Image of Gary SmithGary Smith is Ciena’s President & CEO, having served as Ciena’s chief executive for fourteen years. Gary is a member of President Obama's National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee, and serves on the board of directors for Avaya and CommVault Systems.

Ciena today completed its acquisition of Cyan, a leading provider of next-gen software and platforms to enable SDN networks. I got a chance to engage with Ciena CEO Gary Smith on what the Cyan acquisition means for Ciena and what it means for our customers.  Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Why acquire Cyan?

Gary: Cyan brings some best-in-class software capabilities that complement our existing SDN and NFV efforts very well.  For example, Cyan’s multi-vendor network and service orchestration capabilities provide a key underpinning for deploying truly open, multi-vendor, software-defined infrastructure.

And let’s not forget that Cyan brings a packet-optical business that offers us some immediate value as well, including a complementary customer base.

Q: The acquisition of Cyan represents a significant investment in software overall and SDN specifically.  Why the need for this?

Gary: I’ve called the shift to software-based, on-demand networks and services a true inflection point in our industry, and I still believe that.  Our customers are actively looking to move to software-defined networks, and they are asking us to help them make that transition.  The network software market is still nascent, so this acquisition gives us first-mover advantage and positions us extremely well in an important and growing space.

And remember that we’ve been investing in this software transformation for quite some time now.  When we first introduced our OPn architecture three years ago, software-enabled orchestration and automation via open interfaces were key tenets of the approach.  Since then we’ve focused many of our resources on the concepts of SDN, NFV and virtualization.  In fact, today 80% of Ciena’s R&D employees work on software development in some form or fashion.

Q: What can customers expect from the combined Ciena and Cyan?

Gary: Really it’s delivering on the promise of SDN and network virtualization – by helping customers increase monetization of their network, achieving faster time-to-market with new services, or vastly improving efficiency and reducing costs.  The end goal is to elevate the business value of the network and network services for our customers by making that network more agile and intelligent.

Q: While the Cyan brand is folding into Ciena, you also announced today the creation of a new Blue Planet division.

Gary: Yes, Blue Planet is the well-known brand for Cyan’s SDN and NFV portfolio, and we are leveraging that strong brand equity going forward to encompass our entire software portfolio.  The software assets of both companies and a team of more than 800 employees – inclusive of Ciena’s existing NMS and Agility teams as well as Cyan – now fall under that Blue Planet name. I’m happy to have [former Cyan president] Mike Hatfield lead that division for us; he brings some incredible experience and leadership as we look to help our customers deploy truly open, software-defined networks and services.

Q: What parts of the business will fall into the new Blue Planet division?

Gary: Blue Planet includes Planet Orchestrate and Planet Operate from Cyan, as well as Ciena's existing Agility SDN and Agility Matrix NFV solutions. The Blue Planet division led by Mike includes software development, product line management, product marketing, service and support, sales and business development.  We’ll have more about this new Blue Planet division in the near future.

Q: What’s next?

Gary: Well, we’ve already made tremendous progress with the Cyan integration, but clearly there’s more work to be done there. There is actually very little customer overlap between the two companies, so we are engaging with those customers and reinforcing our commitment to support their needs.  We’ll also be providing further details about our portfolio plans in the near future.

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