“We are looking at opportunities to combine efforts on SDN and NFV”: Ribbon

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The addition of ECI’s portfolio has expanded Ribbon’s addressable market beyond telephony-related services into highly complementary data communications products and technologies. And as the ongoing growth in bandwidth consumption and device connectivity continues to put stress on the communications networks, the company’s Packet Optical portfolio is ideally poised to drive additional benefits for its customers.

The company is also looking at opportunities to combine efforts focused on Software Defined Networking and Network Functions Virtualization across the portfolio.

Bruce McClelland, CEO, Ribbon speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the company’s integration with ECI and how it is working towards driving greater value for its customers.

Ribbon and ECI are together now, and present a formidable force on the global telecoms and communications turf. What are your key priorities while driving the integration of business opportunities?

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected everyone, so my answer is going to be a little bit different today than a few months ago:  my top priority is steering the company through this crisis and ensuring that we continue to support and empower our customers while taking care of each other. I’m confident that we have the people, relationships and services to do just that.

Businesses have to be even smarter with their resources and strategy in the current situation, so driving a successful integration is paramount. We’ve already made significant progress, including a revamped internal organization aligned along a business unit model with regional sales teams and integrated corporate functions, as well as announcing our new leadership team. I’ve led major integrations previously and getting the culture right is critical, so we are also putting a lot of energy there.

On a solutions and services level, our top priorities are:

  • Unlock the value of the ECI Optical Packet Networking portfolio by growing share in the North American market, leveraging the extensive deployment base and relationships that Ribbon has with Service Providers and Enterprise customers and cross-selling the complete portfolio.
  • Continue the transition of the Ribbon portfolio and business model towards software and as-a-Service solutions. More than half of the Ribbon stand-alone revenue over the last 3 quarters have been from this growing software portfolio, improving profitability and competitiveness. Of course, the value of virtual, software-driven solutions deployed in the cloud has only grown in the wake of Covid-19, making this a crucial initiative.
  • Prepare our customers for the deployment of 5G on two major fronts: providing for metro, backhaul and long-haul transport solutions in service provider networks, industry verticals and critical infrastructure, as well as supporting their needs as new applications including IoT (Internet of Things) come on board with 5G.
  • Finally, the market need and growth rate are higher at the network edge than at the core, and that’s an area of the business we want to grow through our enterprise edge solutions, which are typically geared towards small and medium enterprises.

On the technology side – how do you foresee things shaping up within the company? What product innovations can we expect from Ribbon especially after the integration of ECI into its product and solutions DNA?

The addition of the ECI portfolio expands Ribbon’s addressable market beyond telephony-related services into highly complementary data communications products and technologies. The growth in bandwidth consumption and device connectivity continues to put stress on the communications networks, and the Packet Optical portfolio is squarely focused here. Our expanded portfolio makes us more relevant and strategic with our customers, and able to invest in new solutions aligned with their priorities.

From a network automation and orchestration perspective, the combined visibility we have of the network will allow our customers to extract additional value and improve network visibility, customer experiences and security. We’re also looking at opportunities to combine efforts focused on Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) across the portfolio.

What are the key geographies where Ribbon will be putting its effort in the coming months? Will there be any additional effort towards strengthening R&D or hiring new manpower in the coming months?

Combining the two companies makes sense on a number of fronts: strategic, technological, and geographic. ECI was very strong in Israel and across EMEA, but with a smaller presence in North America and Japan, where Ribbon has a strong foundation of business. It’s important that both business units, Packet Optical Networking (former ECI) and Cloud & Edge (former Ribbon) come together and serve customers globally, strengthening the areas where one business unit previously lacked a strong foothold. In fact, we are already offering combined solutions into several of these markets.

Our R&D teams are leveraging and enhancing modern software development approaches with continuous integration, continuous delivery and deployment, which is very much aligned to cloud-based microservices, containerization and software-defined technology approaches for our products.

We are going through a tough time and almost everywhere, every geography – it is a difficult situation. In such a scenario what is your message to Ribbon’s employees and partner communities?

We are all in this together. We’re living through an unprecedented time but if we stick together and do our best we will make it through as a team. Actions count and doing what’s best for our customers and partners is not only what’s right, but also the path to success. And of course, nothing in this kind of journey is as important as the people you’re with – I know that our team is the one I want with me as we face and conquer this challenge.

Ribbon has its set of business partners, channel partners as well as distributors of its products and solutions. How do you ensure business continuity in difficult times such as today?

As a company we have been highly distributed for a long time, with many employees already working remotely — just about everyone is used to collaborating across time zones and geographies, which helps to minimize the learning curve. We’ve got solid infrastructure in place and know how to respond to any issues thanks to our engineers, IT teams and others.

We also maintain the ISO 22301 standard, which provides a framework for an organization to establish, monitor, review, and continually improve its business continuity management system. We have continued to leverage these processes to monitor and mitigate any possible disruptions during the pandemic.

A number of our products are designed to enable remote collaboration and we’ve introduced new offers during the past several weeks that are designed to assist  our customers with their business continuity. Our cloud-based Work@Home solution delivers advanced remote working capabilities to enterprises and contact centers of any size, and we have partnered with IBM to deliver free cloud-based Unified Communications and Collaboration (UC&C) technology on the IBM public cloud and support their enterprise clients’ remote staff.

Ribbon has a strong relationship with Microsoft: our Session Border Controllers are certified for Direct Routing for Microsoft Teams, which allows users to make external voice calls directly from Teams. Our all-software SBC, the SBC SWe Lite is also available in the Azure cloud for additional flexibility and ease of use with efficient resource expenditures and as an IP co-sell Microsoft partner we collaborate directly with Microsoft on joint selling opportunities.

We have continued to provide our customers with the solutions and performance they need during this trying period:

  • We recently announced that LogMeIn leveraged key solutions from our cloud and edge software portfolio to help meet increased network traffic demands brought on by the surge in remote workers using its collaboration tools such as its market-leading GoToMeeting.
  • We’ve seen that the government of the United Arab Emirates is leveraging our partner Etisalat’s Cloud Talk offer, powered by our UCaaS solutions, for cabinet and other critical meetings.
  • We are partnering with IBM to offer their end clients free UCaaS and collaboration rooms on the IBM Public Cloud.

Examples like these make me very proud of the way we have been and will continue to support our customers and partners during COVID-19 and beyond. I’m confident that together we can weather this storm.

This interview was first published inside the latest issue of Disruptive Telecoms, a TelecomDrive.com initiative


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