The Top 10 Movers and Shakers in Optical Networking

The Top 10 Movers and Shakers in Optical Networking

January 24, 2000

8 Min Read
The Top 10 Movers and Shakers in Optical Networking

Welcome to Light Reading's list of the most important players in the optical networking industry.

Let's get one thing straight right from the start: These ratings are about power--not popularity. And we don't put people on our list for noble deeds (although extra credit is awarded for sawing off the competition at the knees). Some of these choices may run contrary to popular opinion, but we think these are the true optical puppeteers, the dealmakers who are influencing the direction of the optical networking industry-and they're not necessarily the people that their companies' PR departments would like you to know about.

Table 1: Top 10 Movers and Shakers

Position

Name

Last Month's Position

Months on List

1

Wu-Fu Chen

1

1

2

Carl Russo

2

1

3

Peter Lothberg

3

1

4

Vinod Khosla

4

1

5

Janus Birgersson

5

1

6

David Huber

6

1

7

Frank Ianna

7

1

8

Dan Smith

8

1

9

Gary Winnick

9

1

10

Don Smith

10

1



Light Reading will be reviewing our Movers and Shakers every month, adding new players when necessary, as well as relegating anyone who's mojo has faded to our "has-been" bin.

You can help. Send your suggestions for moves, adds, and changes to this Top 10 list to [email protected].

Wu-Fen ChenLegendary networking entrepreneur Wu-Fu Chen is No.1 with a bullet on our debut list. Right now Chen is midway through the execution of a cunning plan for domination of the optical networking startup scene.

He's dissected the optical access market and started a company in each of the resulting sub-areas--from components to services software--thus avoiding potential conflicts of interest and giving him a chance to score hits across the board.

For more on what Wu Fu Chen is working on, see our exclusive interview at:Wu-Fu Chen

http://www.cisco.com

Carl RussoPresidents of companies that get bought by Cisco have a few options open to them -- including leaving, and hanging out by the water cooler until their vesting period is up.

Carl Russo chose a different tack. He joined Cisco when it bought Cerent back in August 1999 for close to $7 billion. Since then he's been cultivating his position, growing his job title (now 15 words long and counting) and, increasingly, calling the shots.

Light Reading's Cisco contacts say Russo's arrival has shifted Cisco's corporate balance of power. He's now the go-to guy defining the company's optical networking strategy. And given that optical networking is where the battle for domination of the networking market as a whole will be won or lost, that makes Russo--not Kevin Kennedy or John "Check-book" Chambers--the most powerful man inside Cisco.

What is Russo getting out of all this? Probably not as much as he got out of Cerent, where he worked for only 18 months before it was bought by Cisco. His share of that booty? $350 million, or $639,850 for each day that he worked there.

Peter LothbergPeter Lothberg is the ultimate optical Internet guru, although you wouldn't guess it from his Web site, http://www.stupi.se, which displays a garden shed with the caption: "The Main Office of STUPI" (STUPI being the name of his company).

All the same, some very powerful people from the networking world come to kneel at Lothberg's feet. Cisco, for instance, says it designed its GSR12000 backbone router with his requirements in mind. And Sprint, we hear, has based much of its Internet infrastructure strategy on what Lothberg says.

Lothberg says that he was sent by God to network the planet. He may be joking.

http://www.kpcb.com/

Vinod KhoslaThrow a brick these days and you'll probably hit a VC investing in optical networking. But few of them can claim Vinod Khosla's recent run of successes, which includes Juniper and Siara. He's also on the boards of Corio, Corvis, and Qwest.

The Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers partner's stiffest competition for this spot in Light Reading's Top 10 Movers and Shakers list currently comes from Ed Anderson at North Bridge Venture Partners (http://www.nbvp.com/), who hit home runs with Cascade, Arris Networks, Torrent, and others-and is now backing a couple of other hot optical startups: Appian, and Tenor.

http://www.framfab.se

Portrait: Janus BirgerssonSweden is leading the world in rolling out high-bandwidth Internet access to the masses, and it's all down to one guy, a 28-year-old named Janus Birgersson.

Birgersson wants to emulate the process that led to Ericsson's success in the mobile telephony market-which was helped enormously by the early use of cell phones by the Swedish public. This time around, Birgersson wants his own company, Framfab, to grab a world lead in developing software that will be used in next-generation Internet services.

In order to do this, he's managed to make the availability of low-cost broadband services a hot political issue. He's also managed to cast himself in the role of a public hero by setting up a startup carrier, Bredbandsbolaget AB (http://www.bredband.com), that's offering Ethernet connections to apartments for US$25 a month. He aims to wire 1.2 million homes in the next two years.

http://www.corvis.com

Portrait: David HuberDavid Huber is living proof that success breeds success in optical networking.

He cofounded Ciena Corp. (http://www.ciena.com) in 1994 and led development that opened up the market for long-haul DWDM gear. It was a rip-roaring success, but Huber quit soon after Ciena went public in 1997, following a tiff with the CEO.

Now Huber is back with a vengeance, leading Corvis into one of the hottest areas of optical networking--all-optical long-distance switching and transmission. The darling of financial analysts, Corvis, they say, is worth a cool $10 billion.

http://www.att.com

Portrait: Frank IannaVab Goel of Qwest, eat your heart out. You're doing some cool things on your fiber backbone, but the guy that really gets respect from optical networking vendors is Frank Ianna at AT&T.

Why? AT&T has by far the biggest and most complicated network, and by far the biggest and fussiest customers. And that adds up to much bigger challenges for Ianna, who's responsible for deciding what optical infrastructure AT&T will use to deliver Internet services.
"Whether you're an AT&T customer or competitor, its design decisions create a benchmark for the telecom industry," says Larry Lang, vice president of service provider marketing at Cisco.
Rolling out new technology on a new backbone is a breeze, by comparison. The Bandwidth Barons are good at cultivating celebrity status for their network architects, but Ianna's achievements put him in a different class.

http://www.sycamorenet.com

Dan SmithThere's only room for one Sycamore employee on the Light Reading Top 10 list, and originally, it wasn't going to be Dan Smith.

In fact, we were all set to give the place to his buddy Desh Deshpande (the ying to Smith's yang) when we got a couple of mystery e-mails from Sycamore staff. They'd heard about what we were working on and said that when it comes to making Sycamore a success, Dan's the man. Desh had the vision, but Dan put it into place.

Our conclusion? Dan: iron man. Desh: some other time, perhaps (Remember: the Top 10 list is all about power.)

http://www.globalcrossing.com

Portrait: Gary WinnickIn just a couple of years, Global Crossing has moved from startup status to building and acquiring one of the world's most extensive fiber backbones. The guy behind this meteoric growth is Gary Winnick, who worked with Michael Milken at Drexel Burnham Lambert in the 1980s, raising junk bonds and launching the takeovers that-for better or worse-reinvented corporate America.

Winnick has been up to his old tricks at Global Crossing, this time administering a much needed purgative to the club of incumbent carriers that used to control international telecom. He's rewritten the rule book on financing big telecom projects and, in the process, netted a paper profit for himself of $4.5 billion.

http://www.nortelnetworks.com

Don SmithNortel's newfound financial fortunes have surprised everyone--including Nortel--and they come courtesy of big demand for its DWDM (dense wavelength-division multiplexing) and Sonet/SDH (synchronous optical network/synchronous digital hierarchy) products.

Now there's a new guy in charge of all Nortel's optical solutions. Don Smith has just (Jan 31st) been promoted. Previously he was running Nortel's metro optical division. (Before that he was president of Cambrian.)

Smith's promotion puts him in the driver's seat, but it's too early to say whether he'll take the checkered flag or roll the car.

One thing is certain: He has some unconventional ideas about the optical market. While other companies are looking to consolidate various networking functions into multipurpose über-platforms by buying hot startups, Smith demurs: "We're not planning to buy one of those new startups. I'm making a stand. You need to have a portfolio of products to meet the needs of real-world customers. A God box can't do it."

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