In a little more than four years since three prominent brands were combined to create Coriant (News - Alert), the company has made significant strides in building an integrated next-generation networking product portfolio it has delivered to operators in more than 100 countries, including mobile and fixed-line carriers, cloud operators, data centers, content providers, MSOs, utilities, and enterprises in every major vertical market. Given that, I wanted to speak to CEO Shaygan Kheradpir to hear firsthand about the company’s journey and his strategy for continued growth.
One of the more exciting pieces of recent news for Coriant was a new investor into the business. How do you see this new investor impacting your business?
Coriant and its investors collectively have conviction and belief in the market we are in and its growth potential. We also have conviction in Coriant as a company, an innovator, a challenger – and a disruptor. We believe in Coriant’s ability to not only ride the market growth, but also to drive it. With our enhanced portfolio, powered by the latest technological innovations, we have established market leadership that our customers have recognized and which we believe is fueling our success. The addition of Oaktree to our existing investor, Marlin Equity, will further accelerate our path forward and enable us to propel these groundbreaking innovations.
Clearly, your investors share in that conviction. What kind of strategic role do you see your investors playing in the business and in helping drive the acceleration you’re looking for?
With Marlin and Oaktree, we have financial firepower, which is of great support for the shared conviction. But, there’s more to it. We have a luxury that most companies don’t, to this extent: Our access to professional investment banking, finance, and operational outfits allows us to directly collaborate on the path forward. Our investors understand and have good insights into where the markets are going, where the opportunities are, and, of course, deep financial and operational acumen. Having that knowledge and expertise accessible to you in a very natural environment is a big advantage. And of course, all this also gives us options for inorganic growth and going public, when and if it makes sense.
How has Coriant changed since its formation in 2013?
One of the key changes is the product refresh we undertook at Coriant. Our refresh not only included building new products and platforms, but also integrating everything through extensive R&D investment with some of the best talent in the world. As a result, our new product portfolio was built simultaneously, and now they all have hit the market in a synchronous fashion: long haul via our 7300 CloudWave Opitcs; metro access and aggregation via mTera, 7100 Nano/Pico; data center via Groove G30; mobile backhaul and fronthaul via 86xx; network management via TNMS, and SDN/NFV via Transcend. We are getting great marks from customers and analysts on our new portfolio, and we are thrilled that all the hard work is paying off.
The other important change is the augmentation with world-class leadership in Sales, Service and R&D. We are already seeing the fruits of all this with many recent customer successes, some of which I publicly announce on my LinkedIn (News - Alert) page.
How have these latest chapters helped position Coriant in the competitive landscape?
The net of it is we have really made a splash into the market and are winning in every theater. We have created the latest suite of products across all our dimensions but, more importantly, we designed it all around one factor: the overall cost for “carrying a bit.”
A key goal is to drop the cost structure for our customers at a quantum level. I’m not talking about 10 or 20 percent; I’m talking about a 50 percent or more drop in total cost of ownership, relative to best in class of “normal” today. The umbrella architecture for all this we call Coriant HCA – or the Hyperscale Carrier Architecture – which is getting tremendous reception by customers worldwide.
The other factor is our distinct point of view of the new age of telecom. Major technology shifts happen once every 10-15 years and we are now on the precipice of the next shift. We have a very definitive point of view of the new age of telecom and how things have to change to drive revenue, cost reductions and customer experience, and how our customers can step into this new era from where they are today. These new chapters of Coriant are catapulting us into every geographic market with deep and meaningful engagements.
This New Age of Telecom includes the concept of Network Transformation. What does Network Transformation mean to Coriant, its product strategy, and its customers?
Essentially, there are two vectors. The first is network traffic – specifically, Internet video, which is now taking over the networks from a volume perspective. Depending on the market, it could be 60 or 70 percent – some operators are pushing 80 percent. But, that’s not what networks were built for more than a decade ago, when traffic profiles were very different. That transformation of traffic, together with technological leaps that have happened, is enabling carriers to re-imagine the cost of operating and building their networks to significantly drop their cost structures. Frankly, this redefining of network architectures and operations needs to happen due to traffic volumes – Internet video, alone, has such a tremendous growth rate.
The second vector, which speaks to this new age of telecom, is that applications are going to change what drives growth in telecom. The last time I remember this happening – and I have been around telecom almost 30 years and have seen this cycle three times in 10-year increments – was back in 2007, when iPhones intersected with 4G LTE (News - Alert). For the next 10 years, things changed; the whole ecosystem changed. Apps came along, cloud came along, networks were transformed with FTTH, 4G LTE and the proliferation of smartphones across the globe.
There is a new phenomenon that is kicking in, again an intersection, where we are seeing 5G, including fixed wireless, together with extreme network speeds measured in many Terabits-per-second in switching and transport with fiber optic waves to every major endpoint, intersecting with the revolution around IoT, smart everything and edge compute. This intersection is going to create an even bigger impact, and it’s going to catapult our space for the next decade. As a result, networks really need to be much more “purpose-built” to fit these new applications, much more than they have been in the past.
Again, we are leveraging all these changes for our Hyperscale Carrier Architecture by pulling together major advances in packet-optical, silicon photonics, disaggregation, SDN/NFV, AI automation, the coming together of telecom and data center architectures, and immediate traffic steering to the lowest cost-per-bit layer that is optical.
You’ve recently added NTT Communications (News - Alert) for your DCI solution. In addition to the drivers you’ve just talked about, what opportunities lie in the cloud and data center markets for Coriant?
We are thrilled about NTT, and there are many more, including, very recently, three of the largest Web-scale Internet content providers on the planet. In this dramatically scaling market, the opportunities are big.
We really thought deeply about how to do this right and we spent a lot of time with Web-scale Internet operators, including one of the largest in the world, to really understand what matters most to them. We created a suite of products, led by our Groove Disaggregation Platform, which we co-created with some of the largest Web-scale data center providers. So, yes, it’s a large and important market for us that we continue to approach through close collaboration with our customers. This joint approach gives us unique insight into how the market is developing. We are then able to flow that insight back into all of our product lines. We are using this same approach as we further expand beyond our telecom service provider customer base to also grow our business in other markets, such as cable MSOs, as well as large enterprises, such as banking and financial institutions that are also looking for networking innovations to help them deal with unprecedented volumes of data traffic on their networks.
Coriant has significantly expanded its product portfolio under your leadership. You have already talked about some of the key trends driving this evolution, like network traffic, 5G, IoT, and cloud. What other trends do you see driving Coriant’s growth?
I would put extreme automation on equal footing, by which I mean automating, frankly, everything that can be automated, as well as creating agile networks. Extreme automation matters a lot to our customers, and together with SDN, gives them agility and flexibility to adapt to market demands in multi-vendor environments. Along with 5G fixed wireless, fiber into everything, cloud, purpose-built networks, long haul networks and metro networks, access aggregation, mobile backhaul and fronthaul, Cloud RAN and, of course, the data center, this is where our focus has been and will continue to be.
Coriant is the only packet optical company that also has a rich tradition in routing, a combination that gives us unique architectural capabilities – especially given that our economics are driven by the much lower cost packet-optical networking. Having those capabilities under one roof gives us the arsenal we need to drive into lowering cost per bit and being able to light up these new applications in the new age of telecom. So, in this sense, too, we are fully aligned with our customers.
You’ve talked about how Coriant has gotten to its current state. What is your vision for the company moving forward?
I grew up in the service provider market. Now, as a supplier to them, I feel I have two thought trajectories. One looks at what service providers need, and the other envisions the art of the possible and how we can match Coriant’s capabilities with their strategic imperatives.
The goal for Coriant is to do our part to make our customers successful in their businesses. Of course, everybody says that, but I have lived it, and I know what the imperatives are for our customers. When I was on the customer side, I always dreamed of having a supplier that truly understood, one that would sweat what I would sweat, and that would help me get things done the way I needed to get them done. I wanted to feel my supplier was a part of my business. We are driving Coriant to be that kind of supplier.
What is their dream today? Dramatically lowering cost per bit, and driving into the new age of telecom. With the metabolism, work style and co-creation mentality of a supplier that also has the DNA and the heart of a service provider, we are able to deliver that. It’s what our customers need and want, and we understand it’s different, but that’s what we are doing at Coriant. This is why we have spent so much time with customers going into detail, sending our best engineers in to learn from our customers and to co-create with them.
What excites you most about Coriant and where Coriant is headed?
Nothing excites me more than seeing Coriant becoming part of our customers’ journeys and helping them with their imperatives. Of course, I’m pleased when we win and take market share – everybody does. But, what really excites me is seeing the results on the customer end, when I see their cost per bit drop dramatically, their acceleration into IoT, 5G, and alike. That’s what really jazzes me and that’s what drives all of us at Coriant, from our engineers to our amazing service people, and our incredible operations people to our R&D people, and the entire cast that supports everybody, in marketing and finance, with a sales team that really thinks the same way globally.
You have a very active social media presence. As you continue to run Coriant, how does that presence help you drive your own excitement to your customers and your teams across the world?
I find it liberating as an individual but, much more importantly, for what we do. We had the insight many years ago that corporate and personal experiences were intersecting, so years ago, I started using consumerized tools that are easy, make sense to everybody and allow us to get the message out. More importantly, we quickly get feedback about what we’re bringing to market.
Obviously, you have to be mindful of confidentiality and privacy, but these tools can be extremely effective. Each one has different purposes. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook (News - Alert), Instagram... they all allow you to push out certain things and to engage and garner insight from your audience differently. Most people like to get their information as individuals and as professionals the same way, so why not use the same tools?