Optical/IP Networks

Alcatel Exec Takes Luminous Helm

No, the "Luminous Helm" isn't some Dungeons & Dragons artifact. It refers to the CEO position at metro systems vendor Luminous Networks Inc., newly occupied by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA) executive Chris Stark. He replaces Alex Naqvi, who stays on as chairman.

Light Reading reported the transition earlier this week (see Luminous Makes Stark Choice).

What's interesting is that the company's not giving much of a reason for the change. Naqvi says he just wants to move away from day-to-day operations after more than five years running Luminous.

"The last few years have been difficult for everybody," he says, and it was a good time to make a transition."

The family-and-fatigue excuse has been used in the past to explain CEO departures, with varying degrees of success (see Cyras: Crisis? What Crisis? ). Often it's meant to mask a firing or a sinking bottom line -- but neither appears to be the case with Luminous.

In fact, Luminous may soon get a shot at business with RBOCs and European PTTs due to its interest in Resilient Packet Ring Technology(RPR), according to "The Future of Sonet/SDH," a November report from Heavy Reading, Light Reading's paid research arm. "Major carriers are catching on to RPR, eagerly awaiting its standardization," writes Heavy Reading analyst Scott Clavenna.

That standard, crafted by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) 802.17 Working Group, is expected to be ratified this summer. That makes it a good time for Luminous to cozy up to big carriers -- and Stark's credentials would appear to fit the bill. He was most recently a group vice president running the North American arm of Alcatel Optics, an outfit that included systems and (while Alcatel still had them) components (see Avanex Deal Reshapes Sector).

Naqvi, on the other hand, comes from the chip world, having directed 3-D graphics efforts for Chips & Technologies Inc. and its acquirer, Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC). It seems sensible, then, that Luminous would seek a CEO with more carrier contacts, but Naqvi denies that that was the catalyst for his stepping down.

"That wasn't a factor. [RPR] is a relatively new technology and after five years, I know as much about this market as anybody does," he says.

Luminous's overall record was good enough to rank first among Sonet/SDH startups in the Heavy Reading report. The company has raised $173 million in funding, including $25 million last September, and is bolstered by "strong relationships with Ciena and Scientific-Atlanta, a global customer base, and a range of products supporting next-gen Sonet and RPR," Clavenna writes. (See Ciena Links Up With Luminous and Scientific-Atlanta Invests $10M in Luminous.)

Luminous's early success was in China, but its North American sales have surpassed its Chinese sales, thanks in part to RPR buildouts from five major cable MSOs. Company officials say Luminous boxes have landed in 2,000 nodes for more than 40 customers.

— Craig Matsumoto, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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