John J. Roese, Nortel's new CTO, comes from Broadcom, where he served as vice president and CTO for networking technologies

Carmen Nobel

June 22, 2006

4 Min Read
A Roese Is a Roese Is a New CTO

Continuing the executive transfusion under new CEO Mike Zafirovski, Nortel Networks Ltd. today announced its latest chief technical officer.

John J. Roese, 35, joins Nortel from Broadcom Corp. (Nasdaq: BRCM), where he was vice president and CTO for networking technologies. He also has served CTO stints at Enterasys Networks Inc. and Cabletron. (A press release announcing his appointment says Roese has "almost two decades of experience" in the technology business, indicating that his teen years were kind of geeky, but worth it.)

"I spent almost my entire career in the networking business," he says. "I partnered with companies like Nortel in the early 90s, and competed against them in the late 90s."

In recent history, Nortel has blown through CTOs like Kleenex™; Roese will mark the fifth in five years, replacing interim CTO Peter Carbone, who had taken over for Gary Kunis. (See Nortel Bets on Mumford, McFadden In, Mumford Out as NT CTO, and Nortel Changes CTO – Again .)

Roese becomes part of the rearrangement being orchestrated by Zafirovski, who's brought in several high-ranking execs during the year. (For just a taste, see Nortel Names CMO, Nortel Names Services Prez, Nortel Appoints New Exec, and Nortel Poaches Juniper Strategist.)

Will Roese make the cut? "He's an ex-Broadcom guy and will understand tech quite well, but maybe not the systems-level stuff that Nortel does, so he's got a learning curve," says Inder Singh, an analyst at Prudential Equity Group LLC , in an email to Light Reading.

Roese wouldn't discuss specific product plans, noting that he doesn't even start his job until June 28 -- so no word, for instance, on whether Nortel needs to get back into OSS. He tells Light Reading he wants to take a holistic approach to the job, focusing not only on telecom infrastructure but on software and services. "At Nortel, I see the DNA that allows the creation of the whole system," he says. "The company hasn't done a great job in the past few years to articulate that vision."

Nortel faces obvious pressure from the pending mergers among its peer group -- specifically, the Alcatel (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) hookup with Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and the recent Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) deal with Siemens AG (NYSE: SI; Frankfurt: SIE). (See Alcatel, Lucent Seal Deal and Nokia, Siemens Create Networks Giant.)

"I'm not allowed to talk about it," he says. But: "Independent of the Nokia/Siemens deal, the thing I'm trying to get across is that the ecosystem is much bigger than just the cellular network equipment providers...

"If you take a look at the number of companies in the landscape, it's enormous. There will always be an end-to-end ecosystem... If a partnership is only one dimension, it's not earth shattering, because the end-to-end food chain is what matters. We have great relationships with [Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT)], and those are actually more significant than anything we would do at one dimension... The consolidation in one dimension is important, but the end-to-end ecosystem will never be a single company."

Roese wouldn't discuss the recently nixed joint venture with Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. (See Nortel, Huawei Kill JV.) But he does think more joint ventures are likely on the way.

"Fixed broadband is clearly an important piece of the business," he says. "And the reality is we still have very strong positions in the backhaul space and the front end."

He adds that Nortel has a WiMax strategy that he thinks will complement the company's fixed-broadband strategy as carriers converge their fixed and wireless networks. That said, "One of the things that attracted me to Nortel was the fact that the team of people are extremely experienced in how to run a business -- including joint ventures and how to do them. That wasn't always the case, but it's true now."

Regarding Nortel's plans for IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) technology, he says the firm likely will develop some basic applications for the framework, but the larger strategy will be making it easier for other companies to build IMS apps.

"I don't think anyone would ever claim to be the definitive, complete, IMS solutions provider for all the applications, but that we do understand these things means we're not just a plumbing company. IMS is a framework, so the applications are in continuous evolution, but I do believe that many applications will be built on real-time communication, which Nortel will participate in. Simple things like push-to-talk are well within our domain of expertise, but we need to make a simple environment for the providers that choose to implement that architecture... It's a lot easier to buy an enabling system from people who can speak your language, and we actually have been in the applications business."

Separately, Roese says he'll focus on systems management, as it's a way to reduce operational costs.

"I'm a big believer that great hardware is underutilized if it doesn't have great management inside of it... and what was previously done manually needs to be automated. A great example is mesh networking -- it self organizes."

— Carmen Nobel, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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