Fast Forward with Forward Networks
by Andreas Stavropoulos, DFJ Partner
We are delighted to be joining forces with the team at Forward Networks, and lead their most recent funding round.
Our lives are increasingly dependent on software running predictably and efficiently. Our bank transactions, hospital machinery, airports, even our cars these days, to name a few examples, all depend on complex software to make everything work seamlessly. Over the past couple of decades, this software all runs on networks which, in turn, have become significantly more complicated and difficult to manage.
The complexity of these networks are bound to increase further, and fast. Legacy technologies coupled with new equipment, software-defined networking, logical overlay networks, all contribute to making life more difficult for the network operation professionals tasked with keeping the systems up and running, and secure.
However, tools to prevent network outages by accurately mapping a network’s behavior have not kept up. Manual pinging and route tracing are the norm for most organizations, even though networks have grown both in size and complexity. We’re seeing vendors that have developed sophisticated proprietary tools for their own equipment fall short when operating — as is the norm — in heterogeneous network environments.
It is no surprise that an increasing percentage of network outages are due to human error.
To stay on top of such complexity while also trying to be responsive to the software developers’ requests for new capabilities and scale increases has become an intractable problem. When the outage is big enough (causing airlines to ground planes, with thousands of passengers affected) it makes headlines and compromises billions of market capitalization value. For each one of these issues there are hundreds of outages that go unreported, and thousands of potential vulnerabilities (such as misconfigurations, policy violations, and the like) that lurk just under the surface, waiting to erupt.
Enter Forward Networks to save the day. Its platform marries an industry-first network mathematical model with behavior analysis that together takes the guesswork out of network operations. Forward Networks creates a virtual network copy that can be queried and analyzed end-to-end, allowing network operators to gain complete visibility into their network’s behavior — current and prospective — as they consider making changes. With this approach, proposed changes that could have caused outages are caught before they can cause damage and proper behavior is assured.
How big is the market for their solution? Just think: what would a bank, an airline, or a cloud-managed service provider pay to ensure their network is always up? How much is catching vulnerabilities worth before they become a disaster?
It takes a special team to build this “sounds-too-good-to-be-true” platform. David Erickson and his co-founders (four Stanford PhDs) were pioneering contributors to OpenFlow and SDN while still in school. In addition to the team’s world-class theoretical chops, they bring a combination of passion, drive, and execution focus that has wowed pilot customers and partners. The reference calls we made before the investment were among the strongest we’ve ever had in terms of potential impact and scope of their solution.
We are ecstatic to back the Forward Networks team in their effort to make network outages a thing of the past. The prize for success is huge and this is the team to deliver.