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Powering upstream

Feature
Dec 23, 20022 mins
Wi-Fi

Powering upstream

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The network industry is a cornerstone of the U.S. economy; at its best, it is vital, dynamic and thriving. But this year, pestilence descended on our already economically beleaguered industry, spread by corrupt corporate executives abusing their power.

We need to pull ourselves out of this muck. The corruption of power is the pollutant, not power itself. Power is the embodiment of many other “p” words in this industry, descriptors like productivity, profitability, performance and presence.

The bankruptcy proceedings, Securities and Exchange Commission investigations and congressional inquiries will continue through 2003, as will the low stock prices, shaky earnings and layoffs. But more importantly, so will the march of technology. True, we’ve seen how abused power can drag down the industry. But, we’ve also seen how companies and people can power the industry upstream.

Many of the executive power brokers, hindered as they are by single-digit stock prices and disappointing financials, have moved aggressively this year to advance their companies and, in the process, the industry at large. For example, IBM CEO Sam Palmisano articulated powerful visions of on-demand computing and autonomic systems that monitor, heal and protect themselves, then promised billions to turn his concepts into workable products.

Similarly, Cisco CEO John Chambers shared the company’s plans for boosting its ubiquitous IOS software with capabilities that make networks more resilient. His goal is to make possible continued operations between routers during failures or planned downtime. Plus, he continued his acquisitive ways, picking up five start-ups with fresh technologies that promise to shape Cisco’s future.

And people in the trenches haven’t stopped churning out brilliant ideas for products aimed at addressing a company’s points of pain. If the vision is powerful enough, it has been funded, assures Stu Phillips, general partner with U.S. Venture Partners, in Menlo Park, Calif. Securitywireless LANs, ultrahigh-speed Ethernet, software/systems – these are all areas ready to be powered upstream by new technology, he says.

You don’t get groundbreaking products out of weak research-and-development programs run by ineffective, powerless people. And you don’t get them with financial fantasy, either. And that’s why we embrace and herald all the powerful people, companies, technologies and ideas forging ahead in this networked world.

Beth Schultzbschultz@nww.com

Editor, Signature Series