As chief operating officer and vice president of business operations at telecommunications equipment supplier Lucent Technologies' Business Communications Systems unit, Daniel Carroll has his hands full. This division is responsible for products such as Definity PBX systems, CentreVu customer care offerings, TransTalk wireless systems, and the Octel multimedia messaging platform. IDG's Paul Krill recently spoke with Carroll about the company's directions.
IDG: What is your vision for Lucent Business Communications Systems over the next five years?
Carroll: Well, essentially we provide solutions to business customers, and over the next several years we see several things that are driving our customers. Every customer is concerned about costs, their internal costs, and the efficiency of their operation. Every customer is concerned about competitors, and especially as technology starts changing, they see new competitors, Web-based competitors, coming into their world. They want to understand how to compete. How can they have an advantage over those competitors? And then the final area they look for is help with their own associates, to help them make their jobs easier and better. So our customers are telling that to us, and those happen to be the same set of things we worry about everyday. So essentially what our vision is - how do we apply technology, how do we provide solutions in each of those areas that grow our own company as well as meet our customers' needs?
Are most of your customers telecommunications companies and service providers, or are they enterprise businesses?
They are primarily enterprise businesses. We sell to end customers, from large companies down to customers that have just two lines coming into their premises.
How do you see the industry changing with things like voice over IP, telecommunications-based networks, and the Internet?
Well, essentially we see the future being sort of a network of networks, and clearly the prevailing direction is [toward] IP-based solutions as the fundamental technology. Over the next several years we will continue to see IP play a larger and larger role in all of the solutions that are brought forward to customers.
There are a number of challenges that IP has to address around quality of service and reliability, and those are the major things our customers say to us. The speed at which IP is implemented revolves around solving some of these technical challenges.
How do you plan on solving them?
We have development going on in all the directions for essentially a new [system that is a Lucent] IP Exchange server solution. It's essentially a green-field start of how would you start an IP solution for these customer needs, if you had nothing else. At the same time we're doing major enhancements and investments to evolve current customers who have our current systems to equally have all of the same capabilities [that] IP solutions will present.
So we're providing both an evolutionary path as well as a revolutionary path. The fact is the underlying technology will be moving from digital to packet as it once moved from analog to digital. The underlying technology is not necessarily what a customer buys. They're looking for a solution. The fact that you used a packet technology to give them a better solution is what we're about making happen.
What role do you see Windows NT playing in IP-based applications?
It will be one of the platforms that people will operate on. I'm sure that it will not be the only one. There are probably three or four different solutions that ultimately could evolve. [IP] clearly will grow dramatically over the coming years. That's what we believe. That's why we're investing in it. That's why we're developing products for it. But today it is really in the very early stages of applications.
Do you see enterprise customers moving more to outsourcing of network services, ranging from Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications, to Internet connectivity, to e-mail?
Yes, we essentially do. We see the outsourcing of their communications network, whether it's voice, data, whether it's some of the applications that are riding on it. We have a whole services organisation that provides both professional services as well as what we call "managed care services" under our NetCare brand that does that for major customers today, and that will continue to grow. Basically, it's very much tailored to the way [customers] do business.
What product directions can we expect to see from Lucent in the remainder of 1999 and in 2000?
What I think you'll see is the continued evolution of our IP-based solutions. [Our acquisition of] Mosaix, for example, moves us towards a new customer relation model and workflow kind of solution for generally large call centre customers who are trying to differentiate themselves in the way they deal with their customer, regardless of the media they come in on, whether it's phone, or e-mail, or fax, or off the Web.
Do you think the growth of Internet backbones is going to be able to keep up with bandwidth needs?
Well, that's part of why we're all putting products out in that space. The whole industry revolves around it and how you ultimately get end-to-end connectivity globally at very high bandwidths is part of what the service providers are about.
Anything else you want to comment about as far as what Lucent is doing or what the industry in general is doing?
Well, I think that the one thing that we do a little different is that with our Bell Labs heritage, we are very technology-driven. The real issue we are trying to deal with, though, is we believe our differentiation is in the applications that we present to customers based on a technology rather than just having a technology for them. We have the technology. However, it's how do you want to use it? What business problem are you trying to solve? That's what differentiates what we are trying to do in the marketplace. http://www.lucent.com