VMware’s founder Diane Greene is back – UPDATED

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In July 2008, the VMware Board of Directors voted to remove the founder Diane Greene as CEO of the company. Greene was offered another position that she declined, leaving the company that she created and led through one of the most impressive IPO in the IT history.

Two months after her departure, his husband Mendel Rosenblum, left too.

Rosenblum co-founded VMware and was the Chief Scientist declining the company vision.

The board immediately replaced her with Paul Maritz, a long-time Microsoft executive that joined the EMC ecosystem after his startup Pi was acquired in February 2008.

Under the Maritz leadership VMware took an unexpected direction, extending beyond virtualization and cloud computing, to the realm of development frameworks and software-as-a-service applications.

Now Diane Greene is back on the IT scene, as TechTarget reports.

Greene appears as investor in a startup called Nicira, along with Andy Rachleff, Partner at Benchmark Capital.

Nicira, founded in early 2009, is in stealth mode at the moment but its website is clear about its mission to virtualize networks.

The company is managed by Steve Mullaney, who comes from Palo Alto Networks and Blue Coat Systems, where he was Vice President of Marketing.

That doesn’t mean that we’ll see Diane Greene leading another virtualization startup like she did with VMware, but it certainly means that Nicira may have some potential that may be worth to see in action.

Update: Nicira, formerly Nicira Networks, seems to be working on a “Network Operating System” or NOX.

A number of employees, along with Stanford and Deutsche Telecom researchers, in fact published a couple of research papers (one and two) about this topic in late 2009.

In the documents the team advocates the need for a centralized programmatic interface to observe and control large scale networks.
The NOX would provide such API while 3rd party vendors would build applications that leverage the API.

This suggests that Nicira may want to provide the NOX code as open source, playing a role as major contributor, while developing commercial applications on top of that.
This is a typical approach that has been proven successful in the virtualization market at least two times: with XenSource (maintaining Xen and selling XenServer), acquired by Citrix, and Qumranet (maintaining KVM and selling SolidICE), acquired by Red Hat.

A NOX-powered network relies on OpenFlow switches, a server running the NOX controller and a database: