Nortel CTO mixed on divested products

Nortel CTO John Roese regrets what he calls an overly aggressive divestiture of the company's network management assets

Nortel has had to divest numerous product programs to cut expenses and return to profitability, but if CTO John Roese could have any of them back, he would take network management.

"The one [area] that I think the company may have made a mistake around . . . was maybe an overly aggressive divestiture of the [network] management assets," he said last week in an interview at Nortel's laboratories in Ottawa, Canada. Roese recently concluded his first three months on the job at Nortel.

"The reality is now we find ourselves in a position where network management is a build-up exercise for us," Roese said. "We're having to reinvest and we have at least a dozen different projects going on to rebuild and develop next-generation management technologies. We're starting a little bit behind where I'd like us to have been and maybe some of those assets would have helped us. I'm a big believer that the operational aspects of the network are almost as important, if not more important than the transport applications."

The divested management assets include operations, administration and maintenance (OA&M) code that stretched across Nortel's telephony and enterprise product portfolios. But the silver lining is that Nortel now gets to start writing those applications using a clean slate as telecom and enterprise infrastructures go through next generation transitions. Service-oriented architectures (SOA) in the enterprise and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) frameworks for carrier networks require new disciplines for network management, he says.

"A stronger management play would have been nice to start with; the reality is there's some pretty significant reinvention in that place, too," he says. "Whether it be IMS . . . or SOA, we get a bit of a clean sheet of paper. So the good news is our management activities are around SOA and Web services and next generation concepts. But...I think probably the weakest link was the management frameworks that exist here."

Roese was one of the architects of Cabletron's heralded Spectrum management platform. He is also the named inventor on 16 granted and pending patents for policy-based networking, location-based networking, routing, switching and network management.

Good riddance to old access business

One Nortel business Roese was happy to see go was access. Nortel spun off its DSL business years ago, and a joint venture with Huawei on Gigabit Passive Optical Networks (GPON) never got off the ground.

GPON is being deployed by Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth as the access infrastructure for their multibillion dollar fiber to the home, curb and neighborhood buildouts to offer high speed Internet access and video service. Verizon has said GPON will support gigabit-per-second downstream and upstream speeds.

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