What does Nicira do?
Nicira virtualizes the network, unlocking the full value of compute and storage virtualization. Our customers are the leaders of their industry segments, including the world's largest cloud providers, enterprises and government agencies. Our network virtualization platform forms the foundation for our customer's next generation cloud data centers and provides a competitive advantage that dramatically increases business velocity and operational efficiency.
We have delivered the industry's first network virtualization platform, a distributed software suite that creates scalable, fully featured, isolated virtual networks that are completely decoupled and independent from the physical network. Our solutions works across any network and are compatible with any server hypervisor. Nicira's open, programmable approach not only delivers Layer 2 and Layer 3 networking, it also supports layer 4-7 services within virtual networks.
When was Nicira founded? Who are the founders?
Martin Casado, Nick McKeown (Stanford) and Scott Shenker (UC Berkeley) founded Nicira in 2007. Steve Mullaney joined Nicira as the founding CEO in 2009.
Much of the initial work and invention originated with Martin's work at Stanford, where Nick and Scott were his doctoral advisors. Some of the critical innovations of the founding collaborators were the invention of OpenFlow, Open vSwitch, and the development of the Open Networking Forum. All of these continue to contribute to the industry.
Is Nicira an "OpenFlow" or open source company?
While Nicira's founders invented and brought OpenFlow into the market, it is only a small component of our solution. Nicira, while not an open source company, supports a range of open source initiatives, including leading the Quantum component of OpenStack and ongoing development of Open vSwitch. We are also members of the Linux Alliance.
Can you share more about Nicira's team and funding?
Nicira pioneered the software-based, distributed systems approach to network virtualization. Our engineering team comes from the distributed systems world (VMware, Google, Yahoo) and a large percentage of them hold PhDs in systems design and computer science from leading universities including Stanford, Berkeley, MIT and Cornell. Our management team comes from strong networking backgrounds including companies like Cisco, Juniper, SynOptics, Fore Systems, Palo Alto Networks, Airespace, and Force 10.
Nicira is a private company backed by elite investors including venture firms Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and New Enterprise Associates as well as individual investors including Diane Greene and Andy Rachleff. We have raised $50M.
What is "Network Virtualization"?
Network Virtualization decouples network services and operational control from network hardware, transforming any physical network into an IP backplane. VIrtual networks are programmatically provisioned and controlled to deliver the same features and guarantees of physical networks, but with the operational flexibility of virtualization. This is akin to how server hypervisors separate the workload from the underlying physical server. The physical network continues to be leveraged for what it does well, forwarding packets, while network services and operational state are maintained and programmatically controlled in the virtual space.
There are seven key properties of network virtualization:
What products does Nicira sell?
Nicira's core offering is the Network Virtualization Platform (NVP). NVP is software that manages a network abstraction layer between end hosts and the physical network and enables the creation of virtual networks that operate independent of the underlying physical network. NVP works with any network hardware from any vendor and is hypervisor agnostic, working with VMware ESXi, Linux/KVM, Xen/Xen Server and Microsoft HyperV.
The key components of the NVP software suite are:
How does NVP communicate with the physical network?
The NVP Controller communicates directly with Open vSwitch (OVS), switch software designed for remote control that is deployed in server hypervisors. The server hypervisor connects to the physical network and end hosts connect to the vswitch. NVP does not talk directly to the physical network. Open vSwitch is a multilayer open source virtual switch licensed under the Apache 2 license.
Open vSwitch can run as both a standalone hypervisor switch or as a distributed switch across multiple physical servers (e.g. XenServer DVS). It can also be leveraged as the control stack for switching silicon. Open vSwitch has been integrated across a large number of virtualization platforms and switching chipsets.
How does the platform work?
The NVP Controller Cluster dynamically updates the state of tunnel connections between OVS switches through the physical network. These tunnels allow virtual networks to span across the data center, even between data centers. Data communications between workloads connected to virtual networks is encapsulated and traverses the physical network, enabling VM mobility across subnet boundaries, while maintaining L2 adjacency. The operational state of the network is computed algorithmically in the NVP Controller Cluster, avoiding any type of manual intervention, such as scripts, whose function more closely resembles manual CLI replacement than computation.
NVP provides for:
What is Nicira's architecture?
Nicira's Distributed Virtual Network Infrastructure (DVNI) is an architecture that builds on a distributed software system that decouples virtual services from the network hardware and works with any server hypervisor.
DVNI creates some unique architectural advantages including massive scale and resiliency. OVS operates within or adjacent to the hypervisor and abstracts VM MAC addresses from the physical network. As a result, hardware bottlenecks, commonly encountered in clouds as physical switches are burdened with maintaining state for hundreds or even thousands of virtual machines addresses, are eliminated.
Where does Nicira use OpenFlow?
OpenFlow is the communications protocol between the controller and OVS instances at the edge of the network. It does not directly communicate with the physical network elements and is thus not subject to scaling challenges of hardware-dependent, hop-by-hop OpenFlow solutions.
Is there any dependency on specific network hardware?
NVP runs on standard x86 servers. Since the physical network simply forwards packets, there is no hardware or vendor dependency. NVP requires only IP connectivity.
What are the key technical customer benefits?
What are NVP competitive advantages?
What are the business benefits of NVP?
Nicira customers gain three primary benefits:
NVP allows Cloud Service Providers to eliminate the network bottlenecks that delay configuration and deployment of services. This occurs by making the network programmable and abstracting network services from the physical network, effectively creating a "click to compute" cloud model. Network virtualization fosters both faster time to revenue for public cloud providers (who can now differentiate at the infrastructure level) and competitive advantage for enterprise private clouds by accelerating new product and service introduction. We have seen customers reduce provisioning time for new services from weeks/days to minutes/seconds, which can translate into significant time-to-revenue gains.
Traditional networking approaches are highly manual and frequently require reconfiguring multiple network elements (one at a time) to provision new service onto the network or even simple VM mobility.
Network reconfigurations are fragile and prone to human error, when a change to one node affects the other nodes in the network. Finally, 80% of the security vulnerabilities in a network occur from a mistaken keystroke during reconfiguration.
NVP eliminates these issues by providing a programmatic interface for network services, which operate above the physical network fabric. This allows the physical network configuration and management to be far simpler and free from human intervention. Reducing "human touch" in cloud data centers, reduces both operational costs and downtime from both the network and server administration perspectives.
In addition to reduced operational expenses, network deployments become more capital efficient from both the network and the server perspectives. As emerging Layer 3 Fabric architectures become more broadly adopted, companies will benefit from lower cost, high performance network hardware as well as vendor independence. Nicira is not dependent on any specific network hardware, allowing customers to choose the network architecture and vendors that provide the best price performance solution for their business. As servers become unlocked from network roadblocks, they can be more fully loaded and eliminate the need for backup capacity in racks for future workload growth.
How do I purchase NVP?
Nicira provides a usage-based licensing model that allows customers to pay for only what they use. The usage-based models are sized based on the number of dedicated customer instances and the aggregate requirements of the customer.