VMware Is Building A Dream Team Of Engineers To Knock Out Cisco


Guido Appenzeller

Big Switch Networks

Guido Appenzeller

VMware just made two huge hires in its quest to disrupt Cisco's $23 billion network equipment kingdom.


It just hired Guido Appenzeller away from the network startup he co-founded, Big Switch Networks. And it nabbed Dom Delfino, who was formerly running the Cisco's sales engineer team for Cisco's all important "Application Centric Infrastructure." That's the product that Cisco hopes will stem off VMware's invasion.

To recap: Cisco and VMware in an epic battle right now that promises to upend the way companies build corporate networks. Cisco currently dominates this $50 billion-a-year market, owning about half of it.

VMware Dom Delfino

LinkedIn/Dom Delfino

VMware's Dom Delfino

But some years ago, a Standford grad student named Martin Casado developed a new way to build networks that took all of the fancy controls out of the network hardware and put them into software. This makes networks easier to build and cheaper to operate. Companies still need to buy network hardware, but they need less of it, and less expensive varieties.

The concept is called software-defined networking (SDN). And the software Casado developed was called OpenFlow. Casado, along with his two legendary Stanford professors, Nick McKeown and Scott Shenker, co-founded a company called Nicira. In 2012, VMware shocked the network world (and particularly shocked its close partner Cisco) by buying the tiny startup Nicira for $1.26 billion, it's largest acquisition to date.


That set off a firestorm of SDN startups, some of them instantly snapped up for millions, and even Facebook got into the fray, creating its own SDN switch.

It also caused Cisco to spend about $1 billion to build its own SDN product: a network switch called the Nexus 9000 with special software called "Application Centric Infrastructure."

Nicira's Martin Casado


Martin Casado

By nabbing 14-year Cisco veteran Delfino, VMware has hired away the guy helping to ramp up Cisco's enormous sales force to sell the ACI product. He's now Vice President, WW Systems Engineering, for VMware.

Appenzeller is an arguably an even more impressive hire.

If Casado is SDN's Coke than Appenzeller is its Pepsi. Appenzeller took Casado's original work on OpenFlow and took it to a new level. Both of them are famous in their world.


Appenzeller is taking over the CTO role as VMware has promoted Casado to become general manager of its network business unit.

Meanwhile, the unit is on track to generate $100 million this year, the company says with more than 150 paying customers, and growing.

Casado told Business Insider that he believes this unit will be generating more than $1 billion for VMware in the not-too-distant future.