A Tale of 2 Genbands
If there was one word that Genband wanted to leave with attendees of its recent customer and partner conference, it would be "transformation."
The networking vendor is all about how it can help network operators transform their networks from TDM to IP and their communications from static to dynamic. But to get to this point, Genband Inc. has had to undergo a transformation or two itself as well.
The 15-year-old company got its start as a VoIP equipment maker, a label it has long since worked to shed through more than a dozen acquisitions and an evolving product portfolio. The tipping point for the company came when CEO Charlie Vogt left the company two years ago, handing the reins to the company's Executive Chairman David Walsh. (See Pulling the Strings at Genband, What's Next for Genband?, Genband CEO Quits, Joins Harris Broadcast and The New Genband: Day One.)
When Vogt left, a number of the vendor's top executives went with him, and several more shake-ups and exits have occurred since then, including the departures of Genband CTO Fred Kemmerer in October and CMO Brad Bush in April. (See Genband Appoints New CMO and Genband CTO Leaves for Consulting Gig.)
Now the company seems to have its executive line-up in place with the addition of former BroadSoft Inc. executive Patrick Joggerst as CMO, and the CTO functions being filled by John McCready, EVP of Products & Corporate Development and Paul Pluschkell, EVP Strategy & Cloud Services. Helped by the new team and recent announcements that bundled its services under enterprise and mobile umbrellas, the new(est) Genband also seems to have a clearer story about its strategy than in year's past. (See Genband Builds Out Its Mobile Strategy and Genband Unifies Its Enterprise UC Story.)
Well, make that two stories.
Network transformation or PaaS
According to Walsh and Joggerst, Genband defines itself in two ways: as a network transformation specialist and a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) provider for the future of communications. For the former, Walsh called Genband the last man standing. While a lot of vendors have stopped investing in the PSTN, Genband has a full portfolio of softswiches, media gateways, access devices, session border controllers and other products to help operators evolve -- what Walsh called a "monumental undertaking.".
Genband actually introduced its program to upgrade networks to IP, funded by the money they save on energy and water costs, in 2013, but Walsh says that operators were too bogged down in their 4G rollouts or fiber-to-the-home builds to consider it. Now, he says, they are ready to make the move. Genband doesn't have announced customers for network transformation, but says several are soon to be revealed and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ)'s presentation at the show makes it a safe bet as an initial customer. (See Verizon Saves 60% Swapping Copper for Fiber and Genband Plots Funding of TDM Death March.)
"While operators have been off deploying fiber-to-the-home and putting out LTE, real estate taxes have gone up, water has gone up, power costs, etc," Walsh told Light Reading. "We're seeing just a race to start to do this, which is good for our business. It was a lot of talk and no action; now there's action."
So that's one half of the networking vendor's story. The other is a focus on where real-time communications is going from both a fixed line and wireless perspective and for both enterprises and consumers. To that end, Genband has made a number of acquisitions, including of over-the-top (OTT) communications app fring, that it has wrapped up in its Kandy cloud development platform. (See Genband Entices Devs With WebRTC Kandy .)
"The next shift of the Internet is the applications on the Internet are all becoming two-way collaborative and contextual," Walsh said, later adding, "The new infrastructure isn't basestations and spectrum, it's a platform."
New CMO Joggerst said that fring is seeing huge take-up in Europe as a way for operators to get around roaming charges and serve new geographies. Its next goal is to get more signed up to its federation platform, the fring Alliance. (See Jibe Hub, Fring Alliance & More RCS Action at MWC .)
Walsh described network transformation as the largest piece of Genband's business and characterized it as "slower growth, but starting to become reasonable growth," while he called its PaaS business, "smaller, but explosive growth."
"Core network transformation is growing nicely but I think it will accelerate as carriers start to do network transformation," the CEO said. "PaaS is fastest growing -- more than 100% this year."
From marketing to market movement
Genband's marketing message and its positioning -- arguably for the first time in several years -- was clearly delivered to its partners and customers at its event in Orlando this month. Whereas Walsh said Genband used to feel it had to acquire companies to strengthen its value proposition and get operators to that "tipping point" to transform the networks, that's no longer the case. He said the Genband story now stands on its own. It will just have to convince its customers it's a story they need to hear -- now.
For as much enthusiasm as the company also displayed for real-time communications, Ovum Ltd. Analyst Steven Hartley, who attended the event, noted that the customers were still largely interested in the "boxes" angle, despite the fact that Joggerst said that part of Genband's business has bottomed out. (See Genband Outlines NFV Roadmap.)
"Although, to be fair, there was a growing realization among these customers of what needs to be done moving forward," Hartley added. "I just got the impression that it's not got the immediacy to match Genband's evangelism. Still, that's not to say that Genband is wrong in emphasizing the future comms piece in its marketing. It will take time to change mindsets."
Hartley believes that having two such disparate offerings strongly suggests that a spin-off could be on the cards in the future. He tells Light Reading that he can imagine seeing two separate companies serving two separate needs in the future.
If that's the case, network operators won't be the only ones that still have a transformation or two to go in their future.
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading