Lantern Changes Its Bulb
Lantern Communications Inc., a metro Ethernet switch maker focused on resilient packet ring (RPR) technology, has swapped out its executive team in a new effort to go after carrier business (see Lantern Names CEO).
Today the startup announced that Douglas K. Jacobs has joined the company as president and CEO. Jacobs, who most recently was CEO of Convergence Communications -- a broadband IP access service provider in Mexico, Central America, and Venezuela -- has over 30 years of experience in the telecom industry. He also served as southwestern regional vice president of AT&T Global Network Services and was a senior vice president and chief operating officer of a microcellular business called InterWave Communications.
Jacobs also has experience with equipment providers selling to large incumbent carriers. He was a senior vice president of worldwide sales and services for DSC Communications where he expanded the company’s business with regional Bell operating companies to $1.4 billion. After DSC Communications was acquired by Alcatel SA (NYSE: ALA; Paris: CGEP:PA), he became senior vice president at Alcatel, where he oversaw a $4 billion operation of sales, service, strategic planning, and internal and external communications for the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Japan.
Nasser Hiekali, Lantern’s founder and previous president and CEO, remains on the company’s board of directors. According to Robert Love, chairman of the Resilient Packet Ring Alliance, and others in the industry close to Lantern, Hiekali was not forced out of the company.
“It’s a strategy that makes sense,” says Love. “The biggest concern for all these startups is getting customers. And you need people that understand the carriers and have contacts within the carriers. Personal relationships go a long way.”
Jacobs will definitely have his work cut out for him as he tries to sell the company’s RPR technology into incumbent networks. The company hasn’t yet announced a customer, and its first product was released over a year ago at the 2001 Supercomm tradeshow. This is in contrast to metro Ethernet players like Atrica Inc., which has announced a contract with France Telecom SA (NYSE: FTE) (see Atrica Plugs Into France Telecom).
The obvious stumbling block for the company is the fact that carriers aren’t spending much of their capital expenditure on any new technology. But it also doesn’t help that the RPR standard, upon which Lantern is basing its product, is not yet standardized. Love says he hopes that the RPR working group will be able to get the ballots out to voters after the next meeting in two weeks (see RPR Gurus Set Fall Deadline).
RPR technology supposedly provides Sonet-like resiliency to Ethernet or other Layer 2 transport rings (see Resilient Packet Ring Technology). The problem that many vendors have with the technology is that it requires a new MAC layer, which means that in order for carriers to implement the technology they will need special interfaces. In other words, it is a feature that can only be added with a hardware upgrade.
The hype that surrounded RPR in its earlier days seems to be waning.
“RPR is dead,” said Gordon Stitt, president and CEO of Extreme Networks Inc. (Nasdaq: EXTR) in a recent interview. His company uses a proprietary ring resiliency technology that requires only a software upgrade to its switches, says Stitt.
While most analysts and venture capitalists agree that metro Ethernet is still hot, the verdict is still out on RPR.
“VCs have gotten pretty skeptical on RPR,” says Fred Wang, a venture capitalist with Trinity Ventures. “RPR is going to happen at Cisco, but VCs don't see it as a standalone product opportunity at this point. In terms of the Metro Ethernet application, though, some of the startups seem to have some traction.”
— Marguerite Reardon, Senior Editor, Light Reading