From CIO to sales guy

NME talks to Steven Bandrowczak GM and VP of Avaya's Data Solutions unit

Tags: Avaya IncorporationAvnet IncorporatedContact centreLenovo GroupNortel Networks CorporationServersStorage
  • E-Mail
From CIO to sales guy IT managers should look to keep their core network design in place for at least three years, suggests Bandrowczak.
By  Andrew Seymour Published  January 8, 2011

Avaya’s takeover of Nortel’s data networking division has led to the creation of Avaya Data Solutions. NME met exclusively with the VP and general manager of that business — and a man who knows a thing or two about the role of a CIO — to discusss the changing face of the network hardware market.

Steven Bandrowczak is not your average tech company GM. While most executives in his position have had to do their time in the sales field, pitching customers and chasing revenue targets, Bandrowczak has spent most of his career in CIO roles.

As well as serving as CIO of Nortel, from where he joined Avaya, he also managed the IT operations of components distributor Avnet and logistics giant DHL Worldwide. Perhaps his finest hour, though, was as CIO of Lenovo Group, where he led the computer manufacturer through the initial stages of its US$11 billon spin-off from IBM,  enacting a mammoth 24-month plan to build the organisation’s IT infrastructure.

So when Bandrowczak talks about the impact that Avaya’s technology can have on a company’s operations, he is speaking with a level of authority rarely found in this market.

That authority has proved to be a major asset for Avaya as it has set about integrating Nortel Enterprise Solutions into the Data Solutions unit which Bandrowczak now heads.
The fruits of that landmark merger are now finally being seen in the breadth of Avaya’s product offering, according to Bandrowczak, speaking to Network Middle East on the sidelines of Avaya’s recent Partner Conference in Dubai.

“Nortel was going through some very difficult times in 2009, however we had about US$680m of R&D of products that had been developed that we couldn’t bring to market because of Nortel and the bankruptcy,” he says. “When we got to Avaya, obviously the cloud of bankruptcy lifted, we launched a completely refreshed portfolio of Ethernet, switching and routing products, we launched a wireless LAN 11n technology that Avaya built and developed, and we launched a new, complete cloud data centre virtualisation strategy, which we call VENA — virtual enterprise network architecture — targeted at high-end data centre customers,” he adds.

It would not be unreasonable to suggest Bandrowczak has had one of the trickiest jobs in the business. Avaya may have given Nortel the stability it craved, but at the same time it has had to contend with every major networking hardware competitor chasing after its clients, eager to exploit the doubts that customers inevitably have when a business changes ownership.

Bandrowczak, however, claims Nortel’s long history in the data products arena, stretching back to the Wellfleet Communications and Bay Networks days, have created intense loyalty among many of its customers. He also insists the firm “got a little bit lucky” in that 2009 was a year when IT budget constraints simply didn’t allow IT managers to make wholesale changes.

“We had a year of helping our customers to preserve the technology they had invested in, helping them with continuing to stay the path,” he says. “They didn’t have the money, if you will, to throw away all of the investments they had made and many of them have absolutely enjoyed that strategy and are now working with Avaya Data to bring the latest technology into their infrastructure.”

Bandrowczak’s trip to the Middle East is reflective of the importance that Avaya now places on a region that represents one of its fastest growing territories. But whether its Cairo or Casablanca, Dubai or Doha, the one thing he makes clear is that the network manager of tomorrow has got his work cut out.

“If you think about the world of mobility, about disruptive technologies around collaboration, about having to tie that back to your business processes and ultimately back to the data centre, then your network design has to be able to deal with all those.
It has to be able to deal with the unpredictable world of what they are going to do to your network over the next three to five years,” he says.

“We have a strategy and a set of technologies that our customers can put inside their data centre or their campus or their branches that will allow them to grow with technologies over the next three to five years — not rip the infrastructure out — and deal with the world of video, UC, mobility and disruptive technologies like Twitter, instant messaging and Facebook,” adds Bandrowczak.

The other big push for Avaya right now involves virtualisation, a point best illustrated by the recent launch of its VENA data networking architecture.

“Many of our customers have been virtualising onto servers for the last three to five years and doing it very effectively,” says Bandrowczak.

“The one thing that they can’t do is virtualise across multiple data centres or from a cloud to a private data centre — it’s called multiple private or public clouds. We now have the strategy that allows them to have virtual data centres, turn up a service and have the ability to have that service go up in minutes, as opposed to weeks, which was the case when I ran DHL, for example. It was very network intensive in terms of configuration, planning and managing and the reality is our customers have now got to be able to do it in minutes, at the very most a day.”

As somebody who has spent the best part of his career running complex IT infrastructures accessed by thousands of employees across the globe, Bandrowczak is a man well-qualified to pass judgment on the evolution of the modern-day network manager.

“If you go back five or 10 years, you had a debate about the network team and the voice team — who was going to run the network? That debate is over. I will argue today that the network world will be absorbed by collaboration and the collaboration team within an IT organisation will have business strategy, infrastructure and technology, but at the end of the day their job is to enable communication to customers and employees the way the customers and employees want to do business, when they want to do business and how they want to do business.

“And if you think that is the vision of where we are going there is no more any network team, there is a collaboration team that happens to provide infrastructure that’s called video, voice, UC, network installments and so on,” he remarks.

Bandrowczak’s outlook might sound daunting to network managers more inclined to stave off change than embrace it, but they would do well to heed his advice. After all, this is one sales guy that can truly claim to be speaking from experience.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code