As we’ve been working in the shadows the last 4+ years to shape a next-generation networking company (that will launch public soon!), we’ve been thinking a lot about the founding principles of Nile. At our core, we have been committed from the very beginning to reset customer expectations for the network. A reset grounded in the foundational principle: SIMPLICITY.
As CEO, keeping employees and leaders focused on simplicity has not been a big challenge. We’ve created a culture from day one that prided itself in challenging conventional thinking. All in an effort to strip away the complexity that has overrun our networks.
What has been a challenge is helping the market understand what we mean at Nile about simplicity for the network. As I’ve started to talk with more and more industry people about our company, technology, and mission, I have been asked frequently to explain simplicity and what we really mean by that. And that has me wondering why this concept is such a challenge for tech industry people, and then I had a bit of an epiphany.
In our industry’s zeal to drive innovation we’ve fallen into the bad habit of adding new features even if they aren’t really needed; all to feed the sales machine, drive momentum. It always starts with good intentions but then inevitably falls into years and years of repetitive behavior: often adding features and functionality to demonstrate momentum. But these innovations inevitably add complexity to product design, to user experience, which impacts reliability and serviceability (not to mention cost), all in the name of demonstrating continuous “innovation.”
Dig deeper into this and you find out that mature technology products are often filled with features and functionality and code that eighty to ninety percent of customers don’t even use! How do I know this? I’ve led technical teams for nearly 30 years at some of the world’s largest tech companies, and the pressure from sales and marketing and solutions teams to continuously deliver new features year after year resulted in products literally stuffed full of software code that adds a lot of potential for risk and problems, often with very little reward. And this cycle continues today at too many Silicon Valley technology companies.
When asked about this, most people want me to give them an example of the opposite: Can I explain simplicity in the context of the technology market with somebody who did it right, they ask?
Never at a loss for a play on words, I tell them: That’s simple! Let’s take the example of cloud. When cloud computing arrived, it really changed the game on storage. For the first time, customers had storage options that were: simple to use, easy to install, on-demand, pay for what you use, easily adaptable to customer needs, updated automatically when needed, and backed by enterprise technical support. Sure, it took a while for people to grasp the meaning of cloud, get comfortable and trust the concept, and become true believers that storage could be so simple, so pervasive, so consumable. But when they finally had that light bulb moment, they realized they were consuming innovation that was easy and simple, and it changed the game in compute and storage.
Now, let me be clear: I don’t mean simple in the context of cheap, because – for all customers – the network must be stable, reliable, secure, robust, and always available. When I think about simplicity, I think about leading technology companies like Tesla and Apple. Those products are highly innovative, nearly bullet-proof (they just work), and, importantly, the user experience is intuitive, and easy (and even elegant and enjoyable!). At Nile, our foundational design approach to simplicity ultimately delivers a highly reliable solution for customers, one that’s always-on. I tell people that’s exactly what consuming technology should be about. Simple concept – buy it when you need it, don’t worry about how to deploy it, let Nile and our network of partners worry about support, service, installation – just simply consume it.
Cloud also taught us another powerful lesson: that the “work” of managing compute and storage in the in-house data center could be easily shifted to others, allowing critical and limited IT resources to focus on value-add activities (not managing dozens or hundreds of servers). The same is true of the network – consider how many people hours are dedicated to managing network problems, solving Wi-Fi endpoint issues, and troubleshooting. Now imagine if those resources could be shifted to supporting business innovation activities (instead of firefighting connectivity issues). Simplicity in the network can address a range of IT personnel issues, like competition for IT talent, skillset mismatches, team members not being able to upskill because they’re stuck simply trying to keep the lights on, and staff burnout.
At Nile, that’s our approach: we’ve taken the lessons from cloud and applied the same foundation of simplicity to the edge of the network. Users want connectivity – reliable, dependable, secure, scalable, when and where they need it – they don’t want to think about what’s in the rack (or even about the rack at all). They don’t want to have to worry about change management – they’d rather it be done automatically. They want an experience just like cloud…except this time, it’s about one part of IT that has been – until now — notoriously complex, expensive, people-intensive, and vulnerable – the network.
We are changing the game at Nile – and it’s all grounded in simplicity. For us at Nile, this journey is all about a once in a decade’s opportunity in this industry to create something disruptive — not just for the sake of disruption — but to create something that can resolve the insane complexity of networking and deliver something very simple: return control of the most powerful thing we have in our lives – connectivity to the Internet – to companies and people. Why is that important? Because connectivity is core and so essential for everyone to innovate and perform their most productive work.