The 5G Open Innovation Lab was established on the fundamental belief that the edge is the single largest point of business transformation confronting every business and industry and that collaboration is key to advancing essential innovation. In our Batch 3 cohort, the Lab selected Simetric, a company that agrees that distributed networking is the single most material point of business transformation. Simetric’s standalone platform solution is valuable in and of itself. But when it is combined with the technologies of other tech players in our ecosystem, the result is truly transformative.
Simetric is led by ex-Cisco executives Allen Boone and Kevin Bandy, who believe the entire landscape of tech companies responsible for distributed networking solutions needs to change. As such, they set out to bring a unified edge workflow to market, empowered by software and wherever possible, enabled as a managed service. Allen and Kevin not only bring Cisco executive experience to Simetric. They also have deep experience at Microsoft, Accenture and Salesforce.com. The entirety of the two’s experience is now devoted to evolving the distributed networking paradigm.
The network is the foundation for sustainable business evolution:
A recent article published by 5G OIL partner, Accenture, underscores the opportunities for innovation in networking strategies. It highlights that enterprise digitization has grown exponentially over the last 15 years, but network capacity has fallen behind other areas of digital investment. 87% of enterprises said the growing data demands of their AI systems have outstripped the current capabilities of networks. The edge has become a ubiquitous lever of scale and reinvention – especially as AI becomes more pervasive in the enterprise. Accenture also notes that while 83% believe edge computing will be essential to remaining competitive in the future, only 65% of companies are using it today.
“I believe Accenture and others are missing the most compelling need when it pertains to the need to improve legacy networking efforts,” says Kevin. “Enterprises are already deploying millions of IoT devices and edge routing on a massive scale to run their businesses. Their problem lies with OEMs who continue to battle for proprietary standards versus meeting the needs of how enterprises want to run their IoT and distributed networking in a unified manner.”
CISOs agree, according to a recent study by VentureBeat, CISOs say 2023 is the year of consolidating tech stacks, made more urgent by the need for greater visibility and control across every endpoint and threat surface. It is expected that 75% of enterprises are now pursuing vendor consolidation — up from 29% three years ago. This move is further evidenced by recent acquisitions in the space by LTE and 5G wireless edge solution provider Cradlepoint a business division of 5G Open Innovation Lab partner Ericsson.
Kevin joined Simetric in 2019 as Chief Strategy Officer to bring together a new ecosystem of technology players that would reshape distributed networking control and address the gaps left by the OEM players.
“IoT and edge are essential components of sustainable business transformation, but networking OEMs and every single network operator has a completely isolated approach in serving the market,” says Allen. “As a result, there’s a huge number of mission-critical devices out there in the world, and no standards to benefit businesses.”
Breaking the legacy norms is a blueprint for digital transformation:
Kevin explains that OEMs have long conditioned their customers to upgrade equipment on cycles benefitting their fiscal cycles. The only way forward for enterprises was to jettison the old and buy new; inclusive of gear and promises. In the lingo of the industry, OEMs call this a ‘refresh’ cycle.
“But if there is no unified view of these devices for a customer, where is there true accounting for their performance? In every refresh cycle, it is the same OEMs pitching promises and preying upon the fact enterprises are flying blind and have no data or counterargument.”.
Simetric believes that rather than throw away all existing investments in the legacy technology ‘refresh’ manner, the answer lies in a “networking single pane of glass” platform that can empower enterprises with a full accounting of their IoT ecosystem. This platform of platforms can maximize existing investments while empowering the enterprise to assume full life-cycle management of their devices; not the networking or device OEMs.
“With so many technologies coalescing around the distributed networking technologies of IoT and edge, including AI, 5G, security, cloud, it is essential for C-suite execs to know what they have and unify control into a workflow that assures quantifiable facts,” says Allen. “By providing that unified control and workflow through the Simetric platform we can do away with the legacy notion of refresh cycles and instead set the wheels in motion for a ‘migration’ strategy that is defined on the terms of the enterprise.”
Allen goes on to explain that today’s IoT devices are by nature intelligent edge devices and need to be managed with a completely different connectivity management platform than voice-based devices that provide ratable-based billing opportunities for operators.
“We knew from the outset that the right approach had to be cross-carrier, had to normalize the broad operator discrepancies that inflate unnecessary expenses and shift the value toward tailoring device actions for any business. The legacy networking OEM mindset impedes carriers and enterprises. “
Alternatively, Simetric’s software-defined approach can drive more impactful IoT solutions by bringing into view the billions of current devices deployed across enterprises and enabling their migratory path forward.
Says Kevin, “This is a big problem in the market. We saw we could fix it by bringing new tech players into the IoT and edge landscape for a more dynamic, software-empowered approach. So, we decided to go do just that.”
Simetric stepped onto the market on the brink of the pandemic — and launched the first commercial iteration of the company’s platform in 2020. Out of the gate, the company on-boarded a few hundred thousand device subscribers. Today, it has tens of millions of subscribed devices under management; a number that is growing dramatically.
“Enterprises of every size are realizing they have been managing IoT from a legacy expense mindset versus using tailored workflow to govern the entirety of their devices and drive down expenses collectively across connectivity, redundant operations and poor budgetary controls. We’re giving global enterprises seamless control over their devices that enables them to predictably and proactively change their businesses,” says Kevin.
Put yourself in the shoes of a leading automotive company that is trying to manage a myriad of devices, different equipment providers, different BU strategies, hundreds of manufacturing facilities, and connectivity providers while the entirety of their operational efforts are evolving with the industry. To accomplish this monumental task, they have been stitching together an IoT organization layer for their IoT ecosystem that extends across BUs, manufacturing, to cars and trucks on roads all around the world. It is painful, time-consuming, and wasteful. They asked a big system integrator (SI) to define their IoT path forward because they could see there was no sustainable value in their efforts with how the auto industry was moving. But they were not in control. The SI, carriers and network operators all pitched grand new ideas that led to no progress.
The auto company wasn’t asking for a ‘big bang.” They just wanted to know where the opportunities existed and how to capitalize on them to free the technical debt that was holding back the business. Months after that failed consulting project, the company called Simetric to catalogue what they had operating across the entirety of their businesses and bring its collective IoT ecosystem into a unified workflow. What was proposed to take up to a year, Simetric will do in less than a week just to get everyone aligned to the opportunities and the path forward”.
Simetric’s typical customer has between 6-8 different platforms distributed across multiple carriers and operates tens of thousands to millions of devices in carrier-dictated isolation and compounded with varying business parameters. This complexity can hide year on year of compiled investment waste. Imagine the auto and their size, their complexity is staggering.
“If you want to ‘just’ understand the waste that could go to over-funding connectivity on intelligent edge devices, consider a business that has 30,000 devices and six rate plans, there are 62 and a half billion combinations to identify the lowest rates. How do you evaluate that so you can see the right expenditure on those devices? People just can't do that. Humans cannot do that,” says Allen.
Simetric begins by performing a 12-month historical analysis of every device that a customer couldn't see in a single pane. A leading benchmark in SaaS solutions is ~8:1 in ROI. The Simetric platform routinely exceeds those high marks starting in the first month.
“It's not uncommon for us to be in the 15-20:1 range with large enterprises. We present a view that the enterprise has never seen before, and it is, and I don’t understate this, an epiphany. Operational redundancies and growth impediments are exposed creating further opportunities to capitalize on legacy technical debt,” says Kevin.
He notes that for one customer, Simetric was able to immediately project $1.1M in savings to the company’s carrier rate plan management. Then moving through the customized workflow in the platform, Simetric identified 40 thousand ghost devices. Further platform workflow enabled the customer’s BUs to refine redundant procedures, identify poor device performance and drive proactive enhancements into customer revenue operations that resulted in an additional $24M cost savings on an annualized basis.
Says Kevin, “That kind of benefit calls out why we were so excited to be selected into the 5G Lab. The visibility Simetric creates is empowering for our customers. It delivers knowledge that can be used for business strategy, operational strategy, technical strategy, capital and OpEx utilization. With so much discussion, and true confusion, on 5G, eSIM, private vs public networking; COOs and IT leaders can use this qualitative and quantitative information on their current IoT install base to define their exact networking needs; knowing exactly when they should retire a device, what the cost of that device should be going forward, and what that device should be when they deploy a new one. In short, lifecycle management is theirs to control. For that reason, Simetric’s value is further amplified when we can extend our workflow and insights into broader technologies or consultative capabilities to drive further digital transformation. Collaborating with 5G Lab tech partners is of enormous value in delivering broader value for companies.”
Visibility drives sustainable revenue growth:
Simetric’s go-to-market model includes direct sales to large enterprises and partnerships with mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) and mobile network operators (MNOs). In true Switzerland fashion, the company is platform agnostic. It’s unique APIaaS architecture enables it to be positioned as a middleware solution for ISVs or other major technology companies who have their own solutions but lack the expertise to build to all the different carrier platforms.
“Developers just plug into us, and we broker all the different carrier connections,” explains Allen. “We become a vehicle for bringing new, non-traditional entrants into the IoT world. And that unlocks huge innovation potential for much more efficient business execution that is greatly needed as the number of edge activities dramatically increases.”
Simetric is also driving growth through partnerships in the connectivity service provider landscape. Despite some initial apprehension, carriers, who have traditionally had a proprietary viewpoint of the world, are embracing the concept of a “platform of platforms.” They see the Simetric platform as a way to improve the customer experience by solving issues of legacy networking OEM platform disparity and analytical deficiencies that serve as impediments to the carriers getting more managed device offerings and edge solutions into the market. With Simetric, they recognize they can address their own technical debt with their own migration from legacy OEM platforms while putting more valued revenue-generating solutions into the market.
We validated that the market wants a unified platform that can provide far more prescriptive analytical insights and help enterprises define their networking path forward. Just as we worked closely with customers to build our platform, we are now building partnerships that will unify connectivity management into full device management workflow for all of distributed networking,” says Kevin.
“As our partnerships become known and ramp, the real shift is going to occur and further empower those billions of devices.”
By having a seamless workflow across such a wide base of expenditure and operations, Simetric is now able to help enterprises generate greater ROI and validate a great deal of their distributed networking strategies.
“We see a day soon where Simetric’s platform will be regarded as table-stakes -- essential for efficient and comprehensive management of an enterprise IoT ecosystem says Allen. “We are a team that is uniquely equipped because of our large enterprise background. That experience within the confines of the proprietary world allowed us to see a problem that some of the most prolific technology companies in the world missed. Once we saw it, we couldn’t unsee it. And well, here we are.”
Posted November 27, 2023