Andreessen Horowitz-Backed Nicira Pulls The Curtains Back On Disruptive Network Virtualization Platform

The enterprise is moving towards simplicity, and this extends to the data center. Nicira, a stealthy virtualization startup with backing from big-name investors, is pulling the curtains back on its disruptive platform that hopes to change the way server and storage virtualization is done. And Nicira is revealing that it has raised with $50 million in funding to date from Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed Venture Partners and New Enterprise Associates, as well as individual investors including VMware co-founder Diane Greene and Benchmark Capital cofounder Andy Rachleff.

Nicira’s NVP is a software-based system that creates a distributed virtual network infrastructure in cloud data centers that is completely decoupled and independent from physical network hardware. Nicira says that it is shifting the intelligence and control of the network away from hardware and into software, simplifying the virtualization process.

NVP’s platform forms a thin software layer that treats the physical network as an IP backplane. This approach allows the creation of virtual networks that have the same properties and services as physical networks, such as security and QoS policies, L2 reachability, and higher-level service capabilities.

According to the company, organizations can provision and deploy services in minutes rather than weeks or months, and you don’t need to change any of your existing hardware or software infrastructure. All enterprises need is IP connectivity.

Nicira says that virtualized data centers face limits to what applications they can support and where the workloads can be placed. These limitations result in restricted workload mobility, and leave data centers under utilized.

Stephen Mullaney, Chief Executive Officer of Nicira, explained to us that the network hasn’t evolved for the cloud-based data center, and the existing solutions are inflexible and complex. “The solution is to virtualize and create virtual networks that are decoupled from physical networks. The network is transitioning from hardware to software just like every other business. Software is eating the world,” he says.

The NVP platform is compatible with any data center network hardware. It can be deployed on any existing network, and it allows for future changes to the network hardware without disruption to the operations of the virtual network platform. The software is delivered through a usage-based, monthly subscription-pricing model, which scales per virtual network port. Customers only pay for what they use, and pricing scales accordingly. The company, which has nabbed a number of executives from Cisco, already counts AT&T, eBay, Fidelity Investments, NTT and Rackspace as customers.