Light Reading

Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

Craig Matsumoto

5. Dave Welch, Infinera
It took a lot of years and a lot of money to get Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) past the novelty stage, but it's now a true contender in DWDM. The question is whether its next product, the DTN-X, can be as powerful as the first. If so, then Infinera stands to make a big difference in the 100Gbit/s generation, and Welch, who's been with the company from the beginning, would stand a chance to continue its influence into the 1Tbit/s era as well.

4. John D'Ambrosia, Dell
He technically works for Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL), but really, John D'Ambrosia is known as the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) guru for higher-speed Ethernet -- with "higher speed" defined as "whatever comes next." Instrumental in recent product generations up to 100Gbit/s -- which is still a work in progress, he stresses -- D'Ambrosia is doing advance scouting for the 400Gbit/s or 1Tbit/s generation. Among his multiple IEEE commissions is a project to assess bandwidth demand and determine exactly what's needed for this next generation -- because, as he's been emphasizing, it's already past time to start working on it. Look for him to continue prodding the industry forward.

3. Hong Liu, Google
Bikash Koley, technical lead for network architecture and planning at Google, undoubtedly makes some big decisions and is the guy you see at conferences. He's the spokesman for the massive bandwidth requirements Google and other data-center owners are facing. But we're told that when you get down to the optical details, Liu is the person you need on your side. Components vendors are turning her way for guidance on how to craft the next generations of data-center parts.

2. Huawei
Sources couldn't decide on one person inside Huawei to nominate. We're told that if you get Huawei's interest, they don't send one guy to talk; they descend en masse, working like a hive mind, as one source described it.

Yet, Huawei's position in the market can't be ignored. It's joined the optical market-share leaders and has home-field advantage when dealing with Chinese carriers. Even without a celebrity point person, Huawei's optical work affects the industry, and it certainly affects competitors such as Alcalu, Ciena, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) and Fujitsu Network Communications Inc. .

1. Glenn Wellbrock, Verizon
Everybody in optical networking wants Glenn Wellbrock's ear. No carrier has evangelized the next-generation network harder than Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ), and Wellbrock is the point man. (Stuart Elby has been a prominent name at Verizon, too, but his attention is more on things like software-defined networking these days.)

Not every carrier shares Verizon's point of view, but there's no question the carrier has shaped vendor roadmaps. It's Verizon, for instance, that's dictated much of today's direction in ROADMs. Verizon has been coming to conferences with big diagrams of the colorless, directionless, contentionless optical network, and a couple of years ago, it kick-started the discussion about flexible-grid ROADMs, too.

Verizon is out to distinguish itself in the context of driving the industry. The carrier wants to be an innovator, and it's pulling the optical equipment and components vendors behind it.

To close out the list, here's our OFC/NFOEC interview with Wellbrock:

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Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:26 PM
re: Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

Obviously the list is up for discussion. Who'd we leave off? Which picks do you especially like (or not)?

The one uncontested choice was Glenn Wellbrock. Pretty much everybody we contacted said he had to be on the list -- hence his ranking. He was a busy guy at OFC/NFOEC.

Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:25 PM
re: Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

Hey, I like your list -- thanks for contributing, Odo!

Yeah, we did cop out on Huawei, but in a thought-out way that we thought was amusing (and kind of appropriate).  I don't think they can be left off of this list. In fact, if we were limited to one equipment vendor, I'd probably pick them. It's not like they're the Microsoft of this space, but they're on everybody's minds. They've got impact.

Google was sort of the opposite of a cop-out, I'd argue. If you don't like our pick, it's a consequence of our overthinking it. I'm certainly comfortable with it, but there's no doubt Bikash is a mover & shaker in his own right.

The Engana guys ... ah, there was bound to be an area we didn't explore deeply enough, so I'll concede that we should have considered them. In terms of near-term influence, though ... now that everybody claims to have gridless capability, how much more impact is Engana likely to have? (It's inside Finisar, for those who don't know, so it does have market reach.)

User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:25 PM
re: Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

nice choices overall ... extremely accomplished folks. but, as requested, some comments -

big thumbs up (or likes):

- wellbrock: clearly a mover and shaker, pushing the limits of technology, great articulation of the needs of the network.

- bowers: brilliant mind, wishing him good luck with his latest baby (aurrion)

- welch: proof is in the pudding, namely, a public company with deployed product based on his vision.

- diperna: absolutely one of the best leaders for pushing high bit-rates and more importantly coherent systems into the market.



- alwan: clearly an lr favorite and in spite of an acknowledged lack of optical expertise and relevance to 100G or ROADMs, he sneaks in. may as well set up a popularity award and give it to him. clear a spot for a real shaker in optical. (who, you ask? see next category).



- frisken and poole: come on guys, you say roadms, you love wss' and no real proponent in this space. look no further (south) than our friends from engana. these are the pioneers of the flexible grid solutions. acknowledge it. now.



- google: clearly bikash is the guy, but you want to include others? that's quite alright i guess.

- huawei: really? not being able to name individuals is a clear sign that the moving and shaking is being done by committee.



- cole, d'ambrosia (just don't know these guys or their accomplishments except being on standards committees).

- jain (just know idea who this guy is and why a backhaul guy is in this list, but what the heck, he is #10, and he gave lr an interview, so ok).


so, my top x list would be -

1. koley, wellbrock (carriers)

2. diperna, welch (systems)

3. bowers, frisken-poole (technology/components)

4. cole, d'ambrosia (standards) - if you say these are the guys, so be it.


ok, that's just nine people, but no point trying to find folks to fill the last slot. leave it at nine.


odo - who has now stirred the pot, if nothing else!




User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:38:22 PM
re: Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers
An excellent and thought-provoking list.-áThe idea of movers and shakers implies scale and importance and that is reflected here. But in an ideal world where everything and everyoneGÇÖs work and value are known, one or two great Japanese operators and companies should be here too. The same applies to some individuals in Europe, say at Duetsche Telekom or FT.

Also a thought for some unheralded players. They don't have the scale but have some deep thinkers - in South Korea or at some European vendors. The likes of mid-size companies like ADVA, Transmode and Ekinops, or the odd Israeli entrepreneur or firm. They may fail the scale test and as such only make an official top-50 list but perhaps the true value of their innovation is higher.
Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin,
User Rank: Light Beer
12/5/2012 | 5:37:59 PM
re: Top Ten: Optical Networking Movers & Shakers

Thanks rhr. Yes, I'll admit it's a North American-focused list -- reflecting the fact that we work out of North America and get the greatest amount of exposure to the folks who happen to be here.

Good point about the innovation in Japan. Companies and universities there are still very heavily represented in the OFC papers and post-deadlines. Maybe I should be more in touch with what's happening over there.

About the deep thinkers in the mid-sized companies... that's a very interesting idea. Maybe we could collect up a few of those names for a different kind of report someday.

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