Cloud Strategies

CenturyLink's King Lands on Ericsson Cloud

Former CenturyLink exec Jonathan King is bringing his years of expertise in building a telecom cloud organization to Ericsson, where he will be head of cloud strategy and work for Jason Hoffman, his former colleague at Joyent.

Hoffman, formerly CTO and a well-known cloud pioneer at Joyent Inc. , is now head of product line cloud software at Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC). King tells Light Reading in an interview today that the opportunity to work with Hoffman again was one of several things that led him to change jobs, despite strong ties to the work he was doing at CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL). (See CenturyLink Denies Exec Exits Signal Strategy Shift.)

"It was a tough decision to leave, and it was definitely a matter of something I was going toward versus something I was leaving," King says. He and Jared Wray, whose departure from CenturyLink was also announced this week, were both key figures in a major effort to transform that legacy telecom operator into a cloud-based network infrastructure company able to deliver services at the speed of software, using IT-based techniques such as DevOps and so-called "Agile" development.

"Jared and I feel good, and the CenturyLink team feels good about what we've done -- there is leadership there that will continue it," he comments.

Jonathan King, head of cloud strategy, Ericsson
Jonathan King, head of cloud strategy, Ericsson

His challenge at Ericsson will be to help the company refine its cloud product strategy going forward, preparing for the next wave of change which is likely to be around the Internet of Things and the billions of connected devices and sensors, which will both be generating data and needing centralized intelligence to function appropriately.

King, who last year somehow found time to finish a master's degree in technology and IT law, focusing on privacy and big data, says he is intrigued by the "interplay between technology law and data use" and is looking ahead to how the IoT explosion plays out. He was drawn to Ericsson because of its global position in 180 countries with over 2.5 billion mobile subscribers and the role it can play in enabling that explosion.

"I saw Ericsson as very uniquely positioned as an international player to see the next wave unfold," King says. "That was very attractive to me, combined with working with a former colleague."

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King's role at Ericsson will be to help the company refine its product set around cloud, deciding "what are you going to do, what are you going to partner on, what are you not going to do?"

"There are hardware, software and service offerings that enable a cloud solution, and I will help with the portfolio and the strategy of that, as well as with strategic alliances and ecosystems of alliances that I'll be very much focused on," he says. "Also I'll be looking at M&A and supporting that activity from a product area standpoint."

That's similar to what he did with CenturyLink, in working the Savvis acquisition and later Tier 3 that became central to the carrier's cloud strategy and ultimate transformation plan. King also worked at Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) prior to his Joyent and CenturyLink experience, so he brings a base of customer knowledge to the new job.

"I know that customer base; I come from that customer base -- working on hardware solutions, software solutions and services that would be of value to that customer base is something I'm excited about," he says.

As for the CenturyLink operation he leaves behind, King says major aspects of that company's transformation are well established, in particular moving the cloud organization from the traditional waterfall method of development to the DevOps and Agile methodologies he sees as key to success going forward. He credits CenturyLink's upper management with supporting the massive change required and getting ahead of the telecom curve on the internal change process.

"It's a big investment and a big undertaking -- change is hard and transformation is, by definition, dramatic change, so it can be dramatically hard," King says. "What was top of mind for us was to create the digital orchestration development capability that you are using to engage with your customers. You need to have development resources of your own to do integration and orchestration -- and even those capabilities are changing. That requires a team that can rapidly iterate and rapidly move as your partner is moving."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

kq4ym 12/14/2015 | 7:57:49 PM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson With his experience and those Masters degrees in tech and IT law and his move to Ericsson with a stable of "180 countries with over 2.5 billion mobile subscribers" one would say CenturyLink might feel a little miffed that he's left them behind.
[email protected] 12/4/2015 | 5:07:38 AM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson It's very possible that Cisco might like Ericsson to de-emphasize the HDS 8000.

Will Ericsson do that? A resounding 'No' I think. I would bet money on it ramping up the marketing of that platform.

Cisco and Ericsson are going to work together in many areas but they will also continue to compete in many areas. That is why this relationship will likely have its positives but it will be a MASSIVE political/cultural challenge for both parties.
cnwedit 12/3/2015 | 4:19:03 PM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson Okay, this is wild conjecture on my part because I'm not the LR editor writing about Ciscosson, as we call it, but one of King's strengths at CenturyLink was managing partnerships as well as M&A activity before and after. I have no idea what his relationshp with the Cisco partnershp will be - next time we chat, I'll ask him - but I wouldn't be surprised to see him engaged in the process of what figuring out what gets emphasized going forward. 

Phil Morrison 12/3/2015 | 3:44:07 PM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson You don't think that Cisco would like Ericsson to de-emphasize the HDS 8000?
cnwedit 12/3/2015 | 3:19:02 PM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson The formal comment from CenturyLink was that the two departures aren't strategy-related and what Jonathan King told me today reinforces that. He had a chance to take a job with a former colleague in a field that dovetails nicely with his technology and law interests. One of the things he's been writing about, as a legal expert, is on privacy and Big Data. Ericsson would be a great place to flex those muscles. 

I think Jared Wray's departure issues have yet to play out. Because he was leading the push to dev-ops and Agile ways of working, and unlike King, didn't come from any kind of telecom background, he may have been ready to move back into more of an entreprenuerial role. 

What it means for CenturyLink is that they have to execute on the strategy without two of the guys who were leading that strategy. King seems convinced they are in a good position to do that - we'll see. 
msilbey 12/3/2015 | 12:44:54 PM
Re: Good signing for Ericsson How much of a loss ffor Centurylink? And what does it say that two of their top guys in the space have left?
[email protected] 12/3/2015 | 12:08:38 PM
Good signing for Ericsson That's a lot of good experience he is taking to the Ericsson team by the looks of things.

And he will be able to take that service provider perspective as Ericsson further pushes its HDS 8000 telco data center platform into the market.
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