With Casado leaving, questions rise about VMware’s plans for NSX in the cloud

VMware has big plans for NSX being a part of its cloud strategy

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Dell's DSS 9000 rack architecture will pool together compute, storage and networking resources.

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VMware’s Networking and Security Chief Martin Casado’s announced departure raises questions about the role the company’s network virtualization product NSX will play in VMware’s cloud strategy.

+MORE AT NETWORK WORLD: Why did Martin Casado leave VMware? +

In recent weeks VMware has been pitching NSX as an enabler of hybrid cloud computing. Now, the visionary behind that product and technology is leaving VMware.

Last month VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger previewed to investors plans for a new version of NSX that will connect customers’ on-premises infrastructure to multiple public clouds, including Amazon and Microsoft’s.

Analysts who track the IaaS cloud computing market aren’t too worried about Casado leaving in the midst of that effort. “Had he left two years ago or maybe even a year ago it may be different,” said Constellation Research VP Holger Mueller. “The foundational releases of NSX are in place and in the market. Now it’s all about growth and execution of the NSX business, which may require different skills and professionals, anyways.”

It’s still early days for network virtualization, says Steve Herrod, the former CTO of VMware who left in 2013 to become a managing director at venture firm General Catalyst, but the technology is “clearly the future.” Casado’s departure is “certainly a hit to VMware,” but he’s well suited for the VC world, adding that Casado’s hand-picked successor, Rajiv Ramaswami has a strong reputation and track effort to take over NSX. 

On the cloud front, Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at 451 Research Group, noted that VMware has a solid leadership team in place between EVP and VM of Cloud Bill Fathers (who is the former president of Savvis, which was acquired by CenturyLink), and CTO Ray O’Farrell, a VMware veteran. “They’ve got an executive team running with this well,” Hanselman said. “As for the NSX piece, Martin had stepped back from day-to-day operations piece.” Hanselman says some of Casado’s ongoing work related to encrypted connectivity within NSX and verifying trusted infrastructure could “loose some steam,” but that VMware’s overall software defined data center strategy should be unchanged.

As VMware increasingly positions NSX as a piece of its cloud strategy, other aspects of VMware’s cloud efforts are experiencing some turbulent times. In that same earnings call announcing the future NSX release, Gelsinger noted that the company would be “narrowing” its focus of its vCloud Air public cloud. Just weeks after that announcement VMware entered into a broad-ranging public cloud agreement with IBM. That follows up on a partnership VMware made with Google’s Cloud Platform last year. Instead of focusing on offering its own public cloud, VMware is working to ensure that its management tools, including the vRealize Suite, can control multiple cloud endpoints, both in VMware environments as well as other public clouds. Expect VMware to continue marketing NSX as an enabler of that hybrid cloud connectivity, even with that technology’s chief visionary leaving the company.

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