Highway 9 Networks – the Why, What and How of bringing a mobile cloud to market

Today, we’re excited to bring Highway 9 Networks out of stealth, announcing $25M in funding to date, including a Series A led by top-tier Silicon Valley venture firm Mayfield.

Before you ask, the company name comes from the highway that connects many entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, including our founding team. This team spent more than a decade in leadership positions at VMware, conceptualizing and rolling out NSX (network and security virtualization + SDN), private/hybrid clouds, and the telco/5G cloud platform. Each of these businesses grew to drive billions of dollars of value and transformed IT architectures in the process.

Let’s delve into the “why” and the “why now” for founding Highway 9. After all, for startups, it’s always about the pain point(s) and timing.

Why: the problem statement

Three broad vectors exemplify the key pain points that enterprise face when it comes to leveraging mobility:

  1. Ubiquitous mobile coverage in the enterprise – indoors, outdoors and campus-wide – across the three major US operators falls short. The problem is worsening with 5G rollouts, DAS (Distributed Antenna System) being no longer subsidized by operators, and lack of integration with enterprise IT best practices and architecture.
  2. There is an emerging need for an “always on” mobile data network for essential/priority services across the enterprise that is independent of existing fixed LAN/wireless networks. Especially as security threats, and mobile usage are on the rise.
  3. Modern enterprises are embracing AI and automation at an ever-accelerating pace. AI-driven machines, and the sprawl of sensors/IoT devices require an always-on network with campus-wide coverage.

Today, there is no comprehensive enterprise mobile architecture, that addresses these needs in a ground-up fashion. What exists is an assembly of various generations of fixed LAN/wireless, and unconnected DAS and IoT networks. With the preeminence of mobility + AI in the enterprise, there is a dire need to build an architecture that treats mobile and AI assets as first- class citizens.

Why now?

The only technology that meets the mobility, range, predictable performance (low latency and high reliability) and security needs of mobile + AI assets is cellular technology. Heretofore, cellular technology has been primarily delivered as public cellular via mobile operators. For the first time, the combination of availability of “free” 3.5 GHz spectrum , the widespread availability of multi-eSIM and 3.5 GHz bands on smart phones, tablets and other devices, and the new software-defined 5G stack, as well as a large ecosystem of 5G-capable devices, gives us a great starting point to develop the appropriate solution to address the above pain points.

Initially these new cellular technologies were used to address “island” use cases like mining, oil and gas use cases, sea ports, etc. But the industry can do better…now! So, how do we do that? This brings us to the What”.

What – introducing the Highway 9 Mobile Cloud

Given this major market need, the Highway 9 Networks founders embarked on a journey to leverage these advances in cellular technology and combine them with the power and agility of a cloud-native platform and a distributed/virtualized edge platform, to ensure organizations of all types can deploy and benefit from enterprise-wide mobile networking and AI-enablement. Much like the last decade saw widespread migration of servers, apps and services to private/public clouds, making the “where” of such resources irrelevant, likewise we enable migrating mobile assets including mobile and AI-powered clients, apps and devices to a mobile cloud, starting initially with addressing the immediate pain points highlighted earlier.

Done right, over time, the conjunction of enterprise mobile clouds with public clouds and telco networks should address the bulk of mobility needs for the new mobile + AI enterprise. Following is a quick representation of the mobile cloud.

In the representation above, the three key pain points highlighted above, are addressed as follows:

  • Always-on mobile data: Mobile users, smart phones, tablets, and devices, are onboarded onto the mobile cloud, and mobile data access to IT, intranet, Internet, and public cloud resources are available seamlessly.
  • AI & automation: Likewise, AI-driven machines and/or industry 4.0 IIoT devices are onboarded onto the mobile cloud and have seamless access to all the resources above.
  • Ubiquitous mobile coverage: Beyond the private mobile cloud, mobile devices and apps are initially connected to operators via respective plans, but over time the “inside out” mobile cloud connects seamlessly with the “outside in” telco networks to deliver ubiquitous coverage.

How – overview of the Highway 9 Mobile Cloud platform

The Highway 9 Mobile Cloud is the realization of the mobile cloud concept introduced above. It is a “full stack” approach, and pulls together everything necessary to be successfully deployed and operated in the enterprise. We are happy to announce that several customers have successfully deployed the solution, including in industries like higher education, auto manufacturing, and commercial real estate.

The Highway 9 Mobile Cloud consists of three primary layers, the Mobile Network, the Mobile Edge, and the Mobile Services layer, as represented above. This is a multi-tenant system, with each enterprise having the ability to either choose a self-service path or alternatively come in via a managed service path. Note that this is a complete platform, deployable today, yet intended to enable mobile network partners (e.g. best in class radio, CPE, UE, or IoT), enterprise edge partners (e.g. firewalls, MDM, NAC, SASE, policy), telco operators, or cloud services (e.g. AI, network, 5G) to extend it.

Our customers and partners love the platform – a common theme is “we love the 360º visibility and control. It just works!”

What’s next?

Firstly, I want to sincerely thank all of our employees, customers, partners, advisors, and investors who got us to this milestone – without your incredible effort and encouragement, this would not have been possible, so a BIG thanks to each of you!

In one sense, this represents a major milestone for the company, but in another sense, this is just the beginning. One of the key reasons for us to team up with Mayfield is their “people first” approach in building companies from inception to iconic, and their rich infrastructure investment heritage and more recent AI-centric investment strategy –  https://www.mayfield.com/cognitive-plumbing/. Thank you @Navin Chadda, @Ursheet Parikh and the Mayfield team for the partnership! See this post from our board member, Ursheet Parikh of Mayfield.

For more details on today’s announcement, please see Highway 9 Networks Emerges from Stealth with the First Mobile Cloud for Enterprises

I will be at #MWC24 in Barcelona – please DM me to connect.

We’d love for you to join us on this mobile cloud journey. We can work with you on the use cases that most suit your needs. Whether you’re a potential customer, partner, investor, or employee, feel free to get a personalized tour by connecting with us at info@highway9.com.