Stealthy start-up looks to virtualize networks

A start-up with financial backing from VMware founder Diane Greene is developing a network operating system designed to virtualize networks and create networks ideal for cloud deployments.

The California company, Nicira Inc., hasn’t revealed much publicly, but has a patent pending for a “network operating system for managing and securing networks,” and will give a presentation at Interop Las Vegas in April.

“Nicira Networks is accelerating the transformation to cloud infrastructure by delivering software that virtualizes the network and enables elastic, scale-out data centers,” the start-up says on its Web site.

Nicira’s investor list is robust enough to make one wonder if the company has something interesting in the works. Diane Greene, who co-founded VMware and was its CEO for 10 years, is listed among the company’s investors and advisors. Nicira’s founding team comes out of Stanford University, where Greene’s husband and VMware co-founder, Mendel Rosenblum, is a professor in computer science.

Nicira investors also include the venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz formed by two ex-Netscape bigwigs, and Andy Rachleff, a partner at Benchmark Capital.

Nicira’s technology is based on work performed by Martin Casado while he was earning a Ph.D. from Stanford. Casado, who is serving as Nicira’s CTO and will speak at Interop Las Vegas, previously worked on network security research at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Nicira’s co-founders also include Scott Shenker and Nick McKeown, who are computer science professors at Stanford University. The start-up’s CEO is Steve Mullaney, who has held executive positions at Palo Alto Networks, Blue Coat, Cisco and other companies.

Nicira raised one equity round of US$9 million and another of $4 million, according to a VentureBeat article. Founded in 2007, Nicira is based in Palo Alto, Calif.

Nicira’s technology includes NOX, a network-control platform designed to support large enterprise networks with hundreds of switches supporting thousands of hosts,

“Its purpose is to provide a high-level, programmatic interface on top of which network management and control applications can be built,” according to the NOX Web site. “NOX is different from standard network development environments (such as building routers within or on top of Linux) in that it provides a centralized programming model for an entire network.”


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