Calix: Russo's Not-So-Overnight Success?



Carl Russo burst on the telecom scene as a founder of Cerent, the first multi-protocol optical networking box, and the guy who sold it to Cisco for $7.5 billion in 1999, instantly earning himself a $342 million payday.

Russo's next telecom venture has arguably been the polar opposite of an overnight success yielding massive riches. Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) has certainly not been a failure -- just to have survived in the brutal world of access where, by Russo's own count, 88 companies have failed -- is an accomplishment.

But where Cerent was a great idea whose time came quickly, the thinking behind Calix's current strategy has been ten years in the making, as you can read here in this in-depth look at the company. The core platform to support that strategy began life on a clean sheet of paper in 2011. One of Russo's most recent hires, Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Michael Weening, told media and analysts a few weeks back that what Calix is doing now in software-defined access required investment of "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" and can't be easily duplicated by rivals -- except perhaps at the PowerPoint level.

And now after spending all that money, Russo and Calix are expecting it to pay off big time, as they are launching a tsunami of new products and features for their newly flexible approach to access.

How fast are the products coming? Too fast for me, apparently. I needed some time to get my in-depth look at Calix written and in that two-plus week period, Calix announced two major new products, including today's Calix Support Cloud, a new addition to its Calix Cloud service that lets broadband service providers use the analytics and visibility Calix can deliver to do customer support better. (See Calix Boosts Cloud-Based Customer Support.)

As those broadband ISPs have known for some time -- and as Shane Eleniak, vice president of systems and products for Calix, reinforced earlier this month -- the connected consumer is no longer satisfied to know his or her broadband service is working. Consumers expect their service providers to make sure their applications can work, and in today's home that includes the multiple mobile devices the consumers carry and multiple connections to things in the home as well, such as thermostats, game systems, security cameras, etc.

The Calix Support Cloud includes the ability to proactively scan a consumer's home network, looking for problems with gateways or WiFi connections, to enable proactive customer care, and also to better inform customer service reps once those inevitable complaint calls roll in.

You can expect a continued wave of product announcements from Calix -- and yes, they will inevitably claim to be ground-breaking re-inventions, because that's how Calix PR rolls.

What I will be looking for -- along with investors and financial analysts -- is how Calix's customers view all this and if they are ready to adopt at the same pace that Calix is ready to re-invent. If the answer is yes, then Russo has struck gold again, albeit in very different fashion.

In the meantime, head over to the Prime Reading section of Light Reading to read our feature on the company: Calix Gambles on a Software-Defined Reboot.

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

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