The IP Networking industry has matured significantly from the go-go days of the 90’s. In that era, companies like Cisco, Wellfleet, Synoptics and Cabletron grabbed headlines the way Facebook and Twitter do today. In was an exciting time because the birth of the web created massive demand for communications networks that spoke IP – the lingua franca of the Internet.
Fast forward 15 years to today, the IP networking business is a $40B+ market with routers and switches canvassing private and public data centers, enterprise networks and operator networks around the world. In parallel, over the last few years, the computing platforms that the networks connect have transformed dramatically. “Hosts” as servers and client were referred to in networking-speak have gone from physical assets in the enterprise premise to virtual compute utilities in the cloud. The revolution in computing lead by VMware and Citrix’s virtualization technologies have transformed the concept of servers completely and made them a manageable utility - the way electricity or water work for us at home.
Yet, networking over the last decade, IP networking has not quite kept pace with that speed of innovation. Networks are still generally built with the same basic addressing and control mechanisms as were used a decade ago. As virtual servers spawn across globally distributed data centers, network operators strain using their relatively static tools like Access Control Lists (ACLs) to keep up with the dynamic compute environment. Networks still don’t really have an “API”. Over my 14 years at Cisco, I saw a lot of interesting technologies come and go. OpenFlow is as transformative as I have seen in the last decade..
Today, we are delighted to be joined by Khosla Ventures in announcing the funding of Big Switch Networks. While networking has not been a fertile ground for venture investing in recent years, we are pretty excited about this company. Big Switch is based on a core technology developed at Stanford University called OpenFlow. OpenFlow is a fairly complex concept, but it essentially creates a “control layer” between the applications running in clouds or enterprise environments that allows networks to have APIs the way modern web applications do. OpenFlow also speaks directly to switching chips that are OpenFlow compliant – essentially obviating the need for complex software on classic switching platforms. And, while networks are traditionally built as a collection of independently managed switches, OpenFlow essentially allows for a single controller to provide flow information to a large number of switches, turning a network into one..... Big Switch.
We are also very excited to be able to back two terrific founders in Guido Appenzeller and Kyle Forster. Guido is a repeat entrepreneur who also was the consulting professor at Stanford that lead the OpenFlow developments. Kyle Forster is an old friend from Cisco who I’ve had the privilege of hiring a couple of times in my career. Together, they give birth to Big Switch with a healthy degree of skepticism for how things have been done in the past, but also the due respect of a matured and developed industry that allows the Internet to reach the corners of the world today. We were fortunate enough to be seed investors in Big Switch when it was just Guido and Kyle and are thrilled to be able to support them in the next phase of their journey
Vinod, Pierre, and Shirish at Khosla Ventures are no strangers to seminal companies in this industry.... I still remember Pierre roaming the hallways of Cisco when I was a newbie there. I had the pleasure of competing with Juniper (one of Vinod’s many successes) for years. And, of course, Shirish brings in the most recent success story in Aruba. We feel privileged to be working the folks at KV on Big Switch.
It will be a long road before the IP networking industry is transformed from the way we know it today. Then again, a decade ago, few people imagined that computing would be as thoroughly transformed by this unknown technology called virtualization. We couldn’t be happier to be able to support Guido and Kyle at the beginning of this journey in the networking industry.