VMware is buying software-defined networking (SDN) player, Nicira for $1.26 billion, according to a blog post by Steve Herrod, CTO at VMware. SDN is hot, but man, that’s a lot of money for a company in an emerging market that barely has 50 paying customers total across all the startups in this space. There’s no question it’s the future direction of networking in the data center, but the network is the toughest aspect of IT to change as any disruption to it brings down the house as everything is shared. Enterprises, and telcos for that matter, will be piloting SDN and testing it under load for a long time before they move it into production. That’s all to say that this is going to be a slow, perhaps decade long shift at least. Couldn’t VMware have built this technology itself in that timeframe? It seems like the next logical step from sever virtualization, but my suspicion is it’s a totally different knowledge base, much like the shift from mainframe virtualization to the Intel instruction set, it took a brand new company (VMware at the time) with big backers, to make it happen.