Alcatel-Lucent had an invitation event for industry analysts this week, and since the group was small relative to normal events, it was a good opportunity for discussion and engagement. The goal was to give us an idea of where Alcatel-Lucent was going in the near term and in a more strategic sense. I think it accomplished the goal overall.
It’s clear that Alcatel-Lucent is still having a bit of an identity crisis—several, in fact. It’s still apologizing for the aftermath of the merger, which looks like it’s finally finished, and not just in name. It is also having a bit of a confidence crisis, even though its articulation is strong and its strategic credibility numbers lead the network equipment vendor space by a pretty decent margin. Alcatel-Lucent has been battered a bit by Wall Street and by the internecine struggles of the past; it kind of needs a hug.
In a tangible sense, the big news out of the event was that Alcatel-Lucent has a much broader capability set in Open API than was first apparent. Yes, the program is linked to applications and developers and the smartphone universe, but it’s really more than that. Open API is a federation engine that absorbs multiple APIs, orchestrates unions and exposes the results. It could be used to federate content delivery networks (CDNs) — which is something Alcatel-Lucent says it’s working on, though it didn’t say if the Open API was part of the work), cloud computing, and even multiprovider service provisioning of the type that the TM Forum/IPsphere forum (IPSF) has been involved in. How far the company take this capability probably depends on operator traction, but watch the space for some action later this year as a possible signal.
It’s also clear that Alcatel-Lucent is betting heavily on LTE and still doubling down on IMS, which is logical given its LTE focus. I still think there are a few too many IMS references; yes, we know ALU has it and that operators will leverage it if they deploy it. We need to know what else the company will have in the way of enablers for its Open API to expose.
The Alcatel-Lucent challenge, in fact, is to try to rise above legacy, including IMS, without turning its back on it. Part of the secret of Alcatel-Lucent’s high strategic credibility is its broad engagement. The company can’t sustain its whole portfolio forever and needs to exploit the parts of it that continue to involve it in the broad strategic sweep of the service provider space. At the same time, it has to stop making every application look like IMS in a brown paper bag, or every benefit come down to offering QoS. The future is built on the past and present, but that doesn’t mean the three march in lockstep.