Led by Cisco vets, new Seattle networking startup Hedgehog comes out of stealth

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Hedgehog CEO Marc Austin. (Hedgehog Photo)

A new Seattle startup called Hedgehog wants to make it easier for companies to use the SONiC operating system for their networking needs.

SONiC, which stands for Software for Open Networking in the Cloud, was open-sourced by Microsoft in 2016. The tech giant originally developed the technology for its Azure data centers.

SONiC is described as “an open source network operating system (NOS) based on Linux that runs on over 100 different switches from multiple vendors and ASICs.” The idea is to make cloud networking more versatile.

Hedgehog is targeting cloud-native companies that want to move workloads off the public cloud. It’s a potential trend for growing companies that need to manage rising cloud computing costs, as detailed in a blog post by Andreessen Horowitz investors last year.

Here’s the company’s mission, via its website:

“Hedgehog is an open source software company dedicated to giving Cloud Native application owners the ability to deploy workloads on edge compute and distributed cloud infrastructure with the same procurement power and automated operations that power the public cloud. Hedgehog helps customers escape vendor lock, automate mass-scale infrastructure operations, and reduce their cost of service.

Hedgehog wants to help companies make sure their networking still runs smoothly as they transition workloads. It aims to be the “Red Hat for SONiC,” giving enterprises a way to more easily use the open-source software.

The company is led by CEO and co-founder Marc Austin, a veteran entrepreneur who was most recently spent four years at Cisco. Austin also helps run a small Seattle firm called IoT Capital and was a director at Amazon from 2010 to 2012, working on the Kindle Enterprise team.

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“A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing,” Austin wrote on LinkedIn. “Millions of cloud native workloads will deploy on distributed cloud infrastructure with open network fabrics.”

Other co-founders include Mike Dvorkin, a networking expert who helped launch Insieme Networks, which Cisco acquired in 2020. Josh Saul, a former marketing leader at Apstra and Netris, is the company’s other co-founder.

Hedgehog has raised a pre-seed investment round but did not disclose investors or amount raised. It does not have paying customers and is currently working with “design partners.”

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