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Optical/IP

Li Takes Tropos Route

Tony Li, described by some in the industry as the telecom world's equivalent of a rock star, has joined mesh networking startup Tropos Networks Inc. to work on the firm's routing software, Unstrung has learned.

"Tony joined us about four weeks ago, and his title is software architect," Tropos spokesman Brad Day says. "It's obviously very exciting for us to have an IP routing expert of Tony's caliber on our team, and he's already making a solid impact for us."

Li most recently did a short stint with a stealthy startup called Portola, after leaving the firm where he started his career -- Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- for a second time. (See Tony Li Leaves Cisco Again.)

A Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) veteran as well, Li was hired by core-router startup Procket in 2000. Procket, however, was no rocket, and Cisco eventually bought the intellectual property and some engineers at the end of 2004.

Li's move into the world of mesh networking comes at a key time for startup Tropos. The firm has some heavy-hitting partners in the industry, supplying 802.11 equipment to both EarthLink Inc. (Nasdaq: ELNK) and Google (Nasdaq: GOOG). (See Google & EarthLink Team Up.)

But there's plenty of debate in the industry about the best way to deploy metromesh systems. Most firms are moving towards a multi-radio system, with some transmitters handling the connections between nodes and others providing the wireless link to connect the user to the Internet.

Tropos has steadfastly stuck to its claim that a single radio that handles backhaul and front-end connectivity is technically viable, and also cheaper for cost-conscious municipal deployments of metromesh technology.

Developing this single-radio architecture further through improved routing software appears to be where Li fits in.

"As we've always said, smart routing is the only way to build scaleable, reliable, and high-capacity mesh networks... and the addition of Tony will allow us to further improve our industry-leading solution," says Tropos's Day.

— Dan Jones, Site Editor, Unstrung

belikejones 12/5/2012 | 3:59:06 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Just when Tropos was getting traction, they go out and get a guy like Tony Li who doesn't have a track record of working well with people. To completely screw the company up, all they need to do next is get Randall Kruepp as CEO, and the Procket redux will be on Unstrung by this summer. Best wishes to Tropos - I hope the Li-factor gets them a buyer.

- blj
meshsecurity 12/5/2012 | 3:59:02 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route I am sure Mr. Li is at Tropos to help refine some of their routing algorithms and make the system more reliable for mass deployment. I think it is a good move on Tropos' part to give him a shot at solidifying thier products. Oh, and by the way I would not doubt that the Cisco Mesh folks would have approached him while he spent his last few days at Cisco after the Procket acquisition.

Ruffling a feathers and bruising a few egos is worth the potential gains that he may bring.

Hope we are all also focusing on Mesh Security...
doodah 12/5/2012 | 3:58:54 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route >Ruffling a feathers and bruising a few egos is worth the potential gains that he may bring.

What actual, realized gains has he brought to anyone? What was this god's REAL impact to Juniper's success?

Doodah
whatupwireless 12/5/2012 | 3:58:53 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Lots of Li bashing. The guy is smart and routing algorithms are his specialty. If thats whats holding up Tropos then it was the right thing to do. I just don't know if Tropos' roadblocks are technical in nature or business model in nature...

p.s.- Even the Phi Eagles got one good year out of Terrell Owens...you know what you're getting coming into it...
belikejones 12/5/2012 | 3:58:49 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Ok, switching gears. What I don't understand is why Tropos is making such a big deal about using only a single radio? A single radio doesn't impact the BOM cost much vs. two radios. And there are definite advantages to have multiple radios. In fact, the issue isn't whether its better to have a separate radio for access and backhaul (it is). The issue is whether you should have 3 radios (one for access, two for backhaul) so you can get true full duplex. And if one backhaul radio fails....you get what the marketing pitch should be saying.

Is there anybody else in the mesh space with a marketing department? I only seem to hear about Tropos. If they are the only game in town, may be I'll find a software engineer position there, and go suck up to Li.

- blj
belikejones 12/5/2012 | 3:58:49 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route "Lots of Li bashing. The guy is smart and routing algorithms are his specialty. "

Actually my intent wasn't Li bashing. Its more Tropos bashing (if you will...though I like those guys). If I was half as smart as Li, I wouldn't have to put up with all the b.s. that I have to either. How many guys (even CEOs) can make an Unstrung headline when they join a company? No - I'm not Li bashing. The guy is a super smart prima donna (not bashing - just stating a fact). I hope he fixes every bug they have in their code (oh, sorry he doesn't work on bug fixes anymore). So, I hope he writes the next great mesh routing algorithm. All I'm saying is that he comes at a high price. Sometimes for startups, it may be too high a price depending how the rest of the organization reacts. I hope the Tropos management team knows what they are getting. The great and the bad.

- blj
lrmobile_boondocksbandit 12/5/2012 | 3:58:42 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Tony Li is probably one of the best routing guys there is, and Tropos has made quite a steal there (probably helps that Tony likely has never worked in mobile ad-hoc routing, one area that will interest him).
However, with 802.11s likely to be standardized, and the mesh market overall likely to become quickly commoditized with RoamAD and other open source players jumping in, I fail to see how it will change Tropos's outlook dramatically. Would've been quite another thing if he had been hired by them 3 years ago.
whatupwireless 12/5/2012 | 3:58:38 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Ahhh, the fabled "smart man's disease". Its when business realities are supplanted by engineering prowess. When the Engineering department out-votes the PMgt department. You gotta love it.

I'd love to hear an answer to this question too. Why single radio?

The only thing I can guess is the comment about commoditization coming down the line and the ability to have the lower BOM cost to chase the price curve (typically 25-40% per year). But I don't know.


>>>>SNIP<<<<<
Ok, switching gears. What I don't understand is why Tropos is making such a big deal about using only a single radio? A single radio doesn't impact the BOM cost much vs. two radios. And there are definite advantages to have multiple radios. In fact, the issue isn't whether its better to have a separate radio for access and backhaul (it is). The issue is whether you should have 3 radios (one for access, two for backhaul) so you can get true full duplex. And if one backhaul radio fails....you get what the marketing pitch should be saying.

Is there anybody else in the mesh space with a marketing department? I only seem to hear about Tropos. If they are the only game in town, may be I'll find a software engineer position there, and go suck up to Li.

- blj
Honestly 12/5/2012 | 3:58:34 AM
re: Li Takes Tropos Route Tony Li.

Even coding in a cube is just fine If you can stay and do what you say you would do. You have missed a few details gentlemen that need not be said.
Many of us know what I am saying. If he stays long enough to make an impact at Tropos without damaging the culture it will be a new thing. I suggest they net the building and pray. Toxic is not much to inveast in for anyone. VC beware.
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