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A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing

by | May 20, 2022 | Blog

Millions of cloud native workloads will deploy on distributed cloud infrastructure with open network fabrics

I am writing this blog post to announce my new company Hedgehog, so I might as well talk about hedgehogs.  If I’m going to write about hedgehogs I might as well refer to Isaiah Berlin’s essay called “The Hedgehog and the Fox.”  Berlin expands upon this idea to divide writers and thinkers into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be boiled down to a single idea.

The quote “a fox knows many things, but a hedgehog knows one big thing” is actually a verse from the Greek poet Archilochus.  Keeping it Greek, Plato is a hedgehog while Aristotle is a fox.  In reality most people are not just a hedgehog or a fox.  Most people have a belief about the universe, but they experience life through many different pursuits.  

Plato (left) and Aristotle in Raphael's 1509 fresco, The School of Athens. Aristotle holds his Nicomachean Ethics and gestures to the earth, representing his view in immanent realism, whilst Plato gestures to the heavens, indicating his Theory of Forms, and holds his Timaeus.[33][34]

At this point you may be thinking, “Thanks for the armchair philosophy lesson, Marc.  What the heck does this have to do with launching a software company?”  

The point is this.  Any great company has a defining vision that guides a diverse team to a shared goal.  Great companies collectively think like a hedgehog.  I’ll take this opportunity to explain that One Big Thing that Hedgehog knows.  Great companies also need a lot of foxes who know many things.  The Hedgehog community is no different.  We have foxes who know many things, too.  

A Fox Knows Many Things

To know one big thing as a hedgehog, sometimes we have to experience many different things as a fox.

When I started Mobiquity in 1999 for mobile ride sharing, I learned the hard way that successful technology investing indeed requires one to accurately time market transitions, and infrastructure transitions disrupt entire industries.  

When I started Canvas in 2008 to make it easier to build mobile apps, I learned that we could use the new EC2 service to deploy our platform in just one day.

When I later joined Amazon, I assumed that all of Amazon.com runs on AWS.  I was wrong.  I learned that we had to build Whispercast on bare metal for security, control and cost of service. 

My experience at Jasper taught me that the Internet of Things is still in the first or second inning.  Later innings will see billions of devices collecting data for artificial intelligence applications deployed on distributed cloud infrastructure.  

Most recently, at Cisco I learned that automating networks at scale is really difficult when you have to deal with proprietary operating systems in a multi-vendor network.  I learned that a common operating system helps immensely to simplify infrastructure operations. I also noticed that the smart kids were using SONiC as the common abstraction layer for their multi-vendor networks.  I learned that as successful as we were automating 5G transport networks, SONiC cloud infrastructure was a much bigger driver for Cisco’s business.  

A fox knows many things.  

A Hedgehog Knows One Big Thing

Now that I am a hedgehog, I know one big thing.  Millions of cloud native workloads will deploy on distributed cloud infrastructure using Hedgehog.  

Our new Hedgehog community will make this happen by fusing SONiC with Kubernetes.  Notice that I said community, not company.  Making a really big thing happen requires a community of foxes.  

A Community of Foxes Who Know One Big Thing

Our community of foxes needs to know many things in pursuit of that one big Hedgehog thing.  

We need people who have experienced the cost and convenience of public cloud.  

We need IoT and AI application developers who will drive the shift toward distributed cloud.  

We need networking experts who know the right network architecture for those cloud native IoT and AI workloads. 

We need SONiC contributors who know the features required for the open network fabrics that will make distributed cloud possible.  

We need early SONiC adopters who demand a multi-vendor support model.  

We need Kubernetes community members who understand how DevOps can address network operations.  

We need software as a service developers who know how to make it really easy to consume software in the cloud.  

To that end, I encourage you to join other foxes and become a member of the Hedgehog community.  In the coming weeks and months we will post more blogs here to further explain the One Big Thing we know at Hedgehog. 

– Marc

 P.S. If you are already a member of the SONiC community, I encourage you to meet with us at the OCP Global Summit next week, or the ONE Summit in November.  We would love to have you in our community as a fox and a hedgehog. 

Marc Austin
Marc Austin

Marc Austin is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of Hedgehog. Marc is a fox who knows many things and a hedgehog who knows one big thing. As a Hedgehog he knows that millions of cloud native development teams will use Hedgehog open network fabrics to deploy their apps on distributed cloud infrastructure. As a fox he knows many things from his experience leading mass-scale automation strategy at Cisco, Internet of Things networking at Jasper, digital media delivery at Amazon, mobile application development founding Canvas, the birth of smartphones at AT&T, early mobile ride sharing founding Mobiquity, internet search at Infoseek, e-commerce at Internet Shopping Network and leading people through adversity in the United States Army.