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Rich Tehrani’s Executive Suite is a monthly feature in which leading executives in the VoIP and IP Communications industry discuss their company’s latest developments with TMC president Rich Tehrani, as well as providing analysis on industry news and trends.


I recently spoke to Marco about some of the challenges faced by vendors and service providers in the IMS space, but also how Sylantro Systems (News - Alert) plans on working with its partners to build on global trends in IP Communications.

Marco Limena
 

Marco Limena

 
 
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Marco Limena, new CEO of Sylantro Systems



IMS ( IP Multimedia Subsystem (News - Alert)) has won its share of the IP Communications media space in recent months, with numerous vendors claiming it will revolutionize their communications platforms. The truth, however, is that much of IMS is still in the preliminary development and testing phases. Still, progress is being made, and concepts like FMC (fixed/mobile convergence) are slowly working their way towards becoming reality.

Sylantro Systems (News - Alert) is one of the companies that have been relentlessly developing its IMS products. In fact, the company has just announced a key partnerships with Huawei (News - Alert) Technologies in Asia and a collaborative solution with Microsoft and Swisscom in Switzerland — both agreements will bring Sylantro’s IMS solution to market.

Partnerships such as these, along with the growth opportunity IMS presents for Sylantro are among the reasons why Marco Limena, the company’s new CEO signed on with Sylantro. Limena has said he looks forward to building on the opportunities the combination of IP and voice presents and work with Sylantro’s partners to serve those partners and their many customers worldwide.

I recently spoke to Marco about some of the challenges faced by vendors and service providers in the IMS space, but also how Sylantro plans on working with its partners to build on global trends in IP Communications.

RT: What is the future of voice services?

ML: I see voice as a fantastic opportunity for a company like Sylantro. Voice accounts for something between 80 and 85 percent of the total revenues of the largest providers, with the rest of the revenue sources being fragmented over a large number of individual services.

So, voice is, and will remain, a key contributor to the growth of the industry with a unique flexibility in the next generation IP world. With voice, you can take a diminutive technology that was very much proprietary and very confined in the PSTN, and expose that to the desktop, to the application, and to the mobile environment. So, voice is an exciting market and a certain growth opportunity for us.

RT: How do you differentiate services in this competitive market?

ML: For the first time, the same rules apply to this market as to the rest of the service provider industry — time to market is number one; richness of functionality is number two; and then integration with the ecosystem of partner technologies.

Sylantro has been a leading company in bringing some of the major and most important Tier One players to adopt technology in each region — SBC/AT&T is a good example in the U.S.; Swisscom is an example of innovation in Europe; and in Korea, which is another highly innovative market, we have China Netcom (News - Alert) among others.

Sylantro really is about richness of functionality offered by such innovative companies. Our product, Synapps is about those applications, those that rely on Voice over IP to deliver new feature functionalities, that the new layer of technology enabled by these applications. Microsoft (News - Alert) is one of our best application partners and there are some unique capabilities that we deliver together with Microsoft. In fact, Sylantro is only company to integrate with Microsoft’s EVS platform and its Voice over IP capabilities. Of course, a long list of smaller application providers that complete the ecosystem.

And although we agree with Microsoft that there is no exclusivity between us, our like time to market and similarity in bringing rich functionality to market, we are working together and are dedicated to each other, and that’s the differentiator.

RT: Please tell me about Sylantro and IMS.

ML: A very simple way to describe IMS is as a migration and evolution business that involves the service provider architectures, where investments in IMS will not provide a return until you integrate an application layer that can provide services from the IMS infrastructure.

So, Nortel (News - Alert) , Nokia, Alcatel, Huawei, all of the key providers that have already deployed a lot of infrastructure, have yet to realize revenues because no new services are being enabled from the IMS infrastructure. Applications like Sylantro’s are what are going to create the ROI for those projects and the new services for launching them in the market.

RT: What about your company’s activities in seamless mobility?

ML: Seamless mobility to me means the universal availability of resources. It is not only mobile, but it has to be mobile when mobile makes sense, and also move very fluidly between mobile environments and traditional environments. That is what I would call a seamless mobility reality or universal availability, given the variety of access methods and resources available in your particular situation.

At Sylantro, we are working on the ways to create that availability, to extend voice from the PSTN to the mobile network. We look at standards, such as fixed/mobile convergence, and how we can deliver our technology with respect to those standards. We have a presence in the desktop environment, where you have access to applications while you are in the office or at home, and we looking forward to some new announcements regarding client technology in the mobile environment, where Sylantro capabilities will become available on mobile devices as well. So we are looking at extending the concept of universal availability across different access methods so users have access to whatever resources they want — on the desktop and on the mobile client.

RT: Based upon your experience with large carriers around the world, what do you see as the common needs, challenges, or opportunities?

ML: Across all the regions, top line contribution for the service provider is of paramount importance — without continued growth in the top line, their business models would be challenged much sooner than they would want.

According to customers, and to the general market theory, Voice over IP is contributing to the top line. Across geographies, broadband — both on the fixed side and on the mobile side — is being built in some emerging areas, like in Pakistan, where Wateen is building a WiMAX network with Motorola. We are going to have a role in that. What we are doing here with Covad ( News - Alert) is another example, in a more mature region.

From my work with customers around the world, I believe the SMB market is an untapped opportunity for service providers, which also means service providers have traditionally not been well equipped to create a rewarding experience for those SMBs —and by SMB I mean 50-200 seat businesses. This is a nice opportunity for Sylantro, we can help build a go-to-market strategy for reaching those SMBs.

RT: What do you see as the areas of growth for Sylantro going forward?

ML: We are going to move primarily on the Tier One customers, because our technology is carrier-grade (like none other in our competitive environment). A Tier One customer win provides market growth that is a recurring source of revenue.

In the U.S., we are going to also have a two-tier strategy, which does not apply to Europe, or Asia, where we are going to enter with a Tier One provider and where the SMB market is very fragmented across a variety of geographies. Our U.S. strategy is different because we have had a presence here for a long time and because the market definition of SMB presents us with an opportunity.

RT: You recently joined Sylantro; can you give me a brief update on your background?

ML: I am coming from a long international career with Hewlett Packard. My last appointment was as vice president and general manager of the Network Service Provider Solutions business, which is a large multibillion dollar company for the Hewlett Packard Corporation. I joined the company 15 years ago in Italy, and had success growing the business from the Italian, to the European, to the worldwide market, and, in January 2000, took over global responsibility.

My career has always been focused on the service provider market, and in the last six years in my global role at HP, I’ve gained a better understanding of the international market and I learned how to grow the market.

RT: What is your first order of business in your new position at Sylantro?

ML: Simply, I intend to help my partners’ customers. That is, our growth is going to be on the Tier One side, and with a dual strategy in the U.S. Our channel for delivering to that Tier One base is the best set of partnerships that any company in the industry could have. Sylantro, today, has those partnerships and we are going to make our partners’ customers happy and grow with those partners.

RT: What do you see as key trends in the industry?

ML: If I can summarize it with one single term, it would be real-time group media communication. For real-time, there is nothing better than voice. People want to talk to one another in a real-time environment, and they want to have that very friendly asset of voice to extend to many environments.

Group media communication means the voice integrated with other resources, like media resources or group list management functions. That is really where Sylantro is — we are definitely key player in the next generation voice environment, where voice over IP networks is integrated with application environments to deliver real-time group media communications.

RT: Can you tell me a little bit about the competitive environment?

ML: What is clear is that we are a player in between the core network and the application environment and this company has been delivering its product after a huge investment in R&D over the years. There are not that many players that have the skills and the resources to develop the technology that goes into the core and extend that into the application environment. Although Voice over IP is a large market, it is very fragmented. If you look at where we play, in between the core and the application, you can probably count the companies on one hand.

Also, before joining Sylantro, I talked to customers and global partners, and they have huge amounts of respect for Sylantro and are really excited about taking Sylantro to market. It is exciting to see several bids in recent months where Sylantro was including in more than one offer — up to five partners bidding for the same project, in fact. Frankly, that says a lot about the Sylantro’s position in the market.

Rich Tehrani is President and Editor in Chief at TMC.

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