Networking Tech Inventor Casado Leaves VMware for Andreessen

  • Executive ran one of VMware's fastest-growing businesses
  • Company has been hit by turmoil since Dell deal for EMC

Martin Casado, the head of one of VMware Inc.’s fastest-growing businesses and the father of a networking technology that’s upending the industry, is leaving to join venture capital firm Andreessen Horowitz.

Casado’s work as a graduate student at Stanford University pioneered the idea of using software rather than hardware to control networks. The technology has challenged Cisco Systems Inc.’s grip on the market and has made it easier for engineers to build, manage and upgrade networks using cheaper, off-the-shelf equipment.

The departure of a key technology executive is the latest upheaval for VMware and its parent EMC Corp., which is being acquired by Dell Inc. VMware’s shares are down 14 percent this year, following a 31 percent decline in 2015, on weak forecasts, executive departures and concerns about the acquisition of EMC. In January, VMware forecast sales and profit for 2016 that may miss estimates and announced 800 job cuts and a new chief financial officer.

“The thing that makes it hardest for me to leave is that with the weaker macro-economic environment and Dell-EMC, VMware needs very strong leaders,” Casado said. “There is a level of uncertainty, and so the timing isn’t perfect.”

Casado co-founded Nicira, which VMware bought for $1.26 billion in 2012 and became senior vice president of VMware’s networking and security business, which tripled annualized revenue to $600 million last year. He said his departure isn’t related to challenges at VMware or the Dell deal. Instead, Casado said he wanted to take a lucrative venture capital job. VMware’s networking business is seeing strong demand and growth will continue, he said.

VMware said Casado will serve as an external strategic adviser to the company after his departure. Casado will join Andreessen, which was Nicira’s first institutional investor, on April 1. Rajiv Ramaswami, who held senior roles at Broadcom Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc., will replace Casado as the head of VMware’s networking and security business, the company said. Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg News, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.

Casado, 39, also has a background in intelligence, working on large-scale nuclear simulations and network security at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before getting a Ph.D. at Stanford. His work there became the basis for Nicira, which he founded in 2007 along with Nick McKeown and Scott Shenker.

At Andreessen Horowitz, Casado will initially focus on his areas of expertise in enterprise computing and infrastructure. He said he’ll seek opportunities in areas that are new for him, such as mobile, applications, artificial intelligence and robotics.

“My 30s were dedicated to a very narrow area, and in my next decade of life, I want to take a broader role,” Casado said.

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