The Silicon Review
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”
The founding of Iris Network Systems took place in 2010 by Alan Kemp, Jacques du Toit, James Burke and Stuart Birch. Iris headquarters are located in Cape Town. The company was built to solve a wide range of data collection issues familiar to users of network monitoring, and to provide network management data quickly and efficiently for users. Inspired from the challenges faced by ISPs’ the company was formed mainly to concentrate on the problems of extensible data collection.
Here at Iris network systems, the team deploys previous expertise in large-scale network configuration, implementation and management to bring Communication Service Providers (CSPs) a highly saleable Network Management Solution (NMS). This is possible through real time reporting presented on the devices on multi-vendor networks.
In conversation Stuart Birch, Founder and CEO
What ignited the spark in you to start a new business venture? How did the idea for your business come about?
Iris was born out of the frustration of working with other monitoring systems. The founders of Iris grew up with the internet and saw networks evolving into massively complex structures- Monitoring performance and reliability of these networks is often an afterthought. Many tools are expensive and enterprise focused, making it frustrating for network engineers to find problems on the network. As such network engineers quickly turn to open-source alternatives.
After many years of working with both expensive, monolithic systems and open-source tools, my team felt it was time to bring something new to the market. Understanding the challenges that this big companies face, we setout to design and write an application that would be fast, easy, scalable and look cool.
Iris customers went with us because they shared our belief in what was possible and today those customers are still with us and share our journey and we follow our dream.
Let’s talk about your first product. How do you attribute your success? And what are the key elements for starting and running Iris?
The initial product was a very basic, but very efficient monitoring platform which is now the Core of Iris. Before our product launched- the first client asked us to write something to monitor SIP calls between servers in three weeks, a very tight deadline - we did it in two weeks-as Iris is a framework to ingest data.
Iris was launched softly and slowly. Each potential client was interested but they all had their own unique requirements. In early days, my team tried to accommodate everything- but now we can only accommodate what makes sense in the framework so as not to slow down processing or go down a path that is hard to maintain into the future. My team loves solving problems for clients and the technical challenges that come with that.
Key elements of my company: We have a great team, we share values and a can-do attitude is essential to succeed. No-one can do everything that is required, but as a team we complement each other and achieve far more than we could individually.
Passion: Our team has a passion for network monitoring and solving difficult challenges. Having loyal customers has been very beneficial to a stable growth curve.
Belief: Has also played a big role in sustaining our business. Every day we face new challenges on many fronts. We have belief in our vision, in team in our products and in our customers- who has seen us through many challenging situations.
Flexibility to look at a situation from another point of view has created Iris as a flexible organization.
What has been your greatest inspiration?
The company’s core values keep me and my team focused and competitive. Maintaining a constant focus on delivering value to customers embodies the key value that drivers for Iris -which my team believes are price, breath of service, technological relevance and ease of use. Being focused on clients, and remaining humble will always leads to success. This made Iris founders to be highly skilled and extremely passionate.
Any new products getting ready to be rolled out into the market?
Iris’s near-term projects include obtaining data using the MEF standards and Telemetry from various OEMs. In the Metro Ethernet space, now my team is working on collecting Y.1731 information from Huawei, Calix and Extreme and is working on Cisco and Juniper.
We have also just soft launched our Broadworks CDR monitoring and reporting tool.
Where you see yourself and your business in 5 years down the line?
Having a decent and still expanding footprint in Southern Africa and are rapidly growing into the rest of Africa. Iris has small customer presence in the Middle East and in the USA. The Iris team intends to continue to focus on the US market from sales and marketing point of view.
Meet the Team of Iris
Stuart Birch, CEO and Founder: Studied Commerce and Computer Science at WITS university. Stuart joined Internet Startup Internet Solutions which was procured by Dimension Data. At Iris he is ultimately responsible for client satisfaction.
Alan Kemp, Operations and Founding Director: With time and growth of the internet, Alan was drawn to the analytics and visualization of the network, capacity and how traffic flows. At Iris he looks for the future technologies that industry trends to guide the company’s product.
Jacques du Toit, Founder and Chief of Design: Jacques is responsible for the design and development of Iris and associated software.
James Burke, Founder and Consulting Director: James is responsible for the smooth implementation of NMS and ensure the customers to enjoy the full benefit of the solution Iris provides.