellow is the highest technical designation a Cisco engineer can achieve. Davie has now joined Nicira as its Chief Service Provider Architect, AllThingsD reports.

Nicira is still in stealth mode, but there’s enough information about it to make it one of the up-and-coming startups to watch in Silicon Valley. It has raised $40 million in funding, says the New York Times, backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners, NEA and Andy Rachleff.

Nicira will do for networking what VMware did for servers. It is part of a class of new startups developing technology originally created at Stanford University known as OpenFlow.

Nicira is making software called a “virtual switch” that will make it easy for data traffic on networks to be easily moved from one pipe to another without missing a beat. Plus, it is based on an open standard, meaning it will work with other OpenFlow-based systems.

This is both a threat and an opportunity to the major networking vendors like Cisco, Juniper and HP. The software that operates their network gear is closed. No one can see it, or change it.  OpenFlow, however, won’t eliminate the need for their gear, but it moves at least some of the brains of that gear out of their products and into open source software. Those brains are how these companies build products that add features and cost more. But since OpenFlow is open source, nothing prevents them from making use of it, too.

Nicira isn’t the only company working on OpenFlow products. Big Switch is another (and one that has also poached talent from VMware).

But Nicira has attracted the big guns, including Martin Casado, who invented OpenFlow as part of his PhD when he was at Standford. Casado is the CTO of Nicira. He’s joined by more Standford talent like Nick McKeown and Scott Shenker.

Nicira’s CEO is Steve Mullaney, who is also a known name in networking circles that came from the likes of ShoreTel and Cisco. Plus, Nicira grabbed Rob Enns from Juniper to be its VP of engineering, says AllThingsD.