An insight into Ecode Networks with Founder Nimit Shishodia

Ecode Networks was seeded to foster network innovation by disruption, defining the principles of Network Orchestration by Abstraction using SDN & NFV. With accreditation from Open Networking Foundation (ONF), and Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF), they build Network Lifecycle Service Orchestrator (LSO), simplifying the Network Provisioning and Operations. They also provide training & certifications to Network enthusiasts globally. Offering a complete package of Product, Solutions, Professional Services and Educational Services, to help customers to take the leap of faith to the Next Generation of Networking.


We spoke to Nimit on a Friday afternoon, just approaching the first bank holiday in May.    With Nimit’s busy schedule and travels to Germany over the weekend, he gave us some of his time.  Nimit spoke to us about his background, the origin of Ecode networks and his thoughts on SDN/NFV.  With the conversation flowing, Nimits passion, dedication, motivation, and drive shone through.

We started off by gaining an insight in Nimit’s background and how his journey led him to his own SDN Orchestration Company – Ecode Networks – A visionary company that has made its mark on the global Network Industry.


Can you tell us about your personal background and the beginnings of Ecode Networks?

Prior to Ecode I was very much involved with Juniper, you could say I was a ‘Juniper ambassador’. I was self-employed in my own professional services company, I worked and consulted FTSE 100 companies such as Barclays, UBS, BT and Juniper Networks. With 15+ years of experience in Networking industry, design, deployment, security and networks. Back in 2012, I was working for UBS and I came across this term SDN through Juniper Networks, I started investigating and that looked like where things were going to go.

After my initial research, I decided to take a break from the contracting and consulting world. I invested money from my pocket, travelled around the world attending conferences in California and Germany and met researchers, to learn more about it and find out the market trends.  After my research, I decided to build a product in the lines of Orchestration – which seems to me the missing link of the whole SDN stack. That’s what the DNA of what we do today. So, from day one in 2012 – we were an Orchestration company. It’s 2018 and the market has now realised the value of SDN Orchestration

We never thought of building data planes or SDN controller etc. So, we launched our first product in 2013 with HP in Las Vegas. Before that, we showcased our product in a  ‘SDN conference’ in London back in 2012; we were showing how to orchestrate SDN policies over HP gear.  We were maturing in this space and we were one of the first partners with HP to launch this with them. Things have been going on since then. Then after the launch, we were involved in building our own SDN Network as a Service (NaaS) Cloud. We then launched SD-WAN service, purely software/SDN based, on-line network service, which was a separate company altogether. So, Ecode was instrumental in building the NaaS core and kept it around Orchestration and provisioning.

We were maturing, working with different partners and we joined the Open Network Foundation (ONF) amongst others.  We qualified a couple of times for the ‘Open Network Summit (ONS)’ in California, so we showcased SDN Orchestration in the summit. We were the only British company at that time who were doing it, however, I could see the whole drive was changing to SDN.

It turned out to be that the whole value for the provision of the SDN is down in to orchestration – this is where the business is. We were the company that was doing it from day one and so we had a product, which was designed for SDN from ground up.  

We are working with MEF to define the principle standards of Orchestration, things are maturing, and these are the spaces to look at. We have SD-WAN, but Orchestration is the product.

What were your biggest challenges when you first started Ecode?

With any decision in life, it kind of goes through stages of your mind battling with your heart. Your heart will say something, your mind will say something and then that also leads to internal and external battles.

I had internal challenges with my family and then the external because at that time in the UK nobody totally knew about SDN. It wasn’t like in California where people were talking about it. The biggest challenge for me, was to ride against the wind.  If I would’ve been in California, it might have been a very different story, there you had people who were talking about it. Here, I was literally the only one thinking ‘ok, this is the way forward’ and then getting people to believe you can make it work.  So, the biggest challenging was finding the information to connect with other people.

From the family’s point of view…I managed to convince my family that I had to take it up. I thought ‘if I don’t do it, then somebody else will do it and they are going to make me jobless – so why don’t I do it?’

To start with, the Environment was the biggest issue because the soil to foster the seed was not really there. It’s building up now and I can see things changing – people are really talking about it. But back in 2013, I probably was just the one who was looking at it.

In terms of funding, I self-funded it. I took some money from some of my old friends, funding was another challenge.

Resourcing was another big challenge. How do we find the right guys? We have had our fingers burnt finding resources, we have had issues, so that was quite a journey I must say.  Finding resource has never been easy.

Then Marketing is a challenging.  How do you go to market? The biggest one is if you come up with a disruptive technology, not everyone is going to like it.

The list is limitless, but these are a few key challenges which we faced.  You just keep on doing what you’re doing, believing what you believe in and then keep on building it, investing, researching, taking risks.  The bottom line is…we did make it! Even with all the challenges we’ve been through, the name is out there, the product is out there.

Was it just you or did you start it with anybody else?

No…it was just me.

Who makes up the Ecode Leadership team.  How did you build that team? 

This team is primarily Industry and Academia professionals who I had built up a relationship with, who I met through the conferences, references and we all had the same vision. I told them as CEO of the company, what our vision was, and they believed in that vision. Dan Pitt came along, we knew him for quite a while since back from the days of ONF, currently he is part of MEF, driving the SDN/NFV Orchestration standards.  We were working together at the Open Network Foundation, and he could see my vision very clearly and I could see his vision and that’s the way forward. He joined MEF as a consultant and he’s a non-profitable consultant, but from a commercial stand he’s there with us.  Dan is driving the company’s strategy on a business side and on the technical side as well.

With the other people, they saw our vision. You start alone and then you take the step and people start following you and that’s pretty much what’s happened.  The leadership team has changed over the years.

This is a very good leadership team that we have today. They believe in the vision.  They believe that this can make a change in the way networks are done.  I think that what kind of binds us all together.

It’s about making a difference, making a change. That is the prime DNA we see in a person before they’ve been even offered a board seat or anything like that. So, it’s the vision that’s very important.

In terms of your actual business, can you talk us through your Network Services Orchestrator -DFX

You can put the orchestration layer into your networking environment. Orchestration is a layer between your service layer and your network layer, so it just automates the Network provisioning. We are working with Tier 1 and Tier 2 telco service providers. They are seeing a lot of value in what we do, they are the first customers to really need it, there is a lot of work is going on there…they want to get their operations quickly.

Let’s say I have to build 100 VPN’s in a months’ time, that is my service and the key is how do I deliver that? This is where Orchestration comes in to the game. You put the Orchestration between the service layer and the network layer and the Orchestration will provide the service in a super-fast fashion. Traditionally, if you had to build provide 100 VPN, it might take you 3 months, now we can do it in one weeks’ time let’s say, or even less. That’s what the whole ball game is all about.

What is the Ethos within Ecode?

We believe in challenging the traditional environment, taking those problems and solving those problems by the means of Orchestration. That is pretty much the ethos in Ecode when it comes to technology. This comes with a lot of commitment to R&D and passion about this work. It’s not easy, it’s not like a give you a product and you can work in a 9 to 5 job and then get it done.

The ethos lies in believing that this could work, getting it to work no matter how much time it takes.  We have people here working around the clock, getting the solution delivered. Even when we take someone new on board, we clearly tell them that. It’s not for everyone, it’s not easy and you have to want to get your hands dirty. Come and trial us and you will see.

The bottom line is we love what we do, so that gives us the passion and the continuation in any projects we are taking on board. It’s very important to enjoy and love what you do.

When you first heard about SDN what were your thoughts?

It came across as a very interesting idea to me, as the architecture was very different to what we have in traditional networks.  I looked at it to the core i.e. Open SDN – which was seeded in the Stanford University, see what it is supposed to do and what are real benefits, rather than a vendor selling what ‘it can or can not do’. In short words, the moment a systems staff will see Linux, he will say ‘it’s very powerful’, you can use Linux, you can customise it, you have different flavours of Linux.  When it came to me, I did see something that was Open. I was fascinated to see this idea. I thought it was possible this would be a massive transformation in the technology.

The more time I spend on it, my interest kept growing in SDN. The deeper I looked, the more powerful it looked to me and real the benefits it can provide to Network Engineering.

So, I was not reluctant to the idea from day one. I had spare time in my day job and was reading a lot. I liked the idea the very first time I heard it. It was just…. I had a scepticism – if that’s what you could call it? Then all I did was invest time and money to investigate it further.

I wanted to build with my own hands and build my own labs and tried it out myself and see where I was going with that and build a team who would work with me around it. Back in those days it was very exciting because with this, you can challenge the existing environment and you can say ‘hang on a minute, I have a better way to do this job’. For me it took me in the right direction towards my own start up. The Start-up had to be constructive, had to be something we need, had to be something different the way we do things today, I was very excited about it.

What in your opinion, are the biggest obstacles with SDWAN/NFV? 

The biggest obstacle now, is basically converting PoCs, into a viable business case. Now the concept is out there. We know we can solve it, we can go out there and show a solution to them, its showcasing them a PoC. It needs money to do anything with any customer. Not all the PoC’s we are working on are converting into viable business cases.  Everyone will have a breaking point, so that is a challenge.  Saying that, it is still looking very promising, because it’s a learning curve, no one has done it before. Companies like us are trying to do it for the first time.  No matter how many times we’ve failed, if we keep on going, that’s where the success lies.

Where do you see it evolving?

I don’t think that’s the whole technology and it’s going to go away. You will have different environments.  Not everywhere are you going to put in SDN, or NFV, there are places you are going to still put some traditional networks in. Where you put SDN, and NFV, that’s all orchestrated from end to end. We are now looking to do Orchestration from Hybrid environments and this is where eventually it will all be going.

These SDN and NFV technologies and orchestration…the principle lies with automating this sort of environment.   We want to change the way the network provisioning is done.

Reducing the head counts, not as in the Engineering side, but by reducing the CLI, the low level CLI jobs, because this is where the major bottle neck is. Automating that part, increasing more of the Architecture team, the people who design and maintain the network and service delivery.

We have seen that in the US and in other parts of the world, that this is where big provisioning people are, because they know this is a faster and better way to do things. It’s very interesting and very promising.

Who do you see as the biggest innovators in the space?

The Vendors are there and are mostly Californian based and they are quite the innovators in the space. I’m certain that Telco’s are also doing good.  In the UK, SKY have done some good innovations, Core have done some `good innovation in the space, I think BT is also trying to do something at this stage with all the 5G innovations, so we have companies in the UK and some Universities.

The University of Bristol have done some good work in this space, so you know there are consortium’s, there are non-profit and commercial organisations doing quite good work. I’ve found a lot of companies in Europe, innovating in this space.  I think the UK needs more innovation when it comes to these sort of technologies, but I personally think, as of now, because these are Open Source and more R&D based, Europe is definitely taking an edge on innovating and in SDN and NFV techs.

Certainly, we are almost trying to be an innovator in the space, but as of today I haven’t come across a company who’s not talking about SDN/NFV and not doing anything about it.

Who are the biggest industry adapters?

Anyone that uses a network must adapt.  Enterprises are doing fairly well when it comes to SDWAN, not to NFV. I see a lot of Financial companies adopting SDWAN already, and SDWAN is the first step for any NFV sort of solution for enterprises. Enterprises are noticing that relatively slow.

I would say education sector have picked up on it. Financial sector is doing some work on SDWAN but there is still more to do. I think the Automotive sector haven’t had much around these. Juniper has done some work with some automobile companies, but there is not much around the automotive sector. Food – also were doing something, we did some work with HP for some food industries.

It’s just the waiting and watching and the transformation will happen. They will just change to it.

What are your future aspirations for Ecode?

Whatever I saw in 2013, well 2012 was more of when I had the idea, by 2013 we had a prototype. Now we have a fully-fledged enterprise, plus product and it can transform the network.

Our vision is to help our customers. Our aspiration is to make that change happen.  We want to be that trusted brand who will make that happen. So, with Orchestration and NFV, we want to be named as one of the prime vendors who’s delivering it.

By the way, Ecode stands for Eco System.  We are trying to create an Eco-System, by the means of programming. We try to work with the network programmability and then try to perform the supervision of vendor unification that has already been there for years.  You have multi-vendor environments, so working with the multi-vendor environments, is where the challenge lies.

All the customer cares about is service is delivered. By using our orchestration layer, we can deliver that service.  Our aspiration is we want our customers to say about us, is that they use us and they have services delivered so fast, that we save them so much money, customers are happy. This is where we want to go!

You offer SDN Training and Certification, have you seen an increase in demand for these courses?

That certainly is a first step for any consultant to look at. We have seen more demand in that space.  Universities in India and they are already putting SDN into the mainstream courses.

With the certification tracks, we have one for students who want to learn more about. They want some professional certifications so that can find a job more easily following graduation, it just gives them that edge. They can see that this is pretty much where networking is going. We have a lot of people coming from that space.

Plus, we have commercial people as well.  We have people who are already working in the industry and they are looking to know more about this. They can learn very fast and not have to spend too much time, money and effort.

From a business perspective, where do you see the biggest growth areas for your team? Is it more R&D, investing more in trainers? What is you’re doing more of?

Training has never been our prime business. Training we started primarily for the reason of building our own manpower. For example, the program we run in the Universities, let say you have 30 or 40 students enrol, we will hire the best from that team. The problem SDN and NFV comes with is, you don’t have that skill set in the market. With these programs and with our trainers, we build our own teams from scratch. But that is not the focus of the company.  We are still a primarily R&D based, product-based company. Training certification it’s a separate division altogether. The major areas we will grow will always be product.

When you recruit, what are the core skills you look for in an individual? 

You’re never going to find a network engineer who is a software developer, let’s be honest here. So, we divide the team in 2 segments.  We have software engineering team, we have network engineering team.  Ideally, my ideal candidate would be someone who has a good software understanding, such as Java, Python.  Java is pretty much what we use, for the core product. Someone who had working experience in networking environment and was a software engineer that’s ideal candidate.  But it’s very hard to find these sorts of people. Do they even exist? We take them on board whatever they know, then we train them the rest.

I need someone who’s had working exposure to networks but then is a software developer and trust me, they are very hard skills to find. Because Network Engineering is separate to Software Engineering.  You might find someone who is very good in software, but they also have worked with networks, so that’s them.

Do you feel there is a shortage of people with the right skill set that you mention?

Definitely! There is a very big shortage of skills and this shortage is just going to keep on growing.  Because the companies that are opting these techs and then are they going to train their own guys? Or are they going to just hire from outside?  They are just not finding the resources. So, it will just keep on growing.

Where do you see the traditional role of the network engineer going?

The vision is not to make Network Engineers jobless but to help them smoothening their day-to-day operations. It will basically take the pain of doing your manual CLI part of the job and automating them so that they can be more efficient, and they can do a better job. Most of the day to day tasks they end up doing low level, hands on, CLI sort of things. The only thing we are taking out of the equation is the CLI part.

So, the network engineer role is going to evolve more in the network designing and management because you want to take the low-level sort of provisioning things and automating them. You still need network engineers to design the network and manage the network. This is only making the network engineer job better, so he will have time to do better things, to optimize the network. To actually deliver the service he was hired to do. If you look at traditional network engineer that doesn’t happen. You can be hired to do something, but you get involved with a lot of other things, you forget what you were supposed to do there, which is basically build the network and manage it.

If you were to give one piece of advice to a network engineer, what would it be?

I will say the network engineers now should, open themselves up a little bit more to learn more about APi’s. I’m not saying they need to do software engineering, they don’t.
But, the way they do CLI operating X,Y,Z, they need to look in the lines of APi’s. We use these Orchestration tools, which can help them in exposing those Api’s and provisioning tasks.

That brought the interview to a close.  With arrangements to meet up one evening put in place, we said goodbye to Nimit so he could get back to his busy afternoon, before heading off on his travels.

Want to know more about Ecode Networks? Visit their website here.

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