BTI CEO Colin Doherty looks toward data center growth, metro 100G opportunities

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Colin Doherty BTI CEO

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with Colin Doherty, CEO of BTI Systems

Colin Doherty just took the helm as BTI Systems' new CEO in April, but the 25-year telecom industry veteran is poised to take the company to the next level. Doherty could not have picked a better time to join the company. In the 2012-2013 timeframe, BTI more than doubled revenues from its cloud services customers and saw 2X revenue growth in the Asia-Pacific region. While he recognizes the need for 100G and beyond speeds to connect data centers and other network facilities, Doherty says the real opportunity will be in "providing more visibility into the traffic between data centers and certainly in the cloud." Sean Buckley, senior editor of FierceTelecom, recently caught up with Doherty to talk about his first days on the job and the opportunities he sees in the optical networking space.

FierceTelecom: You were recently appointed as the new CEO of BTI Systems. What drove you to come to BTI Systems?

Colin Doherty: Number one I understand the customer space that BTI are addressing: the intelligent cloud connect to the data center and the Web 2.0 operators. Traffic growth is massive in this space. It is forecast to grow at a 35 percent CAGR between 2012 through 2017 on data centers. BTI has a great heritage in the optical technology space and they have a very experienced management team, so all those things combined--it was an attractive opportunity for me to look at and be part of the team.

FierceTelecom: One area of growth has been data centers. How big of an opportunity is that from an optical equipment perspective?

Doherty: A lot of major carriers have their own data center infrastructures. Then, if you look at the global nature of the business--whether it's London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Singapore, Tokyo, LA or New York--the speeds people need to interconnect data centers has moved from the 10 to 100 Gbps level. BTI has a strong heritage in the metro optical space and looking at some more converged packet services on top of the optical layer is where the 7800 platform is focused.

I think you're going to see that space continue to accelerate in its size, its complexity, and the need for more intelligent services, which is what the Intelligent Cloud Connect strategy and vision is all built around. What protocols, traffic and content is connecting data centers together? Where did the traffic come from? What's the visibility inside that 100 Gig stream? I do think that people are going to drive for more visibility into the traffic between data centers and certainly in the cloud and that's where the roadmap is focused.

FierceTelecom: Can you share with us your view on the Intelligent Cloud Connect strategy?

Doherty: If you look at businesses today, be they large carriers, insurance companies, banks, or online retailers, largely people are outsourcing traffic management and storage functions to cloud operators. Some of the largest operators today are cloud-based operators. I think that the 100 Gig bit rate is now becoming the standard. It used to be the standard people were reaching for in long-haul optical and now it's looking like it's becoming the standard in metro.

The cloud operators are critical. A lot of our banking transactions today ride over cloud operators and get stored in clouds so there's a huge security, visibility, speed, content awareness and higher up to the stack services that these cloud operators are going to demand rather than fast-paced optical services.

FierceTelecom: You mentioned deploying 100G in the metro. Do you think we'll see more service providers moving in that direction this year?

Doherty: Absolutely. I think the complexity of how the broadband and the amount of content and data being driven through these networks is driving these operators and new cloud operators to deal with the traffic in a slightly different way. I think you'll see a lot of the traditional carriers try to address this opportunity and challenge for them as well.

FierceTelecom: Two other topics that continue to be talked about in the emerging cloud segment are the emergence of software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV). What does BTI bring to the table to address that opportunity?

Doherty: One of the other attractive positions about BTI right now is they built this 7800 product on open standards. It's not proprietary and it's not closed so if an operator puts in the 7800, they can then connect to other players with applications, be that through the development of APIs or layering software onto the system, be that on a blade that sits in the chassis. BTI has done a good job of considering the next 36-60 months what the services demand in the SDN and NFV world. As that begins to evolve, I think the architecture will be right in the sweet spot of what the operators are going to be looking for.  

FierceTelecom: While you have only been on the job for a short time, what are your initial goals as you settle into your new role as CEO?

Doherty: I think there are a couple of things that spring to mind. On the to go-to market--just trying to figure out what the priorities should be regionally, types of customers (Tier 2 and Tier 3), do we go direct or do we partner? Part of the challenge for small companies is we often try to do too many things. I think we want to make sure on the go-to market we are prioritizing things appropriately and we're not trying to boil the ocean.

One of the things that I think that's a critical thing to measure our success is new customer acquisition. I think winning new customers with new products in new markets is the hallmark of any successful company. That's one of the metrics we'll measure pretty religiously around how successful we are in winning new customers regionally. I think on the R&D side, we want to make sure we've got our growth and sustaining efforts appropriately shaped and we're hitting our release points for new products. I am spending a lot of time on the engineering side and a fair bit of time on our go-to-market side and product management. Those are the two big areas, but I have to say I have been surprised with the talent and the will to win.

FierceTelecom: In terms of regions, which ones will provide you with the greatest new growth potential?

Doherty: We've done very well in Asia, where we increased our business by 50 percent. We're off to a good start this year. Again, if you look at some of those specific targeted areas where a lot of the big cloud and data center providers live, that's where we're focused, whether it's Singapore, Tokyo or Hong Kong. In Europe we have a similar focus and in the Americas we have a partnering plan to figure out as well. I think scaling a business is very tough to do on your own. We have an existing partnership with Fujitsu that's very successful and we may consider other areas of partnerships that enable us to scale internationally.