In 2017, Ciena welcomed Rick Seeto to the Ciena team in the Asia Pacific region. In late 2017, Rick was promoted to Vice President and General Manager of the Asia Pacific & Japan region (APJ), which encompasses Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Greater China and Southeast Asia.
Rick has long roots in Ciena, having been a member of the Nortel APAC team for more than 20 years from 1989-2009. He then ran Avaya’s Channel program for several years and led the Citrix Sales & Services team for numerous years, before returning to Ciena.
Rick spends a lot of time on an airplane covering his broad region, but we still found some time to connect and ask him a few questions. Please find the Q&A below:
Willie Low: What are the most important dynamics facing APAC service providers today?
Rick Seeto: Like all global network operators, APAC service providers need to invest heavily in infrastructure and networks to meet explosive capacity and bandwidth requirements. Their customers are demanding more services, content and responsiveness, but they are rarely willing to pay more for it.
With initial 5G deployments just around the corner, service providers in-region recognize they must provide innovative new services and differentiated customer experiences while maintaining tight cost controls. They must transform legacy infrastructure and manual processes with automation and programmable infrastructure that can self-optimize. We are working with many service providers across APAC on this journey.
WL: You mentioned 5G. What does it mean for Ciena’s business in the region?
RS: Most of the 5G announcements, trials and partnerships announced to-date are focused on the radio side of things. But 5G is much more than a wireless upgrade. Randall Stephenson, CEO of AT&T, says it best, “The more wireless we become, the more fixed-line dependent we become ... Basically, all you’re doing is building this massive fixed-line network with wireless antennas hanging on the end of it.”
The new services, latency requirements and increased data volumes and rates will put massive demands on the wireline network. The wireline side must maintain pace to realize the full promise of 5G end-to-end network performance. This is what Ciena does best. We are currently involved in many discussions and engagements across the region on how to future-proof networks.
Also important to note is that 5G will coexist alongside 4G, and probably alongside 3G and 2G in many locations. Many service providers in APAC today are relying on Ciena’s experience with previous generations of wireless networks to help develop a clear path forward to 4G and 5G.
WL: Ciena’s business has ramped significantly across your region, which covers Australia & New Zealand, Japan, Korea, Greater China and Southeast Asia. What have been the drivers?
RS: Service providers look for a technology partner that can offer best-in-class technology that gives them an edge in this highly-competitive market. Ciena has delivered just that. From our WaveLogic coherent technology, to WaveLogic Ai that offers the industry’s first 400G-capable platforms, to data center interconnect and submarine networks with high-capacity spans and unmatched long distances, our laser focus on innovation has resulted in several world firsts for our customers. These include Telstra/Ericsson and Vodafone New Zealand, among others.
In APAC, submarine networking is critical. New cable types significantly improve the economics of connectivity. Due to strong bandwidth demand from the ICP players, we have seen a significant increase in announced new cable builds in APAC, including PLCN, Hawaiki, Southern Cross Next, JUS2, AAE-1 and FASTER, just to name a few. As the time-to-service readiness of new cables cannot address immediate bandwidth requirements, we also see strong demand for legacy cable capacity upgrades and expansions.
In addition to technology leadership, customers are looking for a partner with staying power – a company with strong R&D capabilities backed by solid financials that will be around for a very long time. This is exactly why our customers are choosing Ciena.
WL: Ciena has acquired two software companies in the last few years: Cyan in 2015, and more recently Packet Design. Are you seeing ‘software-ization’ in the infrastructure stack of your APAC customers?
RS: Legacy systems and protocols have left service providers bloated and slow. These legacy systems require manipulation of hundreds of manual processes for set-up, revision and tear-down of even the simplest services. Without change, networks will not be equipped to handle the growing and unpredictable demands on providers.
Our customers tell us that software is an increasingly critical component of their network to help meet evolving end-user demands for greater programmability and openness. This shift significantly changes how networks are built and operated, and how services are created and delivered. For this reason, our Blue Planet software strategy continues to be focused on creating an industry-leading software portfolio focused on enabling adaptive, closed-loop automation of network services.
We recently had an interesting, real-life example with a customer in-region for how we are leveraging our software capability to drive automation that increases the speed to service. We provisioned over 200 services in the space of a few hours (versus days!) with one of our largest customers in APAC.
WL: Tell us something we don’t know about you.
RS: I have four passions that shape my life and consume my time, although achieving a balance is a constant task:
Family – recently becoming a grandfather (Goong Goong) is driving me to spend more down time in Sydney, where my grandson Leo is located. Of course, this allows more time with my wife, daughters, family and friends as well.
Work – I love my work – always have. An added bonus is Ciena is a great place, and is in a great place, to work. Our opportunities across APAC are many, and I have the privilege of leading a fantastic team of people who are committed to growing our business in this diverse region.
Surfing – being in the water is essential to my wellbeing. Down time spent in Sydney allows me to get into the water to keep my balance with nature. A yearly surfari with mates is always on the planner!
Music – in Singapore, with no surf available, I’m very fortunate to belong to the Singapore Blues Society, based out of Tanglin Community Club. It’s an inspiring group of muso’s dedicated to the Blues who make everyone feel welcome. You can often find me on a Saturday night at the Barbershop for the Blues Jam nights.
Thank you, Rick, for sharing your views on the region. For those of you who’d like to speak with Rick, please get in touch with Christine (firstname.lastname@example.org) to schedule some time. Alternatively, Rick will attend Submarine Networks World in Singapore, September 24-26. We can also book a meeting there.
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