Turning the ship at Nortel

Turning the ship at Nortel

Three months ago, Nortel tapped Juniper's strategy and business development chief, George Riedel, as its new chief strategy officer. His responsibility is to establish the partnerships and investments that will deliver on CEO Mike Zafirovski's stated goal to have a 20 per cent share or better in key markets such as IPTV, IMS, WiMax and Metro Ethernet.

How far into the home do you plan to go with IPTV?

George Riedel (GR): I think the question might be 'where can we be distinctive and add value?' Being the fourteenth set-top box player is probably not the answer. So we're looking to others in the ecosystem to provide that but not us. It could be a range of partnerships - we've got the LG joint venture, which would be the first place to look. There's a broad collection of players (for home digital entertainment). Can we work with those guys to invent technologies or to develop ways for end-to-end services to run better? Yes. Do I think we should be in those CPE businesses? No.

How do you plan to counter Lucent's recent momentum in IMS?

GR: We have 500 carrier VoIP installations around the world and a whole range of SIP businesses with it. That's a huge asset for us, to be able to go back in and say, can we migrate you from TDM to VoIP to IMS? So the principal focus is on getting that installed base to embrace an IMS vision that we're rolling out. Secondly, we have a set of partners that we're working with to enhance that. Not just in the transport and control plane layer; but actually in the application side. What is IMS about at the end of the day? My belief is it's much more about enabling new applications and services, yet you need the scalable transport and control plane to go do that. But the magic is in the applications and services in terms of new growth. So I think what you'll see is us focus more on the applications and services going forward while we migrate our existing base to an IMS architecture.

We are also trying to get to a standard platform. Getting to common components, getting to open systems so you can add value on applications would be a theme for us.

We are behind - I'm not so sure how much of that is product portfolio versus perception. It's a question that we wrestle with. I think the answer is probably both. We need to invest to close gaps on both the marketing and the perception angle, as well as on the product angle.

In addition to your edge router and the blade server business, which product areas did you cancel or sell?

GR: I'm a 90-day expert on all things at Nortel. Most of this happened last year or before my time so I just don't know all of the details. It creates a fair amount of uncertainty so having a one-on-one relationship with the customer about the transition plan is important.

How do you plan to get to 20 per cent Ethernet switching market share in the enterprise given you've been at less than 5 per cent for several years?

GR: The 20 per cent number isn't an overnight target. It's an aspiration, it's a goal. In terms of specifics of how we do that in Ethernet switching, I'm not going to be able to give you a whole lot of comfort and clarity just yet on that. We are working through a plan to assess how we do that. We're encouraged by some of the themes that are in that plan around security and wireless in the networking environment, and the need to have a simpler network to manage. If you think about other traditional networks, complexity of the operating system, architecture and feature release problem is a non-trivial challenge. So to the extent we can find a way to make security and manageability of the network through both an architecture and a network management approach simpler, we think that has some play.

But to me, it's not an Ethernet switching question; it's an enterprise success question. Cisco has a phenomenal business there in terms of its go-to-market capabilities and portfolio. So you've got to have a compelling product value proposition but frankly, you've got to have channel or go-to-market leverage. Unless you have some big partners working with you, I think it's a hard road. So what I think you'll see us do is not only work to fill the gaps on the product side but also on the partnership and go-to-market side. How do we get partners to help deliver a story, a value proposition? We do a lot of business with the traditional carriers today through resell. Can we do more? Yes. Partnership was one of five initiatives we talked about in reinvigorating our enterprise sales about two weeks ago. Inside sales, direct touch, channel programs and partnerships being important. I think you're going to see us do more there in terms of trying to get others to help support. And others have come to us. So it's not just a push, there is a real pull.

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