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Andreessen Horowitz is announcing today that it has hired Martìn Casado — cofounder and chief executive of hot software-defined networking (SDN) startup Nicira, which was acquired by VMware for $1.26 billion in 2012 — as a general partner of the prominent venture capital firm.

Andreessen Horowitz backed Nicira when it was still a secretive startup. Now Casado is coming back to the firm, after leading VMware to build the product Nicira’s technology turned into, NSX, into a business with a $600 million annual revenue run rate.

“In the near term, I will focus on my space, which will be infrastructure in particular,” Casado told VentureBeat in an interview. He will also be paying attention to security, reflecting his responsibility for both networking and security at VMware.

In the time he spent at VMware, Casado was often used as a keynote speaker and pointed to as a visionary. So his departure — following executives Ben Fathi, Mathew Lodge, and others — will be significant. Casado will be replaced by Rajiv Ramaswami, a former Cisco executive who is coming over from Broadcom, VMware said.

VMware’s acquisition of Nicira kicked off several other SDN startups, including ConteXtream (HP), Corente (Oracle), Tail-f (Cisco), Embrane (Cisco) and BTI Systems (Juniper). The deal was strategically important to VMware because it was a key step in going beyond the core of server virtualization into also virtualizing networks that could be centrally managed by IT admins. Later VMware branched out to software-defined storage. With the three elements, the company was able to start marketing itself as delivering the “software-defined data center,” a term that has since been adopted by some other vendors.

Before the commercial activity, Casado was very active in the development of the the Open vSwitch open-source software and the OpenFlow standard. Earlier in his career Casado worked for intelligence agencies and completed his Ph.D. at Stanford with the dissertation “Architectural Support for Security Management in Enterprise Networks” (PDF).

But at VMware he got to know the needs of enterprises for a living. And that could be useful at Andreessen Horowitz, which is constantly competing with other VC firms to put their money into the next hot startups that could lead to huge exits.

“If you think about the day-in, day-out job, it’s about picking great deals, and having strategic product sense to pick right ideas with the right entrepreneurs to help them build great companies,” Andreessen Horowitz general partner Peter Levine told VentureBeat. “We believe Martìn kind of exemplifies the characteristics of the essence of what it means to be a general partner here at the firm.”

Casado has personally invested in Keybase (alongside Andreessen Horowitz). He has also been an advisor to CloudGenix and other companies.

A blog post on the news from Marc Andreessen is here. VMware’s statement is here.

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