Xu hasn’t discussed details about why he left Big Switch, but speaking to SDNCentral last week, he said that he likes being part of a product-flow cycle involving thousands of customers, a change from the “evangelizing” work that an SDN startup calls for.
Xu started Monday as a senior director responsible for all of Cisco’s Cloud Networking Service Group engineering team, SDNCentral has now learned. It appears he’ll be reunited with Saravan Rajendran, who’s a VP in that group; they worked together to develop the Nexus 1000v when Xu was at VMware.
In a sense, Xu is picking up where he left off at VMware, where he’d led the virtual switching team — a tiny, unnoticed corner of the company, back around 2006.
“At VMware, we did virtual switching for many years, but any time I would mention it, people would say, ‘What does my Cisco admin think?'” he says. “You have to understand — VMware was a pure server company back then. When we first started talking to Cisco, we didn’t even have a dedicated PM [product manager] yet.”
The talks with Cisco started in the summer of 2006, as Cisco sought a way to get in on virtual switching. Xu became the liaison working on what would be the Nexus 1000v, a jointly developed product that launched in 2008 and began shipping in 2009. Xu says VMware enabled other companies develop their virtual switches as well; IBM launched the DVS 5000V in 2012, and HP launched its FlexFabric Virtual Switch 5900V this year.
In many cases, the virtual switch has supplanted the top-of-rack switch as the first hop switch in the data center, so the idea has come a long way since those 2006 days. VMware got the early jump, but the market still looks wide open, because in many circles, VMware is still considered more of a server company than a networking company. One thing to watch at VMworld in August will be the extent to which VMware tries to strengthen its networking story.