Acme Packet CEO: Explaining Complex Concepts

From the Road

Acme Packet CEO Andy Ory knows the devil is in the details. The company provides technology for managing Internet traffic. I spoke with Ory about his vision for the future of the Internet and unified communications, and how he communicates complex concepts to potential buyers.

Use vivid analogies

Acme Packet’s products are complex, and the work they do is largely hidden. He draws a high-level analogy to explain them to IT leaders. “Imagine that we go to New York City and we’re sitting in Midtown at three o’clock in the afternoon in a cab,” he said. “Now, let’s say I have a little button, an app on my iPhone. I hit it and it turns off every traffic light in Midtown,” and traffic grinds to a halt. “If you remove a signaling system, all heck breaks loose, chaos ensues and nothing can go anywhere on the network. The Internet doesn’t have such a signaling system, Orly said, so the company is building one. The ultimate result: an overlay network for the Internet, which Ory calls a “session delivery network,” designed to prevent data traffic jams.

Tackle conventional wisdom

Bandwidth is limited, and not every session is equally important. “If I have one kid downloading a high-def Apple TV movie, another kid involved in a high-def video game experience and my grill catches fire, I want to be able to dial 911 and I want the network to recognize it,” he said, “so someone can show up in a timely fashion to prevent my home from burning down.” Because the Internet “thinks from a packet point of view” rather than in sessions, like the telephone network, “it isn’t able to recognize and make these kinds of deterministic decisions.”

Focus on customer needs now

Ory sees enterprises developing “communication-enabled business processes”—such as the ability for an investor to click a button online to talk, and share a screen, with an advisor who can suggest 401(k) options. But right now, combining voice and data on the same corporate network saves money. Enterprises that take this step need to be able to manage Internet sessions more effectively. “What if you’re a large multinational corporation with 50,000 people in the field? You’re spending a lot of money communicating, engaging and conferencing,” Ory said. “When you go to videoconferencing, you’re using more and more bandwidth and it becomes really important to leverage the connectivity you’re paying for that you put between these locations.”

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