By Keerti Melkote, Co-founder & CTO, Aruba Networks
The networking industry is one of the pillars in the IT infrastructure space. Innovation in networking is moving at an unprecedented pace, and CIOs and IT organizations are constantly trying to deliver strategic, personalized, full-service technical support solutions with quality, value and commitment to total customer satisfaction. While the world is increasingly connected and plugged-in via the Internet, the explosion of mobile devices has changed the networking business forever. This huge growth of mobile devices and tablets has driven opportunities in networking and the market is forecasted to grow dramatically.
According to Keerti Melkote, Co-founder and CTO at Aruba Networks, there are three significant trends in the networking space mobility in the access network, network function virtualization in the core and in the cloud, and networking in the data center. A significant trend in networking is to use wireless, not only as a means to connect computing devices and mobile devices, but to connect various IoT over wireless networks. Also, with the innovation in mobile devices, sensors are increasingly integrated into the phone. If we pull the sensor out of the phone and create a sensing device, we have the opportunity to sense the environment, the ambiance, and all of these elements in the analog world, and then convert them to the digital domain. These sensors would use wireless technologies. Therefore, we can expect to see a large influx of new devices on the network, mostly connecting on wireless.
The fundamental notion of any entrepreneur is to bet on any long-term sustainable trend and innovate in this area. In the mobility or the access networking arena, we see a transformation for enterprises of all sizes in the access networking arena. Another significant trend is data center networking, which is undergoing a dramatic transformation. The need to connect millions of virtual machines as opposed to thousands of real servers is creating a significant operational challenge. Furthermore, Web 2.0 companies are building out their own platforms that are not driven by virtualization, so much as cloud-scale. We can call this cloud networking, where there is a need to build a very large scale data center infrastructure to serve millions of users and devices.
From Keerti's perspective, the growth in the wireless market was fundamentally disruptive to Cisco's business model. If Cisco had truly embraced wireless, they would have cannibalized their wired network business. Given that Cisco's revenues were heavily weighted on the wired side that gave Aruba the confidence to innovate in the wireless space. Aruba took advantage of the opportunity and also took the lead in wireless networking. And that's exactly what can make an entrepreneur successful getting the upper hand.
A Different Approach to Entrepreneurship
Entrepreneurship is a way of life that offers unlimited possibilities to those who truly believe in it and live by it. An entrepreneur is not merely a technologist, he/she is a businessman and needs to think about market dynamics, business models, and technology considerations. An entrepreneur needs to spend years developing entrepreneurial skills and if the approach is right, it can be rewarding in the long run. In Keerti's opinion, the right way to innovate is by seeing how technology applies to the market. "Once we come up with an idea, we should not start developing it and coding it right away. Rather entrepreneurs should talk to their potential customers and engage the market early. This gives an entrepreneur a real sense of the business potential for the technology," he said. "Entrepreneurs should look at the business potential of the idea and be realistic about what is achievable. As long as we are convinced that any business idea is a very large opportunity, only then is it worth pursuing. In other words, it is necessary to evaluate the broader opportunity of any business plan," Keerti added. He also believes that entrepreneurship is about stepping out of the comfort zone and that entrepreneurs should never get too complacent in the comfort zone.
Venture capitalists look for 10 x return for their investments and valuations. In any financing pitch, VCs need to see an initial idea and sustainable differentiation as well as a solid articulation of the total available market opportunity. It is equally important that the management team is cohesive, smart, and capable of handling the strategic tasks involved in executing strategy. What makes them come together as a team is the unique vision that they pursue and more importantly, the culture that the entrepreneur is able to establish. Culture is what sustains in the long run. Many entrepreneurs do not consider culture to be significant because they are in a rush to get the financing and other aspects in place. Entrepreneurs need to learn these lessons from other innovators, both from the Indian and the broader Silicon Valley Diasporas. (Based on an interview with Keerti Melkote)