If you ask Pankaj Patel, there’s too much complexity in networks today — particularly enterprise networks. Complexity has been engineered into enterprise networks over a period of decades, in fact, he argues, and it’s happened because incumbents kept adding complexity to enable new functionality.
“At some point, the incumbents lost sight of where they were because what customers really want is the opposite: simplicity,” he told TechCrunch in an email interview. “They don’t really care what’s behind the scenes.”
In pursuit of simplicity, Patel — previously an executive VP at Cisco, where he led development of the company’s tech portfolio — founded Nile, which delivers wired and wireless networking as a service to large corporate customers.
After tripling its customer base from September 2022, Nile — impressing investors, evidently — today announced that it raised $175 million in a Series C funding round co-led by March Capital and Sanabil Investments with participation from solutions by stc, Prosperity7 and Liberty Global Ventures, 8VC, Geodesic Capital, FirstU Capital and Valor Equity Partners. The new cash brings Nile’s total raised to $300 million, the bulk of which Patel says is being put toward future go-to-market growth and expanding Nile’s workforce from 185 employees to just over 210 by the end of the year.
“For this Series C round, we felt it important to raise funds with strategic partners who are committed to driving Nile into the Middle East and working with their partners on bringing Nile deeper into Europe,” Patel said. “It’s this desire for strategic investment that led us down the path of pursuing equity over debt.”
Nile, which competes with Patel’s former employer, Cisco, as well as Juniper and HPE’s Aruba Wireless, builds from-scratch networks for customers. Priced on a pay-as-you-go basis, scaling up or down based on usage, Nile provides the necessary hardware and software to get enterprise-grade networks up and running — and maintain them.
Patel claims that Nile’s approach can eliminate the need to configure networking devices like switches and routers and automate processes including software and hardware upgrades in addition to security patches.
“Because our service was designed using the same principles of other cloud-born technologies, we have a model whereby we’re able to seamlessly roll out new capabilities without disrupting the Nile service,” he said. “Automation performs continuous software upgrades and delivers the latest security patches in predefined maintenance windows we establish with each customer.”
Nile’s telemetry is one of its key differentiators, Patel argues — allowing the platform to take a snapshot of a network’s performance and measure it against benchmarks. Using sensors and algorithms developed by Nile, Nile’s cloud platform performs network performance analyses in near-real-time, deploying “software bots” as necessary to remedy anomalies.
“We built a network of physical and virtual sensors throughout the service that continuously monitors performance and availability 24/7, and linked those sensors to our cloud, where an extensive library of automations are ready to auto-tune the environment to maintain optimal performance,” he added.
Nile, which for competitive reasons wouldn’t reveal the size of its customer base, claims to count Stanford University, Pitney Bowes and Carta among its clients. Patel says that Nile’s now seeing repeat deployment contracts worth $100,000 annually — up substantially from Nile’s top annual contract amounts a year ago.
Certainly, to the benefit of Nile and its competitors, there’s been an industry-wide move to networking-as-a-service (NaaS) post-pandemic. Incentivizing the embrace of NaaS is the promise of abstracting away network infrastructure, security, management and ownership, with the trade-off that organizations turn over control of their networks to third-party providers.
According to a recent poll published by Nokia, nearly half (47%) of enterprise technology leaders say that their companies plan to adopt NaaS, including 10% who’ve purchased NaaS services already. Only 14% of all respondents said that their organizations have no plans to purchase a NaaS product.
Gartner anticipates that 15% of enterprises will adopt NaaS by the end of 2024. That could drive the market for NaaS to grow from $13.63 billion in 2022 to $155.17 billion by 2030, per Fortune Business Insights.
“There is a very large community of network engineers and architects who’ve long held the responsibility of building, managing, and maintaining these complex networks for decades,” Patel added. “Our subscription-based model reduces the heavy capital burden organizations taken when purchasing a network, and offers IT a system that will continuously be modernized by Nile, removing them from the burden of continuous lifecycle management.”