Chambers returns with startup to disrupt his old company, Cisco Systems


Two men who helped build Cisco Systems into the internet networking giant it is today – John Chambers and Pankaj Patel – have re-teamed to form Nile, a startup that promptly aims to disrupt their ex-mothership, Cisco. Both execs left the iconic company six years ago.

Their new Santa Clara, Calif.-based company emerged from stealth mode today sporting a next-gen networking-as-a-service product that CEO Patel claims needs little or no human intervention to run and has the predictive AI smarts to avoid data flow problems before they happen.

Investor and board member Chambers, who served as Cisco CEO or executive chairman for 22 years and grew the company through numerous acquisitions and product updates, claimed that Nile represents the most important change to networking in more than a decade.

“As the first self-driven network platform, Nile is focused on ‘disruptive simplicity,'” Chambers said in a LinkedIn post. “We have a bold vision to innovate and change the status quo. 

“In an industry historically known for add-ons and new features to define growth, the Nile team went back to the drawing board to come up with a new system that will uniquely transform how customers acquire, deploy, consume, support, secure, and grow their networks, providing much-needed simplicity, reduced risk, and total cost of ownership. We are coming out of stealth with 50 solution providers already engaged with Nile Connect.”

Supplying high-quality corporate Wi-Fi

Nile’s Connect SaaS will supply high-grade corporate Wi-Fi instead of the conventional way companies have had to guess how much networking hardware and software they require. 

“I would characterize us as a company which is defined by a pretty audacious vision,” Patel told ZDNet. “From day one, we have aimed to remove this critical human dependence from the management of the network. We expect to change forever how enterprises will architect, design, acquire, deploy, configure, secure, and maintain connectivity. This will shift the dynamic of the network from security concerns; we are going to turn this into the very first zero trust network that requires no network operations.”

Nile Connect also includes the following functions in its platform menu, according to Patel:

  • maintains a metadata/data bank of secure user information that is utilized by Nile’s constant monitoring sensors to anticipate problems with network flow and fraudulent access far in advance;
  • a holistic, pay-as-you-use consumption model that aligns simply to users on the network; 

  • guarantees network performance levels based on outcomes that matter – availability, capacity, and coverage; and

  • removes operational overhead and reduces risk by delivering complete lifecycle management without the management, with a self-driven network customer experience backed by extensive use of monitoring, analytics, and AI/ML-driven automation.

“While the world has changed, networking largely hasn’t,” Patel said. “Of the $25 billion in hardware spent each year in wired and wireless access technology, we estimate another $75 billion is spent in operations. This simply isn’t sustainable, yet the entrenched incumbents have not responded, with business models, ecosystems, and an installed base to protect and they’d have to completely re-engineer their own existing platforms. Nile changes that – now watch us grow.”

Nile sees Cisco itself – which has more legacy networking equipment spread over the globe than any other company – as one of those incumbents.

Zero-trust security already built in

Nile’s approach offers the first out-of-the-box zero-trust network with no network operations required, Patel said. Each user and device is automatically segmented, and every request must be authenticated and evaluated before access is granted. The result reduces the risk of cyber thieves from spreading laterally to deliver ransomware attacks. Additionally, without any complex configuration, security teams can ensure that all connections are seen and controlled no matter where they are in the network.  

CIOs and CISOs have long known networks as one of the greatest single sources of security risk, conflict, and workload in the enterprise. “Zero Trust has long been a goal of many organizations, one that required a lot of network engineering time and focus, and still rarely achieved its full potential,” Andy Goodenow, CIO at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, said in a media advisory. “Nile’s holistic approach to security solves the missing link for extending Zero Trust into the network.” 

Complete lifecycle management – without the management

Nile’s cloud-native design includes deep physical and virtual instrumentation that provides continuous monitoring, extensive analytics, and AI/ML-driven automation, Patel said. The result is a self-driven network that’s always optimizing for maximum performance, he said. Software upgrades and security patching are orchestrated and delivered through automation to prevent disruption to users and devices, with Nile taking full responsibility to manage the network, Patel said.

Consumption-based model

Patel said that Nile aims to provide its customers with the same benefits they see from cloud-based storage and software. The approach combines design, hardware, software, installation, maintenance, and ongoing management into a simple pay-as-you-use model, Patel said. Organizations no longer need to make large upfront capital investments while trying to anticipate needs over the next 5, 7, or even 10 years. Nile will simply add or change capacity and coverage as needs evolve for each individual customer, Patel said.

Nile Connect for campus LANs and WLANs is now available in the United States and Canada, with international markets coming online in the coming months, Patel said.



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