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Ciena moving forward with Nortel business, partners

Nearly two years after Ciena Corp. emerged as the successful bidder for Nortel Networks' Metro Ethernet Networks business with a $769 million offer, the networking company gathered its channel partners in Ottawa recently to update them on the company's go-to-market strategy and technology roadmap.

In January, Ciena revamped its BizConnect channel program to help its partners drive more business. Theresa Caragol, vice-president of global alliances and partners at Ciena, said the last 12 months have been about making sure it has the right partners in the right markets, and making sure it's making the right investments to be successful. The company has recruited some new partners and rationalized some others as it combined the Nortel and Ciena partner bases, and today Ciena has about 150 partners, including 10 to 12 in Canada.

"We're focused on getting partners to be more self-sufficient, and empowering them to close deals with deal registration and drive as much as they can on their own, without us. We've made significant progress there," said Caragol. "We launched deal registration in January and we've already seen a ton of business registered. It has exceeded our expectations."

Ciena also launched its Champions program, which sees partners earn points for their engagement with the vendor in a variety of categories. Caragol said top partners were invited to the Ottawa conference at Ciena's expense, and given special access to company executives.

One of the partners that came to Ciena with the Nortel acquisition was Ronco Communications & Electronics of Buffalo, NY. Mark Deyle, vice-president of federal systems with Ronco, said he has been impressed with the level of communications with partners he has seen from Ciena.

It was a rough period when Nortel declared bankruptcy and the optical business wasn't picked up until the end of the process, said Deyle. But as soon as Ciena won the auction, he said he was on its door to sign-up as a partner and he's been impressed by how quickly it got integrated products to market.Deyle pointed to deal registration as particularly important for a partner such as Ronco.

"It's important to us because as partners, we want to be in a consultative role, not just show up when someone has a bill of materials and deal with it as a commodity. Optical decisions are long-term, architectural decisions," said Deyle. "(Deal registration) allows us to invest manpower at the beginning of the decision, recognizing we took the risk early in the game."

Overall, Deyle gives Ciena's BizConnect program a positive endorsement.

"This is by far the best program I've seen in really understanding how to engage the strengths of the partner with the strengths of the vendor to service the needs of the marketplace," said Deyle. "It needs to be profitable for both to invest."

Follow Jeff Jedras on Twitter: @JeffJedrasCDN.

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