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September 26, 2011
Irish optical burst technology specialist Intune Networks has undergone some changes that appear to be less than harmonious.
CEO Tim Fritzley, who joined in 2006, was quietly relieved of his duties in June, only weeks after the company unveiled the commercial version of its converged switch and transport system, dubbed Verisma. At the heart of that product is so-called optical burst switching (OBS), designed to enable the dynamic provisioning of sub-wavelength capacity and provide an alternative to packet-optical transport systems (P-OTS), Carrier Ethernet switch/routers (CESRs) and IP over DWDM in the packet optical market. (See Intune Names CEO.)
Fritzley's role at the company is now restricted to chairman of Intune's Technology Advisory Board.
He was replaced by the transport vendor's chairman, Ian Jenks, who has expanded his role to include executive management of the long-in-the-tooth startup. He was appointed chairman in October 2008. (See Intune Adds to Board.)
When asked if there are any plans to appoint a new CEO, the company told Light Reading that "any company restructuring occurs to prepare the company for the next phase of delivery. ... [Jenks] has the right background, including PLC experience, which is required to bring Intune to the next phase of its development." The company added that Fritzley had done "a great job in bringing Intune to this point."
It's hard to determine what the "point" is, though. Customers and deployments outside of the government-sponsored Irish Exemplar Test and Trail network rollout have yet to materialize -- "Intune is in negotiations with a number of international commercial customers about deploying its Verisma product line" is all the company will say on that matter. The company's international partnership program appears to be at the same stage, with the company unable to name any sales and integration channels, though it claims to have such relationships in place. (See Exemplar Trial Network Unveiled.)
In addition, Intune has declined to verify the sales targets that Fritzley shared with Light Reading over a pint of Guinness in Dublin shortly before he was dispensed with. Having managed revenues of about €10 million ($13.5 million) in 2010, the former CEO told Light Reading that Intune was on course for revenues of €26 million ($35 million) in 2011 and €100 million ($135 million) in 2012. Now the company says it "cannot comment on specific financial forecasts but is fully committed to product development and delivering on the company vision and strategy for future growth."
Whatever the target numbers are now, Intune, which has attracted more than €50 million ($67.5 million) from a long list of backers (and which has been seeking further funds this year), needs to ramp up its commercial activity and start turning its years of hard work into some financial returns. (See Intune Banks PIANO+ Funding, Intune Gets Another €3M and Optical Burst Startup Bags $32M.)
The vendor has been working on the development of its burst optical components since 1999 -- check out this Light Reading Startup Spotlight feature on Intune from March 2000 -- and then decided in recent years to also produce a systems based on those components for the carrier market. It even saw rival Matisse Networks nearly steal its thunder by announcing burst optical products in 2006. (See Matisse Primes Metro Ethernet Makeovers and Matisse Targets the Enterprise.)
The Intune team is scathing about Matisse's efforts, saying the now defunct transport startup, having bought some modules from Intune, "borrowed" some of the Irish vendor's technology DNA to develop its own products but made the mistake of building an enterprise switch that couldn't scale to meet the needs of the carrier market. (See Rumor: Has Matisse's Optical Burst Gone Bust?)
Intune's proposition is compelling and has attracted positive attention from industry analysts over the years. (See OBS: The Pipes Are Calling.)
Now, though, it needs some positive news in the form of attention and purchase orders from network operators that share Intune's confidence in its transport architecture, which, according to CTO and founder John Dunne, enables the "virtualization of the optical network." That plays right into the telco cloud services market, and indeed Intune is involved in an R&D network project, along with Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF), to design a telecom network optimized for cloud services. (See Intune Joins Telefonica Project.)
With the development of cloud services capabilities such a hot topic right now, this looks very much like a make-or-break period for Intune.
— Ray Le Maistre, International Managing Editor, Light Reading
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