On the Job – With Mumford & Pals

[Light Reading arrives in the morning at Nortel’s Carling Campus. After checking in with security we are led to Mumford’s office. It’s situated at the tippy-top of the tower that dominates Building 5 of the Nortel campus, and, indeed, the Ottawa skyline for miles around. It’s here that we find Mumford, like Saruman in Isengard – except that Greg’s having a meeting with his secretary (he's working? How very outré!) We loiter outside for a bit with Nortel’s PR person until Mumford emerges.]

LR: How much of your time do I have today?

Mumford: I’ll be with you all day, then we’re having dinner this evening.

LR: What did I do to deserve this?

Mumford: I’m not sure. Not just anyone gets this tour, you know.

LR: Well, Greg, not just anyone gets one of these t-shirts.

[Formal presentation of Light Reading t-shirt ensues. Greg appears mildly pleased with our gift, in a mildly pleased sort of way. Mumford next leads us through long passageways to the sanctum of Marco Pagani, president of optical Ethernet at Nortel.]

LR: Marco [resisting temptation to shout Polo!], why is Nortel focused on optical Ethernet? Why not just offer IP over optical?

Marco Pagani: It depends on what you are trying to achieve. 90 percent of traffic over local area networks is Ethernet, and the old 80:20 rule on enterprise networks has been reversed. [Ed.note: According to the 80:20 rule, 80 percent of an enterprise’s traffic will stay onsite – on its internal corporate network. Only 20 percent crosses a WAN connection.] So there’s an opportunity to use Ethernet to create a utility, carrying all traffic.

LR: Will the “grid” [grid computing] play a role in your “utility”? [Chuckles at own pun. No one else does.]

Pagani: When you have a broadband-enabled network, all sorts of interesting things will happen on the computing and applications side. That’s one of them.

LR: OK, Ethernet is great – but don’t people really just want to use IP for everything?

Mumford: We’re not saying, "Don’t use IP." It’s already been decided that IP is the application protocol. We’re saying, "Use Ethernet for the underlying infrastructure."

LR: Got it.

Pagani: Ethernet addresses the last-mile bottleneck, and it’s an evolutionary technology – not revolutionary. I believe that today’s TDM private-line infrastructure will evolve into an Ethernet private-line network. You’ll see large volume deployments of Ethernet in late 2003 and at the start of 2004, and Ethernet will overtake TDM in 2007.

LR: Bold words. What are the potential barriers to that sort of deployment?

Pagani: There are two main ones: inertia caused by incumbent carriers not wanting to cannibalize existing revenues, and service providers not understanding the P&L [profit and loss] for Ethernet services.

LR: Do the Ethernet startups in this market have anything to offer?

Pagani: In the area of innovation, certainly. But in order to sell products they will need to associate themselves with a mothership [incumbent equipment vendor].

[Pagani takes us for a quick tour of one of Nortel’s customer labs.]

LR [while walking]: You look like Jeff Goldblum. [It’s true; Pagani is the spitting image of Jeff Goldblum.]

Pagani: So they tell me.

[We arrive at the lab. The highlight is the Optera 3500, which contains 32 protected Sonet rings in a form factor about the size of a toaster oven. We meet Denis Niles, an optical Ethernet verification engineer.] Denis Niles: So you work for Light Reading, eh?

LR: Yes.

Niles: I’m not sure I should talk to you. [Cue: general hilarity.] LR: Well, we’re not all bad, you know [ed.note: this is not entirely true; most Light Reading editors are actually complete bastards]. Do you want a t-shirt?

Niles: Yes. [The natives are always won over by our t-shirts.]

[Denis is clearly a “character.” A quick demo of voice- and video-over-Ethernet with RPR rapidly devolves into an enthusiastic lecture on why Niles works at Nortel, and how he heard about his job from a neighbor. Pagani beams his approval. Mumford checks his email on a Blackberry.]

Niles: I could work anywhere I want, you know.

LR: Oh yes?

Niles: Oh yes. I choose to work here. I don’t have to put up with a bunch of rules, red tape. I used to run IT at the RCMP [Note: Royal Canadian Mounted Police, a representative of which we'll get to meet in person later in this article]. We had one of the largest router networks in the world, over 1,200 routers. The costs involved in monitoring it and running it were astronomical, humungous! Anyway, I’ve always been of the opinion that the best way to attack a problem is through simplicity, and I was talking to my neighbor and he told me about this new Sonet metro box…

LR: Hold on, you mean your neighbor just happened to know about Nortel’s optical networking equipment?

Niles: Sure.

Pagani: That’s Canada for you. We have hockey and optical networking...
That’s us!

Niles: And this box was made by Nortel. That’s how I ended up here.

[Niles’s enthusiasm is mirrored by the other Nortelians that we meet over the course of the day. Nortel the company may have been beaten up – but its remaining employees do not appear to be dispirited or, for that matter, particularly bruised.]

Next page: Wireless Wonders

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xos 12/4/2012 | 9:11:06 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals A quick question -

Does Nortel have a reseller arrangement for Juniper's routers ??

xos 12/4/2012 | 9:11:06 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals I will like to complement the guys at LR on a very interesting and well written article. Enjoyed reading it. A light hearted take on a company trying to ride out the telecom bust..

good work guys

MarauderNow 12/4/2012 | 9:10:55 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Just to clear things up... That cop, the one from the buslane, was very likely an Ontario Provincial Police officer. Here in Ottawa we're lucky enough to be served by four different sets of police... the Ottawa-Carleton Police (municipal), the Ontario Provincial Police (provincial), the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (national) and the Canadian Military Police (national). They've each got their own "jurisdictions" so to speak... and the that bus lane was in OPP territory... so of course the police officer wasn't on a horse... she was OPP... :)
opti 12/4/2012 | 9:10:52 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals First of all a very amusing article editor.

It shouldn't come as a surprise the attitude of the people at Nortel. They are focused, determined and very enjoyable to work with. I worked as a student and it was a very worthwhile experience to work with such a dedicated group of individuals who take pride in what they do.
silenceofthelambdas 12/4/2012 | 9:10:51 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Regarding the fine chronicle [1] of your day in the life of NortelG«÷s CTO and LR Ambassador:

I congratulate you on this engaging and informative piece of investigative journalism. At a time when telecom investors have been left aghast after peering into the terrifying well of company valuation metrics, along comes an exposition that re-ignites ones faith that NT will return to being a G«ˇblue-chipG«÷ property (as opposed to its recent G«ˇbrown chipG«÷ [2] hue). The wild Rav4 drive confirms that this company is again aggressively on the move (albeit in the bus lane), re-defining the rules of the new economy. If it is road-based, NT looks well-positioned, provided they can fix their poorly-timed policing devices (sorry, couldnG«÷t resist).

More striking however, was the articleG«÷s superb combination of technological disclosure, personality profiling, cultural study, informative sidebars and erudite conclusions, to make this the G«ˇlandmark articleG«÷ of the LR holiday season, and a G«ˇmust-readG«÷ (feedback welcome [3]). I hope that thereG«÷s a coffee-table hardback on the way. A cup-stain around MarcoG«÷s dome may be his only chance to look like a saint (his penance being incomplete following the OPC/Avici/Bay adventure).

IG«÷ll come clean G«Ű I find most articles on technology a bit dry [4] and their perspectives indefinite, leaving no long-term impression behind to enrich my life [5]. Often, I have to wait until someone with greater perspicacity [6] interprets the article so that I can gain a deeper appreciation for its subtle truths.
Not so with this piece!

Since the dawn of time [7], mankind has struggled in vain to understand what creates the spark of creative genius that can lead to a landmark invention [8], a medical miracle [9], a record-destroying athletic performance [10], a brilliant musical opus [11], or masterpiece of literature [12].
After reading and re-reading your captivating G«ˇtour de forceG«÷ on Mumford [13] and Nortel [14], I think the inspiration must be something in the water up there that is agreeable to LR [15].
Convinced of this conclusion, IG«÷m hopping on the next dogsled to Ottawa.
Keep smiling.

[1] http://www.lightreading.com/do...
[2] http://dictionary.reference.co...
[3] http://www.pulitzer.org/Entry_...
[4] http://www.fragapalooza.com/ph...
[5] http://www.capitalsearch.net/f...
[6] http://www.lightreading.com/do...
[7] http://home.discoversandiego.c...
[8] http://school.discovery.com/cl...
[9] http://www.keithrichards.com/
[10] http://www.hoophall.com/exhibi...
[11] http://www.spinaltap.com/mp3s....
[12] http://www.lightreading.com/bo...
[13] http://www.rottentomatoes.com/...
[14] http://www.nortelnetworks.com/...
[15] http://www.counterpunch.org/pi...
MrLight 12/4/2012 | 9:10:46 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Entertaining maybe, but a little bit more informative material would have made for a safer read. I almost fell out of my chair reading this article. Who knows how many readers actually did, and as a result were mildly injured in the fall.

I hope LR will do pieces on visits with the Lucentonian, Alcatelian, and Cisconian CTOs in the same humorous vein.

On the statement - "apparently a G«£snow backG«• is a Canadian engineer hired by U.S. startups to impress customers". Is that for real?

And in regards to " a Nortel exec last week told Light Reading that equivalent bonuses are out of the question at Nortel until the company meets its goal of a return to profitability. Makes sense to us." I hope so.

MrLight ;-]]]
testdude 12/4/2012 | 9:10:45 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Yes Nortel does still resell the Juniper. This was apparently a stop gap measure back in the hey day when OPC was being developed. But when it got canned, the Juniper stop gap became a long term reseller agreement.

If you go into the nortel webpage and search for juniper it comes up.

zhadum 12/4/2012 | 9:10:37 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Good job. Hilarious sidebars on the accompanying links (and some informative info on the engineering rings!).

Cant wait to read similar articles on Lucent (can only hope Janet Davison has some time to spare) and Cisco (ditto with Jayshree)!!

slayer666 12/4/2012 | 9:10:32 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals nenene66

Take a pill...3500 is a metro box and has 16 lambdas...that is DWDM no ?...going to 32. At least LR still cover your industry, which is more than most press, which believes the industry has disappeared completely...MSP...thas a TLA...you must be from Nortel. Grow Up! HAHAHAHAHA
boston beans 12/4/2012 | 9:10:30 PM
re: On the Job – With Mumford & Pals Just curious...

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