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CenturyLink Denies Exec Exits Signal Strategy ShiftCenturyLink Denies Exec Exits Signal Strategy Shift

Top cloud execs Jared Wray and Jonathan King depart on the same day, leading to speculation the carrier is pulling back, which it denies.

December 1, 2015

3 Min Read
CenturyLink Denies Exec Exits Signal Strategy Shift

CenturyLink this morning is denying a Fortune report that links two executive departures to a change in strategy. Jared Wray, who led the company's cloud unit after coming on board in the Tier Three acquisition, and Jonathan King, vice president of platform strategy and business development and another key figure in the company's cloud acquisitions, have both departed in what CenturyLink says are unrelated moves, both effective today.

King is taking another job, according to a CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) spokesman, while Wray is pursuing other opportunities. Their responsibilities will actually be spread among other top executives, starting with CTO Aamir Hussain, according to a company statement, as part of CenturyLink's effort to bring its cloud and network organizations together. (See New CenturyLink CTO in Major Overhaul.)

"The departures of Jared and Jonathan offer us an opportunity to streamline our Product Development & Technology organization by flattening the structure and sharing the responsibilities across several of CTO Aamir Hussain’s direct reports," the statement read.

The statement also reiterates CenturyLink's commitment to the strategy Hussain laid out when he came on board as CTO in October 2014, which is to combine its cloud functions with its core technology groups to create "IP-enabled network services, cloud infrastructure and hosted IT solutions markets."

It remains to be seen whether CenturyLink's denial will be heard -- just as it's still not clear whether Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s denial of its plans to sell off its enterprise and cloud assets stopped that speculation. The two key executive departures come at a time when the industry and investment community seems anxious as to how big telecom's big investment in cloud is playing out and unclear on how separate trends -- such as CenturyLink's announced decision to sell its physical data center infrastructure -- factor in. (See Verizon CFO Dismisses Enterprise Sale Rumors and Verizon Enterprise Sale Would Signal Big Shift.)

At today's Future of Cable Business Services event in New York City, for example, multiple cable speakers challenged big telecom's commitment to enterprise in general, and Verizon's competitive issues specifically, saying that wireless has become the all-consuming focus. Financial analyst Craig Moffett of MoffettNathanson LLC said during his presentation: "No one even bothers asking me about their wireline business," he commented. "It's a foregone conclusion" that it's not doing well. "All anyone wants to talk about is wireless."

As a company without wireless assets, CenturyLink has been focused on transforming its business, building a cloud-based network infrastructure and learning to deliver services at the speed of software, using IT-based techniques such as dev-ops and Agile development -- Wray was actually a major leader of that effort. (See Wray Reshaping CenturyLink Cloud Operation.)

The team working to enhance the CenturyLink Cloud continues, according to the company statement, and includes "developers, engineers and product management, actively developing new features that continue to enhance the CenturyLink Cloud and platform."

Leadership of that team now shifts. Those getting new responsibilities include:

  • Jim Newkirk, vice president of development cloud/managed services, will now report to CenturyLink’s CTO and will continue to lead cloud development. Sekar Swaminathan, senior vice president of R&D, end-to-end testing and integration, will lead a combined research and development function and product and technology group. Frank Miller, vice president of architecture, will now be responsible for overall architecture for both cloud and network. Bennett Gamel, vice president of PMO & delivery, will lead cloud platform project management delivery. Pasha Mohammed, vice president of product strategy, will lead product development strategy. — Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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