David Cheriton

David Cheriton
Born David Ross Cheriton
(1951-03-29) March 29, 1951
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Nationality Canadian
Education B.A. University of British Columbia
M.S. University of Waterloo
PhD University of Waterloo
Occupation Computer Scientist / Mathematician
Net worth Increase US$3.4 billion (September 2014)
Spouse(s) Iris Fraser (divorced)
Children 4

David Ross Cheriton (born March 29, 1951) is a Canadian computer scientist, mathematician, businessman, philanthropist, and venture capitalist. He is a computer science professor at Stanford University,[1] where he founded and heads up the Distributed Systems Group.[2] He is a distributed systems and networking expert[3] with keen insight into identifying big market opportunities and building the architectures needed to address these opportunities. He has founded and invested in numerous widely successful technology companies - e.g. Google, where he was amongst the first investors;[4] VMware, where he was an early angel investor;[5] and Arista, where he was co-founder and Chief Scientist. Cheriton has funded 20 companies[6] to date including his latest, Apstra, where he is co-founder, chief scientist, and investor. With an estimated net worth of US$3.4 billion (as of February 2016), Cheriton was ranked by Forbes as the 13th wealthiest Canadian and 628th in the world.[7] Cheriton has made generous contributions to education, with a $25 Million donation to support graduate studies and research in its School of Computer Science at the University of Waterloo,[8] a $7.5 million donation to the University of British Columbia,[9] and a $12 million endowment in 2016 to Stanford University to support Computer Science faculty, graduate fellowships, and undergraduate scholarships.[10]


Born in Vancouver, Cheriton attended public schools in the Highlands neighborhood of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.[11]

He briefly attended the University of Alberta where he had applied for both mathematics and music. Having been rejected by the music program, Cheriton went on to study mathematics and received his bachelor's degree from the University of British Columbia in 1973.[12] Cheriton received his Masters and PhD degrees in computer science from the University of Waterloo in 1974 and 1978, respectively.

He spent three years as an Assistant Professor at his alma mater, the University of British Columbia, before moving to Stanford in 1981.


Cheriton founded and led the Distributed Systems Group at Stanford University, which developed the V operating system. He has published profusely in the areas of Distributed Systems and Networking[3] and has won the prestigious SIGCOMM award in 2003, in recognition for his lifetime contribution to the field of communication networks.[13] Cheriton was the mentor and advisor of students such as: Sergey Brin and Larry Page (founders of Google), Kenneth Duda[2] (founder of Arista Networks), Hugh Holbrook[2] (VP Software Engineering at Arista Networks), Sandeep Singhal[2] (was GM at Microsoft, now at Google), and Kieran Harty[14] (CTO and founder of Tintri).

Cheriton is working with Stanford students on “transactional memory” making memory systems that are resilient to failures. "In-memory processing leads to dramatically faster computers—in some cases speeding up applications by a factor of 100,000. It changes the complete nature of how a business can run. We’re trying to lower the cost and to fit these systems in existing memory structures and reduce the number of components to make them more reliable and more secure.” said Cheriton in a recent Stanford publication.[10]


Cheriton co-founded Granite Systems with Andy Bechtolsheim, a company developing gigabit Ethernet products; Granite was acquired by Cisco Systems in 1996.[15]

In August 1998, Stanford students Sergey Brin and Larry Page met with Bechtolsheim on Cheriton's front porch. At the meeting, Bechtolsheim wrote the first cheque to fund their company, Google, and Cheriton joined him with a $200,000 investment.[4]

Cheriton was also an early angel investor in compute virtualization leader VMware,[16] which was later acquired for $625M by EMC in 2004. VMware had a successful public offering in 2007.

In 2001 Cheriton and Bechtolsheim founded another start-up company, Palo Alto based Kealia. Kealia designed a high-capacity streaming video server;[17] Galaxy, a range of servers based on AMD's Opteron microprocessor; and Thumper, an enterprise-grade network attached storage system.[15] Kealia was bought by Sun Microsystems in 2004, with Thumper becoming the Sun Fire X4500.[15][18]

In 2004, Cheriton co-founded (again with Bechtolsheim) and was chief scientist of Arista Networks, an industry leader in Data Center Networking,[19][20] where he worked on the foundations of the Arista Extensible Operating System (EOS).[21] Arista had a successful public offering in 2014.[22]

Cheriton is an investor in and advisory board member for frontline data warehouse company Aster Data Systems,[23] which was acquired by Teradata in 2011 for $263M.[24]

Cheriton is also one of the earliest investors in Tintri, a storage virtualization company founded by his student Kieran Harty.[14] Cheriton was also an early investor in in-video advertising company Zunavision,[25] and he founded OptumSoft.[26]

In 2014, Cheriton co-founded and invested in Apstra, Inc [27] CEO Mansour Karam and CTO Aleksandar "Sasha" Ratkovic.[6]


Although the Google investment alone would be worth over US$1 billion, Cheriton has a reputation for a frugal lifestyle, avoiding expensive cars or large houses. He was once included in a list of "cheapskate billionaires".[28]

On November 18, 2005, the University of Waterloo announced that Cheriton had donated $25 million to support graduate studies and research in its School of Computer Science. In recognition of his contribution, the school was renamed the "David R. Cheriton School of Computer Science."

In 2009, Cheriton donated $2 million to the University of British Columbia, which will go to fund the Carl Wieman Science Education Initiative (CWSEI). Cheriton more recently donated $7.5M to fund a new chair in computing, as well as a new course on computational thinking.[9]

Cheriton has also funded two graduate student fellowships and one undergrad fellowship at Stanford[29] as well as donated several millions of dollars to Stanford for research funding.[10]

Cheriton has been known as a contrarian, but is usually proven correct after a few years. He campaigned against Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM) that was favored by telephone carriers, preferring Ethernet, which he saw as a simpler, proven option. Ethernet gradually trumped alternatives.[6]

Personal life

In 1980, Cheriton married Iris Fraser; they divorced in 1994, embroiling the Silicon Valley community and their family in a dispute over the allocation of stock options in divorce for spousal and child support. They have four children.[30] [31]


  1. "David Cheriton's Profile | Stanford Profiles". profiles.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Distributed Systems Group". gregorio.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  3. 1 2 "David Cheriton's Profile | Stanford Profiles". profiles.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  4. 1 2 Jolis, Jacob. "Frugal after Google". Stanford Daily. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  5. "The Midas List: #4 David Cheriton - Forbes.com". www.forbes.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  6. 1 2 3 Clark, Don (2016-03-30). "The Billionaire Professor Behind New Networking Startup Apstra". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2016-05-12.
  7. "David Cheriton". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  8. Post, National. "University of Waterloo gets $25M 'Google dividend'". Canada.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  9. 1 2 14, Media Release | November; 2014. "Founding Google investor Cheriton donates $7.5 million to UBC computer science". UBC News. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  11. "Just an 'ordinary' hometown billionaire: Edmonton's wealthiest son is hardly a household name, and the Google billionaire couldn't care less". The Edmonton Journal. April 3, 2006. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  12. http://www.math.ubc.ca/Dept/Newsletters/David_Cheriton_interview_2010.pdf
  13. "SIGCOMM Award Recipients | acm sigcomm". www.sigcomm.org. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  14. 1 2 "Home is Where the Talent (and VCs) Are: Silicon Valley Still Unparalleled as Tech Hotbed". insights.wired.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  15. 1 2 3 CNET News.com. "Cisco's Brain Drain Continues (12DEC2003)". Retrieved 2007-02-14.
  16. "Silicon Valley's Humble Billionaire". BloombergView. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  17. "Sun's X64-Based Streaming Server Runs on Linux". Retrieved 2015-11-19.
  18. "Bechtolsheim: The server is not the network". The Register. 14 September 2009.
  19. Quentin Hardy (May 2, 2011). "Names You Need To Know: Arista Networks". Forbes.Com. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  20. "Management Team". Arista Networks web site. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  21. "Professor Billionaire: The Stanford Academic Who Wrote Google Its First Check". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  22. "Soaring after IPO, Arista Networks becomes one of Silicon Valley's most valuable networking companies". www.mercurynews.com. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  23. "Advisory Board". Archived from the original on Oct 4, 2011. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  24. Schonfeld, Erick. "Big Pay Day For Big Data. Teradata Buys Aster Data For $263 Million". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  25. Robin Wauters (February 18, 2009). "ZunaVision Is Trying To Monetize Online Video By Making It Unwatchable". TechCrunch. Retrieved 4 October 2012.
  26. "About". OptumSoft web site. 2008. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  27. "http://www.apstra.com". www.apstra.com. Retrieved 2016-04-20. External link in |title= (help)
  28. Gus Lubin and Antonina Jedrzejczak (April 5, 2010). "10 Cheapskate Billionaires Who Live Like Paupers". Business Insider. Retrieved June 25, 2011.
  29. "Named SGF Fellowships | Office of the Vice Provost for Graduate Education". vpge.stanford.edu. Retrieved 2016-02-05.
  30. San Jose Metroactive: "For Better Or for Worth - How splitting couples in Silicon Valley are carving out new territory in divorce court" By Will Harper October 7, 1999
  31. Berkeley Daily Planet: "Possessions make Silicon Valley divorces messy" September 11, 2000

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