During his Broadcom tenure, Ramaswami ran the infrastructure and networking group, which included the Trident and Trident II chip franchises.
When you mention “merchant silicon” for switches, you’re probably talking about those chips. The Trident line dominates high-end, off-the-shelf Ethernet switching, with market shares that have exceeded 90 percent at times. Ramaswami is a kingpin of white-box switching.
More to the point: He has some experience running a franchise product, one that’s been tailored to support software, such as VMware‘s NSX, the network virtualization product that’s about to land in his hands.
As for what makes Ramaswami available, job-wise — it’s the Avago acquisition by Broadcom, which took effect early this month. The combined company is using the Broadcom name, but it’s very much Avago and its CEO, Hock Tan, who are in control. Tan wanted to eliminate one layer of Broadcom management, and Ramaswami was one of those removed.
Trident to Tomahawk
Ramaswami left Cisco to join Broadcom in 2012, so he probably arrived early in the Trident II design cycle. It’s true that Trident II fell behind schedule in ramping up to production volumes in 2013, but Ramaswami’s team did better with the successor, Tomahawk, which was introduced in 2014.
“If anything, they’ve gained momentum,” says Bob Wheeler, an analyst at the Linley Group. “I was very impressed by how quickly they moved Tomahawk into production.”
The feat behind this franchise has less to do with competition and more to do with operational complexity. Tomahawk’s only rival so far is the XPliant line from Cavium, which should start appearing in switches during the next two quarters. These chips are complex and take years to bring to market, factors that keep most potential competitors at bay.
Ramaswami will be inheriting NSX and will get another chance to build a franchise. Don’t expect 90 percent market share, though. Ramaswami will have to fight continually against Cisco’s Application-Centric Infrastructure (ACI) and competitors such as Nuage Networks (now owned by Nokia).
VMware CEO Pat Gelsinger might reveal more about his company’s long-term vision during his Thursday afternoon talk at this week’s RSA Conference in San Francisco.
It’s a big job, but VMware has found a big name for the role.
Photo: Lifted from the Broadcom Foundation.