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Leading Lights Finalists 2014: Best Deal Maker

Sarah Thomas

One side-effect of the rapid shift to new technologies such as SDN and NFV is the large vendors' need to acquire companies and form partnerships to ramp up their offerings quickly. It also means they have many innovative startups to choose from.

That's one big reason we had an abundance of qualified entries in the category of Best Deal Maker for the past year. This award goes to the company that has consistently demonstrated good timing, judgment, and execution in high-profile acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures, and other multi-company financial arrangements. (See Leading Lights 2014: The Finalists.)

Our six finalists span a number of important tech trends including SDN, SPIT, over-the-top, LTE, and security. Check them out in alphabetical order below.

Amdocs Ltd. -- for the acquisitions of Actix and Celcite
In the past year, Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) has made two acquisitions that have taken the service provider IT (SPIT) player from the back office to deep inside the radio network. It purchased mobile network optimization specialist Actix for $120 million in September 2013 and self-optimizing network (SON) vendor Celcite Management Solutions LLC for $129 million in November 2013.

The acquisitions allowed Amdocs to create a new business unit, Amdocs Network Solutions, and tackle the increasingly important big data market. It's a relatively new player here, and still has to prove itself, but the assets gained from Actix and Celcite strengthen its marketing message by giving it the ability to offer granular network data analysis to operators.

SON will also become an increasingly important technology for operators managing complex heterogeneous networks and needing to do so in ways that are responsive and automated. Amdocs' network optimization story is strengthened by its back-to-back buys, which it says are aimed at turning it into the "leading vendor-agnostic network optimization provider."

Cisco Systems Inc. -- for the acquisition of Sourcefire
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) went from having very little story in mobile network security to making money and stealing market share from security incumbents via its $2.7 billion acquisition of intelligent cyber-security provider Sourcefire, completed in October of last year. (The company also acquired Cognitive Security in February 2013 and ThreatGrid in May 2014, but both were outside timeline for this year's awards.)

Security is an extremely important topic for network operators, made even more crucial as they branch into machine-to-machine communications, the cloud, and new networks. Through its Sourcefire acquisition, Cisco provides an advanced "threat-centric security model" that includes threat detection, enforcement, and remediation technologies for operators. Instead of focusing on policy and controls, Cisco claims to work hard to understand the attackers and their methods to stop them before an attack and quickly respond when one does happen.

Genband Inc. -- for the acquisitions of fring and uReach Technologies
Private equity-owned Genband Inc. is no stranger to M&A, but in the past year it has focused its efforts on helping its operator customers respond to the OTT threat. The networking company acquired OTT voice service fring in September and followed up with the acquisition of uReach Technologies in February of this year.

Genband snatched up fring to give wireless operators a white-label response to OTT or cable and fixed service providers an entry into mobile communications. It provides video chat, VoIP calls, and group chat, and Genband has already integrated with its SpiDR WebRTC gateway. Within weeks of announcing the deal, the vendor also named its first customer, France's Bouygues Telecom , which is using the service to offer free phone calls and SMS over WiFi for its customers who are traveling abroad.

With uReach, Genband is aiming to update the operators stuck in legacy non-IP voicemail solutions with visual voicemail, virtual assistants, and unified communications. Combined with fring, it's all part of Genband's strategy to be a software-driven proponent of real-time communications whether on the cloud, in mobile, or OTT. And, these are likely not the last of the acquisitions we'll see from Genband this year as it continues to build out that story.

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User Rank: Light Sabre
6/2/2014 | 10:46:07 AM
Re: Anyone else?
Yes, job requirements can be tedious. Free range is the better option, although we all know that no range is truly free.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/2/2014 | 10:41:33 AM
Re: Anyone else?
Or, I'm finding it easier to concentrate without a message board quota to worry about. 
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/2/2014 | 10:39:20 AM
Re: Anyone else?
Looks like somebody misses being editor.
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/1/2014 | 10:44:12 PM
Re: Anyone else?
Was Liberty Global/Virgin Media deal too early in 2013 to be considered?

Also, Facebook/WhatsApp is much more of an influential deal than, say, Genband/fring.

Google/Stackdriver was very interesting, too. It was one of 14 companies purchased this year.

Don't sleep on Microsoft, either. They've bought seven companies in the last 12 months and spent more than $7B to get Nokia's mobile device business.  Other buys gave them assets in API management, mobile computing and cloud computing. 
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/1/2014 | 4:56:36 AM
Re: Anyone else?
No love for the DirecTV acquisition by AT&T, I see.

But then again, AT&T already has U-verse.

The more glaring omission, though, is the Comcast-Time Warner deal, if it goes through.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Light Sabre
6/1/2014 | 4:53:04 AM
Juniper settlement?
I don't know if this counts, but how about a nod toward Juniper for -- as part of its highly favorable settlement with Palo Alto Networks over their myriad patent litigation -- getting $100M in Palo Alto Networks stock (not to mention $75M cash)?
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/30/2014 | 11:54:05 AM
Re: Anyone else?
@Sarah: What about the deal between facebook & whats app? Its a major deal that will combine mobile peer to peer messaging with social networking like never before.
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