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Salira Gets New CEO

Salira Optical Network Systems Inc. has a new CEO, one geared to advancing its strategic moves into China (see Salira Gets New CEO).

Ross Bernard Lau, who spent 27 years at Nortel Networks Corp. (NYSE/Toronto: NT) and two at Qwest Communications International Inc. (NYSE: Q), has been at the Salira helm since early September, shortly after former CEO Herbert Martin resigned for unspecified reasons. Lau's also joined Salira's board.

Salira, an Ethernet PON vendor, has made China its prime target market, citing carriers' openness to PON solutions there, as well as to large-scale deployment plans. Just last week, it announced a major win in that country and revealed hopes for more (see Salira Gets Another China Deal).

Lau fits the plan. Indeed, he's joining a management team that contains cronies from Nortel, such as Wei Gao, founder and CTO; Jian Song, VP of engineering; and Rick W. Li, VP of technology management and strategic planning.

At the end of his long stint at Nortel, Lau was President of Nortel Networks (Asia) Ltd.'s service provider solutions group. Prior to that, he'd headed up Nortel's wireless thrust into Asia. In July 2000, he became head of Qwest's international business unit based in Hong Kong. On his Qwest hiring, then-CEO Joe Nacchio touted Lau's "expertise in the Pacific Rim carrier and equipment markets." Two years later, Lau left the Pacific Rim job, as Qwest underwent a wave of executive changes (see Qwest Drafts Former Sorrento COO).

Lau says he joined Salira because he'd already been at a company where "someone's always peering over your shoulder" (Nortel). He'd also experienced a "$20 billion-dollar startup" environment, where decisions were "seat of the pants" and management was interactive (Qwest). Now, he's ready to be in charge. "I decided for the next phase I'd go with a smaller startup, where I could add a lot of value and run the business the way I see fit, providing I get the right input from the board."

Lau says Salira's emphasis on China is exactly right and that the company will continue to focus 80 percent of its effort there, building up an indigenous sales force. "China's absolutely the right market," he says. "It's the country for this century." As other markets take shape, Salira will partner to get into other countries.

Salira will also stick with the EPON model for the time being, creating a range of operating modes for it instead of moving to other access technologies.

One thing: In taking this job, Lau, who admits only to being "well into the fifties," is giving up a chunk of his avocation, race-car driving. He owns and drives his own vehicle and spends eight or nine weekends a year competing with it around the world.

— Mary Jander, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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