Arik Hesseldahl

Recent Posts by Arik Hesseldahl

Cisco Fellow Bruce Davie Joins Stealth Start-Up Nicira

It has been a while since we heard any rumblings from the super-secret stealth networking start-up Nicira. When last seen, the company — backed by investments from Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and NEA, plus personal investments from VMWare founder Diane Greene and venture capitalist Andy Rachleff — had just hired Alan Cohen from Cisco Systems as its vice president of marketing.

I’m told Nicira has just made another key hire, again from Cisco Systems. Bruce Davie, a longtime Cisco employee and a Cisco Fellow, has joined Nicira as its Chief Service Provider Architect.

Davie is pretty well known in networking circles, and is one of the co-inventors of MPLS, or multiprotocol label switching, which is a fundamental basis for the high-end business class Internet service that many carriers deliver.

Davie joined Cisco in 1995, and has been a Cisco Fellow since 1998. Since 1997, he has worked in the Internet Technologies Division at Cisco, and leads a group that represents the company before the Internet Engineering Task Force. If there’s anyone who truly understands how the Internet’s pipes really work, he’s probably among them.

Before Cisco, Davie worked at Bellcore, a.k.a. Bell Communications Research, the old research and development arm of the regional phone companies, or “Baby Bells,” that resulted from the 1982 court-ordered breakup of the old AT&T. Bellcore is still around; it eventually became Telcordia and ended up in the hands of Swedish telecom concern Ericsson, in a deal that closed earlier this month.

Davie has a B.E. from Melbourne University, and a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Edinburgh University. He is the author of three books on networking, and lots of technical papers. He is also an active participant on both the Internet Engineering Task Force and the Internet Research Task Force; a senior member of the IEEE; and has, in recent years, been a visiting lecturer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Davie would appear to be the eighth person at Nicira (by my likely incomplete count) with a Cisco connection. Its CEO is Steve Mullaney, a veteran networking executive who has worked at Palo Alto Networks, ShoreTel and Cisco. Its CTO and co-founder, Martin Casado, did his Ph.D. on the technology the company plans to bring to market. Its other founders, Nick McKeown and Scott Shenker, are electrical engineering profs at Stanford and Berkeley, respectively. Last January, the outfit also hired Rob Enns, a veteran of Juniper Networks, as its VP of engineering.

There’s still no official word about what Nicira is doing, but all these hires are making it look ever more interesting by the day. Nicira is working on technology aimed at “virtualizing the network.” Data center networks today are too inflexible, complex and costly, especially in the age of the cloud, when everything is on-demand, flexible and cheap. Nicira’s Web site says the product is a software solution that runs on existing networks, requires no new hardware and is aimed directly at large-scale cloud data centers. Interesting, indeed.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work