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Home | New Service Delivery | GE Energy, John Turner
 
John TurnerManaging the top tier down

Intercomms talks to John Turner, Global Product Line Manager for GE Energy's Communications solutions, about their role in the global market for network inventory solutions

John Turner is global Product Line Manager for Communications solutions at GE Energy, responsible for the definition, marketing, and development of the Smallworld Network Inventory product portfolio for the communications industry. He joined GE five years ago, after over six years at Nortel Networks running an R&D department specialising in advanced network and service management applications. Previous to this, he worked for Logica, the software consultancy group, for over ten years on numerous client projects.

Q: It's been six years now since Smallworld was acquired by General Electric. What's happened since?
A: We are still committed to the Communications industry and we are still a market leader for spatially based network inventory solutions. We have over 120 customers of our Smallworld solution and the largest number of Tier 1 references in the industry including Deutsche Telekom, Telkom South Africa, Telstra, Telecom New Zealand, Telmex, and Swisscom. We have the best Tier One references in the business with proven scalable systems that have been successfully deployed. In terms of risk we are low risk. We've seen it, we've done it, and we can prove it.

We've made major sales every year. Just recently we announced a major sale at Swisscom. The year before it was Telstra. We are continuing to win the major Tier One deals plus a lot of other significant operators.

Q: What were you asked to do in the case of Swisscom?
A: We are the primary contractor providing a new asset management solution for their nationwide physical network infrastructure. The solution is based on our Smallworld Network Inventory product suite and will enable Swisscom to optimize various business processes and improve services to their customers by accelerating the time to market for the delivery of triple-play services. We are also integrating our system with SAP Enterprise Resource Planning modules to improve the procurement process for new network design. The project includes systems configuration and integration, the data capture of Swisscom's nationwide network, and system deployment and operation on delivered hardware. Once the data is loaded into our geographically based network inventory system Swisscom will know where all their physical assets are in the ground, how they are interconnected and how they can be used to support the higher level logical services. Up to 600 users will be trained on the solution over the next 5 years.

Q: Is that a typical type of thing you do?
A: Priming the data migration and capture is unusual for us, although we work with a number of partners who have extensive experience in this area. In the case of Swisscom they were keen that we, as vendor, take the role of prime contractor in preference to a systems integrator. Usually we would be involved in providing the software product with some service work around the configuration and extension of our products.

Q: Moving from an independent company to GE was a huge step. What has it meant to your business?
A: The most important benefit to come from GE is stability. Certainly in the telecoms downturn, if we had been smaller company we could have struggled whereas GE were able to give us the financial stability to invest in the product during this period. Consequently, as the telecoms market picks up we are in a position to exploit that investment. Also for some of the larger customers, say Swisscom or Telstra, they are very interested that we are part of GE and are dealing with a financially stable, credible world wide company and they are more comfortable that we are going to be there for the long term and are a low risk option.

Q: How have they helped you with new markets?
A: The Smallworld application was already well established around the globe. We have offices in the US in Denver and Atlanta and a strong partner base throughout Latin America. In Europe we have offices in the UK, Germany, Benelux, and Spain, and again a strong set of partners in Eastern Europe. In the Asia Pacific region we have established offices in Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

In addition, there is a GE office in every country in the world and as we educate the wider GE community and sales team about our solutions for the communications industry, they can identify opportunities that we might not otherwise have been able to address.

GE also has a strong investment wing that invests in the telecoms industry so has a credible presence with a large number of network operators. In those cases there is a fairly high level of penetration, up to and including board level which we are now able to take advantage of.

Q: How do you form relationships with the partners you mention?
A: There are two types of partners. First are what we call world class partners who have worked with us for many years and have got very specific skills and, in many countries, act as vendors for our software. They would be the key point for selling to the country and are quite often exclusive to us.

Second, partnering with big systems integrators is done on a tactical deal-bydeal basis, although we are moving into a more strategic relationship with a number of them. For instance we delivered a very large system for Telstra with IBM and we are now exploring opportunities for us to work much more closely together in the future.

Q: What about other relationships?
A: We have key relationships with other software product vendors including SAP, Micromuse and Cramer. At a technical level we design and develop integration modules between the systems. We have that already with Micromuse and SAP and are developing one with Cramer. The other side of it is sales and marketing. For instance with Cramer we have produced a joint value proposition that shows the benefits to the customer of having both of our systems in their OSS solution. We then work jointly with both sales forces to get that message out to our customers.

Q: In terms of the technology package, what steps are you taking to move to an open architecture?
A: We've always been able to integrate with other OSS but it has been a big drive for us in the last couple of releases to extend our APIs to be more open, especially for our Physical Network Inventory product. One of the other things we are working on is a much easier interface with service provisioning systems like Cramer and Metasolv. The Smallworld system understands the physical connectivity of the network so we can determine the end-to-end paths from the exchange building to the local point of presence in the network or even the end-customer connection. We can then publish these paths as the lowest effective level of a logical system which can then be used to support logical hierarchies and customer services. We are then providing a complete network inventory solution, from the physical infrastructure to the end-customer service, especially for Tier 1 operators for their next generation networks.

Q: How large is your installed base?
A: We have a customer base of around 120 customers that are using our Physical Network Inventory solution. This includes major ILECs, CATV companies, IXCs and CLECs. However, one of our major differentiators is that we have successfully delivered large-scale deployed systems to several Tier 1 operators.

Q: How have you been able to meet the needs of the smallest to the very largest operators?
A: Essentially it's because our system scales so well. This is due both to the size of network that we are able to work with but also with the number of users, planner and designers that can use our systems. For instance, at Deutsche Telekom we have 2500 network engineers using our systems on a daily basis and 3500 people within the organisation that access the information over the company Intranet, not necessarily doing heavyweight engineering but still looking into the system to get information about the physical network.

Q: You have a large and widespread installed based with over 120 customers, many of them Tier Ones. How do you manage that footprint?
A: Our product base is truly global and we come up with a new release every 12 to 18 months. That release operates throughout the world as a single product release and is then upgraded centrally in our development centre in Cambridge, UK. Usually the only change for the local country is language localisation. First and second line support is done locally or regionally and the third line product support is provided from Cambridge. We also have our network of local partners, which support the customer in each country.

Q: How are you building your profile?
A: We are trying to raise the profile of our successful installed base. We are going to a small number of targeted tradeshows such as TMW in Nice. One of the things we are looking at is a more direct marketing approach and we are currently building up a database of prospects world-wide that we can approach directly with our business solution.

Q: What are your regional priorities?
A: Within Europe and US the drive is to extend our support for the large Tier 1s and major Tier 2s. We are now working very closely with several large incumbent network operators in Europe and in the US who are interested in using Smallworld to manage their physical network infrastructure. Other operators in these regions are aware of us and often come to us directly. The other side of it is trying to expand into other areas. That would include Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia Pacific where we are continuing to grow our global presence.

For more information please contact John Turner, john2.turner@ps.ge.com
Or visit www.ge-energy.com/communications

 
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