Alcatel-Lucent Technology Symposium: Day One (The Value of a Good Story)

Peter Jarich
Peter Jarich

Summary Bullets:

  • Alcatel-Lucent’s Technology Symposium revealed much more coherent messaging around SDN and NFV than at its Nuage launch from earlier in the year.
  • In justifying its LTE overlay strategy, a focus on customer demands took center stage.
  • In each case, the story behind Alcatel-Lucent’s strategy decisions and messaging points to an encouraging company evolution.

There wasn’t much to tweet about during the welcome reception and dinner on the night before Alcatel-Lucent’s 2013 Technology Summit.  The plenary sessions on Day One, however, provided plenty to comment on.  While not intentional, a colleague from another analyst firm noted that my running commentary seemed rather negative.  You can be the judge (check me out at @pnjarich), but here are some highlights.

  • When Alcatel-Lucent’s CEO called out cloud and ultra-broadband as opportunities to push into vertical markets, I noted that we’d been hearing that from vendors for years.
  • When he suggested that most mobile data would soon be on LTE, I questioned his definition of “soon.’”
  • On the positioning of Alcatel-Lucent as a “specialist” vs. “generalist,” I asked the Twitterverse if this couldn’t be said of anyone, depending on how broadly you defined your focus area.
  • The problem with Alcatel-Lucent’s claims of being a specialist came up again when Basil Alwan (President, IP Routing and Transport) argued that competing in IP and cloud requires a broad set of assets.
  • The problem with Dave Geary (President, Wireless Business) claiming an LTE overlay strategy came up when compared against base stations which support both LTE and other technologies.

Isolated messaging gaffes aside, I have to give the vendor credit for two particularly compelling messages.

First, under the topic of “Growing the IP Business,” Alwan managed to tie together the company’s IP, SDN and NFV assets in a coherent, compelling way – explaining how the three were both linked and supportive of one another.  I’ll leave the details of the story to my colleagues in their analysis for customers.  Needless to say, the story was much more complete than when first laid out at the Nuage launch when NFV seemed like an afterthought.  Then, under the topic of “Wireless in Focus,” Geary made a case for Alcatel-Lucent’s LTE overlay strategy based on deep research into operator architecture preferences.  More important than the story Alcatel-Lucent was telling, however, was the backstory.  Alcatel-Lucent’s more coherent positioning of SDN and NFV, for example, was supposedly the result of a strategic rethink which brought the two closer together.  Research into wireless customer demands, meanwhile, was part of an effort to better understand where Alcatel-Lucent needed to put its R&D dollars – part of the whole “manage for cash” vs. “manage for growth” discussion.

Alcatel-Lucent didn’t publicly elaborate on these backstories.  It should have.  Yes, the backstories point to difficulties the company had to overcome – problems needed solving.  More importantly, they point to the way in which Alcatel-Lucent is confronting its problems, and its customers’ problems in the process.

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