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NFV Strategies

CEO Chat With Barry Mainz, Wind River

White box wisdom

SS: John Chambers [Cisco CEO] told me he thinks that what's happening right now with virtualization and white box is just unbelievably disruptive to his customers. What do you think?

BM: He's dead right. Think about it. You've got hardware that's wicked fast and reliable from our parent, Intel. You've got a platform that is built for virtualization at high performance. The entry costs are pretty low. And there's a lot of open standards, open software. So yeah, I believe him. And the tough thing is that you look at the telco manufacturers, and they are saying "well, I've got a disruption happening. How do I deal with that disruption?"

SS: I think you're absolutely right. They are saying "What does the future mean for our business?" And some companies have found an answer already. Ericsson has shifted from being a Swedish equipment manufacturer of wireless technology, to over 60% of its company involved in systems integration of other people's hardware -- multivendor networks.

Personally, I think the future belongs to systems integrators. They may be called Cisco, or they might be called Brocade, or they might be called Alcatel-Lucent, but all the incumbent equipment manufacturers have to go through the same process that IBM went through when mainframes started disappearing as a force at the end of the '80s and '90s. And it's astonishing but I don't think they've all realized that.

BM: Yeah, I would agree with you.

SS: That's probably where Chambers is coming from.

BM: It's system integration plus software.

SS: And it's software, but it's also white box, and that's why I think Intel is incredibly well positioned. You know, I hosted two webinars just last week on white box and they both had almost 1,000 people registered for them, which is unusual. I mean you usually get a couple hundred, and we had 1,000 people, so I know it's an interesting issue for service providers.

BM: You've got open standards, but then you still have people [within the telcos] whose paycheck is aligned with SLAs; their ability to deliver those SLAs is how they get paid. And if they don't, penalties are incurred. So I think there's going to be a clash between IT open source folk saying "hey, throw it out there, it doesn't matter because if it crashes, it's okay," and the other guys saying "hey, that not okay." This is one reason why we have so many open source standards bodies; we have so many people claiming they understand know six nines. And the reality is they don't. And that's not good for the industry.

SS: Six nines of reliability… did you guys come up with that, or is that an industry term? Because I hadn't heard it before. Admittedly I was out of the industry for six years, so while I was out they added an extra nine.

BM: The standards now are around six nines of reliability, or 5.6, five nines and a six. So it's six nines reliability.

SS: So it has gone up.

BM: It's five nines and a six, so you write up to six nines.

SS: Really?

BM: Yep.

SS: And is this something that you can test?

BM: Yeah.

SS: Wow. Very cool.

BM: Yeah, we're the only ones that will deliver that.

SS: I guess you can do this because your solution goes all the way down to the chip level.

BM: Exactly right. The service providers have been taking equipment and putting it in their networks and it's been stamped with the Good Housekeeping seal of six nines for a long time. But those are purpose-built systems. The trick is to do it with an open system, where you've got an open set of standards, an open set of software applications.

SS: Okay, that's very helpful to know. Wind River was acquired by Intel. You're the CEO. Do you feel personally that limits your options here at Wind River?

BM: So I'm actually the president, so you gave me -- you gave me a promotion there, but that's okay [laughs]. Options for Wind River -- no, because where Intel are placing their bets is right where Wind River's strengths are. IoT, the edge devices and software-defined X. And people realize that you need software to make this stuff work; it's really symbiotic.

SS: So how long have you been president for?

BM: Coming up on two years.

SS: Where were you before?

BM: At Wind River. I've been here for ten years -- ten years in a month.

SS: I mean you're pretty young to be at that level in this organization. What's your secret?

BM: Well, I'm not that young, so it might be genetics!

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