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Former Cisco boss launches upstart to rattle old employer's cage

John Chambers' Nile wants to remove humans from network management

Tech veteran John Chambers says he wants to take on Cisco, the business he built into a multibillion-dollar beast, by launching a startup that intends to remove humans from the network management equation.

Branded as Nile, the business stumbled into the sunlight yesterday after exiting stealth mode. It has the backing of Chambers and Pankaj Patel, one-time Cisco exec veep and chief development officer, who is CEO of the new biz.

Never one for hyperbole, Chambers said on LinkedIn that Nile is to "lead network market transition with biggest change to industry in over a decade. As the first self driven network platform, Nile's approach is focused on disruptive simplicity.

"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."

The intent is to deliver an out-of-the-box Zero Trust network with "no network operations required." Each user and every device is to be "automatically segmented and every request authenticated and evaluated" before access is given.

The cost will be based on consumption, the classic as-a-service model that many traditional hardware companies are now using to compete in the cloud era. The network design is said include physical and virtual instrumentation, providing monitoring, analytics, and ML-driven automation.

Technical details are scant.

The organization hard launches with 170 employees and comes armed with 40 patents and $125 million in funding from March Capital, 8VC, JC2 Ventures, ICONIQ, and others.

It is going to market via 50 third-party sellers in North America where Nile's campus LAN and WLAN products are going to be sold in the coming months – no firm date was given.

Patel said in a statement: "This journey is all about a once in a decade opportunity to create something disruptive – not just for the sake of disruption – but to create something that can resolve the complexity of networking and deliver simple access to a very reliable, extremely high-performance network – and we've done it.

"Why is that important? Because while the world has changed, networking largely hasn't. 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."

Chambers was always worried about Huawei and Arista Networks when he was boss of Cisco, viewing them as relative upstarts in the networking market. Huawei because he feared it could undercut Cisco on price, and Arista because of its software-defined approach.

El Reg wonders if current Cisco boss Chuck Robbins is getting jittery. Maybe not just yet. ®

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