Stuart Elby will be senior vice president of Infinera’s newly formed cloud networks group, the company announced today.
Infinera was founded in 2000 to build optical networking gear for telecom vendors — think big, expensive, modular boxes. The key is that Infinera shrank all the elements of an optical transport system into one chip, meaning those big boxes were actually compact versions of even bigger swaths of equipment.
But it took several years just to get the product out and then a few more to get big-name customers. Verizon has been close enough to the vendor that Elby has even spoken at an Infinera product launch. But Verizon hasn’t ever surfaced as a customer.
That’s part of the frustration of being Infinera. The DTN and DTN-X packet-optical transport systems are large purchases, and telecom vendors move notoriously slowly in testing and qualifying their vendors. Big carriers including CenturyLink, Deutsche Telekom, and Telefonica have become customers, but Infinera’s quarterly results were unpredictable at times, and its share price moves in dramatic zig-zags. This might be why the company is making a push toward the cloud data center.
Infinera might also be considering the fact that hyperscale cloud players are becoming a bigger percentage of networking equipment sales overall, particularly as more workloads move to the cloud. It could get to a point where a deal at Amazon, Facebook, or Google could make or break a vendor’s market share, as analysts have noted.
Verizon first considered OpenFlow as a cost saver, but Elby and his team began to see the potential for more efficient and intelligent steering of traffic. By 2012, Verizon had gone live with SDN in its video-transport network; you can see Elby explain it in this video.
There’s one more Infinera-Verizon connection, for what it’s worth: Former Verizon CTO Mark Wegleitner has been on Verizon’s board since 2011.