VMware SDN, cloud issues did not push Casado out

A restless scientist just got a great offer, analysts say

vmworld martin casado

Martin Casado, VMware senior vice president, talks network virtualization at the VMworld conference, September 1, 2015.

Credit: Joab Jackson

Martin Casado’s decision to leave VMware was simply a desire to move on and not an indication of turbulence with company strategy, direction or product traction, observers say.

Casado announced yesterday that he is leaving his post as executive vice president and general manager of VMware’s Networking and Security Business April 1 to become a general partner at venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz. Casado joined VMware in 2012 with its acquisition of Nicira, an SDN start-up Casado co-founded and Andreessen Horowitz funded.

Casado will be replaced by Rajiv Ramaswami, a former Broadcom and Cisco switching and cloud executive.

+MORE ON NETWORK WORLD: VMware’s Casado talks about evolving SDN use cases, including a prominent role for security+

That Casado’s replacement was already tapped by the time he announced his plan to leave indicates that the transition was in the works for some time, and not a hasty retreat from a product area experiencing tepid market acceptance, analysts say. Casado said he’d been contemplating his departure for two years but waited until VMware's NSX network virtualization product -- which he oversaw -- established solid footing.

Also, Ramaswami is a known and respected executive in the networking industry. He would not have moved over to VMware from Broadcom if NSX was languishing in the market, analysts say.

“This is one of the more orderly and thoughtful transitions,” says Gartner analyst Joe Skorupa. “Rajiv is a seasoned executive able to scale the business. He knows the Layer 2/3 networking crowd and how VMware can leverage” that base.

“I think he left entirely of his own volition,” says IDC analyst Brad Casemore, who expected Casado to leave the company “long before now.”

“I was marveling that he's remained at VMware for so long,” Casemore says. “To his credit, he's done a solid job transitioning to a senior executive role in a company as large as VMware. I think his leadership will be missed particularly by the engineering and product teams he's built there. VMware will have to hold the team together in his absence."

NSX is currently on a $600 million annual run rate. VMware saw a threefold increase in the number of paying customers for its NSX network virtualization product from 2014 to 2015, to 1,200.

VMware is signing up between 44 and 48 NSX customers per month. SDN rival Cisco is enlisting about 82 customers per month for its Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) product line.

VMware said it also saw a 5x increase in production NSX customers in 2015, to more than 250. And in Q4 of 2015, nine of the top 10 VMware deals included NSX, the company says.

Gartner’s Skorupa said Casado ascended rapidly from a doctoral student at Stanford in 2007, to Nicira co-founder and CTO, and then to a high-ranking executive in VMware in 2012. Casado is only 39.

“He came to the conclusion that he’d done everything he could” to build the NSX business within VMware, Skorupa says. “The business us up and running and at a run rate that it is no longer (the purview) of a chief scientist or evangelist. It’s done well, and it’s time to hand it to someone who can continue to do well.”

VMware is also undergoing a shift in its cloud strategy and a massive acquisition of its parent EMC by Dell. These factors also did not play a role in Casado’s decision to leave, observers say.

“NSX has become an even more important asset for VMware, providing a secure overlay to leading public clouds for VMware’s private-cloud enterprise customers,” IDC’s Casemore says. “NSX sales are ramping, the sales force has a better appreciation for the product and what it can do for customers, and Dell’s pending acquisition of EMC should result in additional market traction.

“Martin probably felt his work there was done, and that it was time for somebody else to take it forward while he went off to pursue new opportunities,” Casemore adds. “He’s exceptionally creative and entrepreneurial, and VMware is a big company now. It was inevitable that he’d get restless and want to pursue new ideas and opportunities.”

Casado should be proud of NSX’s momentum, says Stu Miniman, an analyst at Wikibon.

“I don’t think Martin ‘fled’ due to challenging times,” he said. “My take is that it is more the tremendous opportunity than any deficit at VMware.”

Senior Editor Brandon Butler contributed to this report.

This story, "VMware SDN, cloud issues did not push Casado out" was originally published by Network World.