Why I Joined Nicira (and Why The Network Will be Virtualized)

There is a great scene at the end of When Harry Met Sally, when Billy Crystal, after knowing Meg Ryan for like 20 years, finally realizes he is deeply in love with her.  In the film’s final crescendo, we see Billy running through the dark streets of Manhattan rushing to a New Year’s party to open his heart to Meg: “I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.”

After many, many months of talking to the leaders of and investors in Nicira, I had my Billy Crystal moment. The satori about Nicira finally hit, just a few weeks ago, at 3:27 am, like an earthquake.  I knew, I just knew, I had to pass on a carefully planned — and, perhaps, well-deserved — mid-career break faster than the iPhone 4GS will be pulled off the shelf at the Apple Store this Friday.

Why The Network Will Be Virtualized

One of Nicira’s (and my own) guiding values is to only talk about your product and its benefits when your customers are ready to do so — and in a big way.  So this blog entry is not a product launch.  What I can tell you, however, having had my hand in a few networking start-ups and leaders, is what we are working on at Nicira is so different from everything that occurred in the past 30 years, I am still trying to get my head around it. And our customers and partners are both true leaders as well as household names in the business and technology worlds.  Can you say quantum shift?

Virtualization and the cloud is the most profound change in information technology since client-server and the web overtook mainframes and mini computers.  We believe the full promise of virtualization and the cloud can only be fully realized when the network enables rather than hinders this movement.  That is why it needs to be virtualized.

Oh, by the way, OpenFlow is a really small part of the story.  If people think the big shift in networking is simply about OpenFlow, well, they don’t get it.

Nicira’s Excellent Adventure

You build products either because you love technology or what it does for people.  You join a company because the people there either amaze or inspire you.  So when Steve Mullaney, Martin Casado and the gang in Palo Alto asked me to join their excellent adventure, how could I say no? Steve is a deeply experienced and wicked wise networking executive who I have known on-and-off for all of my years in the Valley.  I did not know Martin prior to Nicira, but I am now convinced he is the Ray Ozzie of networking.  The software he and the team are driving will change everything.

This is something that has to happen.  Now I get to be part of a great team that will bring virtualization to the network in ways few can imagine.  As Mark Twain wrote in The Turning Point of My Life: “A person may PLAN as much as he wants to, but nothing of consequence is likely to come of it until the magician CIRCUMSTANCE steps in and takes the matter off his hands.”

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11 thoughts on “Why I Joined Nicira (and Why The Network Will be Virtualized)

  1. Congrats, Alan. Best of luck.

  2. Brad Hedlund says:

    You have made a very wise that you will not regret, and never look back. Congrats Alan. Well done.


  3. Congrats to you and Nicira…sounds like a win-win..

  4. Omar Sultan says:

    Nice move–congrats. Tell Fazzone I said “hi” 🙂


  5. Tm Hogue says:

    Indeed a great move and congratulations. As to the Network being virtualized, we (as an industry) are just beginning to scratch the surface on what this really means. There is an inflection upon us that will change the industry as we know it . As usual…you will be there for it! Best wishes on your new adventures.

    Tom Hogue

  6. Chalan Aras says:


    Congrats in joining a potential game changer company, again!


  7. Congrats Alan!

    You will have a lot of fun with the Nicira team, and a great market oppty to leverage. Best wishes on your new gig.


  8. Congratulations Alan ! Indeed, a great move.


  9. […] S. Cohen, a recent addition to the Nicira team, put it into pithy perspective on his personal blog, where he wrote about why he joined Nicira and why the network will be virtualized. Wrote Cohen: […]

  10. DevMeyers says:

    My son is working on his PHD at UCSD and was approached by Nicira this week. I just Googled the company and I am very impressed.

  11. […] instance, when Alan Cohen first joined Nicira last fall to assume the role of VP marketing, he wrote the following on his personal blog: […]

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