Cisco's OpenFlow basher jumps to Big Switch

Fantasy is reality for Prashant Gandhi

Here's a jawdropper, and a PR coup for Big Switch: Prashant Gandhi, senior director of the Server Access Virtualization Technology Group at Cisco - he of the "OpenFlow is a fantasy" rant at a March tech blogger meeting - has jumped to OpenFlow crusader Big Switch Networks. Gandhi will run product strategy and development there.

Big Switch is happy to have him, given his deep background in physical and virtual routing and switching at Cisco. He worked on the Catalyst 6500, Nexus 7000 and Nexus 1000v, and also Cisco's Cisco ONE network programmability strategy.

Cisco is critical of OpenFlow, claiming its decoupled control and data planes, linked by the OpenFlow protocol, forces customers to re-architect and re-engineer their networks. Gandhi was vocally in opposition of OpenFlow during that Networking Field Day tech talk in March:

"OpenFlow is a fantasy you cannot counter because it's promising everything. And there's nothing in production."

How did that win over Big Switch? For product development?

Gandhi was said to be unavailable for interviews last week.  But Jason Matloff, vice president of marketing at Big Switch, said Gandhi was just spouting the company line at Cisco while silently acknowledging OpenFlow's reality.

"He was doing the thing he needed to do when you're sitting where you sit," Matlof said. "He was promoting. But he voted with his feet. He's a full believer in SDN and OpenFlow."

Matlof says Gandhi and Big Switch were brought together by a venture capital firm that funds Big Switch and used to fund Gandhi's company Rohati Systems. Cisco acquired Rohati in 2010.

Matlof also says Gandhi's move is a vote of confidence in Big Switch and OpenFlow. Gandhi will be vice president of product management at Big Switch, driving product development and roadmaps.

Cisco confirmed Gandhi's departure and said it had no replacement to announce yet. But it did add that Dave Ward, vice president of engineering, CTO and chief architecture, has been promoted to senior vice president. Ward spearheads Cisco's ONE programmable networking strategy.

Perhaps Gandhi's replacement will come from Insieme Networks as that company is spun into Cisco.

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