Infrastructure ‘Coming To Life In A New Way,’ SDN Inventor Says

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Martin Casado is very optimistic about the new age of infrastructure, the SDN inventor turned venture capitalist said in an Interop keynote

There are those that believe the era of infrastructure is gone, but Martin Casado is not among them. Casado, now a venture capitalist at Andreessen Horowitz, discussed during a keynote address at the Interop conference here why we’re now on the cusp of an evolutionary shift in the infrastructure market.

Casado is well-known in the networking world as co-author of the groundbreaking research paper in 2005 that ignited the software-defined networking (SDN) era. He co-founded Nicira in 2007, a company he sold to VMware in 2012 for $1.2 billion. Nicira helped usher in the SDN era by removing networking from the constraints of being restricted to purpose-built hardware appliances.

“Traditional infrastructure is going through a shift, but we’re now on the cusp of something much better, a golden era of infrastructure,” Casado said. “I have heard many people talk about how infrastructure is dead, but I believe it’s coming to life in new way.”

In Casado’s view, it has never been easier in the history of computation for new entrants to come and add value than it is today. The reason for that is a confluence of three trends identified by Casado as shifts from hardware to software, software to services and the rise of developers.

Pure software

For Casado, the term “software defined,” is all about enabling a function that can be delivered purely in software, without the need for a specific piece of hardware. With the rise of common ubiquitous computing platforms like x86 as well as iOS and Android for mobile, Casado argued that there are now standard interfaces for enabling software-defined infrastructure.

A software-defined startup can build and ship features faster and more economically than hardware-bound companies. Going a step further, Casado sees a move from software to services, with things like public cloud and software as a service. By providing a service-based approach for features, a company sidesteps deployment and operations issues.

Networks, Infrastructure © Jakub Pavlinec Shutterstock 2012Casado believes service delivery is the trend for infrastructure today. “Customers are now more used to buying things as a service.”

That said, he noted that many companies in the Andreessen Horowitz portfolio will offer their technologies both on-premises and as a service. Their revenues are often evenly split across the two modalities for delivery.

With the move to software-define approaches for technologies, Casado said that developers now have more control and influence. While developers are not always the people that actually pay for service in a company, they do influence technology acquisition.

“The shift to developer obviates traditional channels for sales and influence,” Casado said. “Developers don’t care about analyst reports or an existing sales relationship; what influences developers tends to be more technical in nature.”

Developers care about traction among other developers; they want there to be an active user community and the technology should be open source and offer low friction to initial adoption.

“I’d argue a good open-source project will give you more market traction than any marketing budget can,” Casado said.

With the software-defined era, anyone can enter the market and potentially start the next big company, he said. “There has never been a more exciting time to be in infrastructure. No one knows what the future looks like, but let me tell you, if you have a good idea, come talk to me.”

Originally published on eWeek.