Keeping it Simple – Reliable & Secure Network Connectivity
As we've been working in the shadows for 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 to resetting customer expectations for the network from the very beginning. A reset grounded in the foundational principle: SIMPLICITY.
As CEO, keeping employees and leaders focused on simplicity has not been a big challenge. From day one, we've created a culture that prides itself on challenging conventional thinking. All 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 talking with more industry people about our company, technology, and mission, I get asked frequently to explain simplicity and what we mean by that. And I wondered why this concept is such a challenge for tech industry people, and then I had 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 needed, all to feed the sales machine and 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 speed. But these innovations inevitably add complexity to product design and user experience, impacting reliability and serviceability (not to mention cost), all in the name of demonstrating continuous "innovation."
Dig deeper into this, and you will find those 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. The pressure from sales, marketing, and solutions organizations to continuously deliver new features year after year resulted in products full of software code that adds much potential for risk and problems, often with minimal 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 the cloud. When cloud computing arrived, it changed the game on storage. For the first time, customers had storage options: simple to use, easy to install, on-demand, pay for what you use, easily adaptable to customer needs, automatically updated 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, pervasive, and consumable. But when they finally had that light bulb moment, they realized they were consuming a straightforward innovation that changed the game in computing 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 precisely the objective of consuming technology. 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, and installation – simply consume it.
Cloud also taught us another powerful lesson: that the "work" of managing computing 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 addressing network problems, solving Wi-Fi endpoint issues, and troubleshooting. Now imagine if those resources 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 the 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 worry about change management – they would automatically get it done instead. They want an experience just like the 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 decade 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 straightforward: 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 essential for everyone to innovate and perform their most productive work.