Ludwin was part of the original Tempered team that commercialized HIP out of Boeing's research department. However, Ludwin wasn’t even on the team that was working on HIP in the first place. How did he end up here then? Keep reading to find out!
Trisha: You’ve been working here for 6 years now—that’s longer than any of our other employees! Could you share your story of how you got started at Tempered?
Ludwin: I came from the same place where our whole technology originated: Boeing. One of Tempered’s founders, David, worked on the original project. Boeing encountered operational difficulties, such as maintaining a huge manufacturing network, tons of SCADA devices, robots, and other systems. You don’t want the traffic that you have running on such a big production network to be mixed with the IT network. However, Boeing wanted access to the robots from the IT network and had been looking for a solution to that problem for years. Jeff Ahrenholz, one of Tempered’s current employees on the DataPlane team, worked on the original project with open HIP. Jeff and other members on this research team came up with the idea of taking open HIP protocol and marrying it with a VPLS. This would allow Boeing to secure and segment the production network and still have access to the IT network. I wasn’t actually involved in any of that. David (one of our founders) and I were buddies outside of work, so I knew a lot about the project and it had made quite a bit of a splash at Boeing. David finally asked if I wanted to join him in his venture to commercialize the technology. Boeing gave us their blessing, seeing as they’re an aerospace player and did not have any interest in being involved in IT. Besides, they really wanted to see their competitors adopt this technology. Personally, I had spent so many years at Boeing, and I was just ready to do something new. It was just one of those life-changing moments.
Trisha: What are the biggest changes you’ve seen?
Ludwin: Everything changes, right? Obviously, the technology changes. When we first started working on it, we had a strong SCADA focus. We still had Boeing on our minds, so we zeroed in on that same use case. It was all Layer 2, no routing, no DHCP, no bells and whistles, none of these things that we eventually had with our first minimally viable product. Now, we’ve got HIPclients, 50 gazillion platforms, we have the cloud, and we work on all of these different and complex add-on features that our customers are asking for. If you want to be a serious player in the IT market, you have to support all of these things. The product has changed to a degree that’s almost unrecognizable for me.
Then there’s all the organizational changes that come about when you actually grow up as a company. Originally, we were just three guys sitting in a little basement where our view outside the window was of chickens running around. It was nice, but we’re a company now. We were really excited when Jeff Hussey came along to see what he could turn this into. I’m still totally amazed by it. We’ve got professionals to do everything. We’ve got people like you to focus on just HR, experts in Marketing, etc.
Trisha: What has been the most challenging aspect so far?
Ludwin: I’ve always found the business side to be the most challenging part. It’s hard to get the street cred in the networking field, which is very mature and established. People have set expectations about what a networking product should look like or what you’ve gotta be able to do to swim with the sharks there. It’s difficult to get to a point where companies are willing to bet their bottom line on your technology—that’s exactly what our customers are doing. It’s an investment for them. Also, their business runs across their network, and if their network croaks, their business goes with it. It takes a huge amount of trust from your customers to really go along the journey with you and buy your products.
On the technical side, there are some peculiar aspects to network technology that make it a difficult field to be in. It’s a very messy and complex field. When you bring your technology in there, it has to work. If it doesn’t work, what are you going to do? It’s not like writing an app for a phone. If the app does something weird, you have tools and means to figure out what your app is doing wrong. But with networking, there’s a number of different things that have nothing to do with what you’ve brought in there, that might be behind why something doesn’t work.
Trisha: What is something that most people don’t know about you?
Ludwin: What do people not know about me? …What do they know? I worked a long time in a field of research that has nothing to do with networking. I was doing research on collaboration tools. It’s more empirical research. You go into settings where people use tools of various kinds and perform data analysis to some degree. You count the beans and try to find out why collaborations between teams work and why they don’t work. I was originally working in the research industry in Germany. As a researcher, you go to a lot of conferences and meet a lot of people. There was a fairly well-known guy from Boeing that was at a conference and he asked me to come to Seattle.
Trisha: What aspect of your role do you enjoy the most?
Ludwin: I love seeing the technology evolve. What I find the most rewarding is working hard on solving a technical issue and arriving at a point where it simply works. Seeing the technology being used and running in production environments…I find that to be a really gratifying aspect. To solve a problem that makes people want to spend money on our products is really rewarding. Then there’s the whole team aspect. That’s what I really love about Tempered. We have great people and I’m having fun working with every one of them. They’re extremely competent; everybody is really special and knowledgeable in some way. It’s just an awesome environment.
Trisha: Anything else you’d like to note?
Ludwin: I feel like the time is right for this. The internet is just a bad place. Someone’s got to do something about it. I think our solution is extremely compelling in a lot of ways compared to other offerings out there. If this doesn’t work, I don’t know what’s going to work.