Dr. Lawrence Roberts
The Doctor Is In
The Light Reading Interview
In The Spotlight: Dr. Lawrence Roberts
This was a big week for Light Reading. Dr Lawrence Roberts, one
of the founding fathers of the Internet, was “in the house” at our Tribeca
trophy office in Manhattan.
We did the right thing, of course. Lined up the staff. Scattered the
rose petals. Chanted “Larry! Larry!” And, naturally, made
sure to snap a photo with the Great One in front of our new salt-water
aquarium. (We’ve just named our newest fish “Dr.Huber,” incidentally, on
account of the fact that it doesn’t say much).
|Doctor Roberts with
“Doctor Huber” (Larry’s the one on the
Larry hasn’t been saying much recently, either -- an unusual state of
affairs, for him. But at least he has an excuse: Caspian
Networks (née “Packetcom”), his latest venture, is still
officially in stealth mode.
Fortunately, we found Larry in ebullient form, and he was generous
enough to drop some new and exclusive details about Caspian’s product.
(His decision to make said revelations appeared to come as a surprise to
his marketing handlers, who are about to discover that retroactively
saying “that was off the record!” after the company founder has just said
something really interesting doesn’t actually stop journalists from
writing it down, attributing it, and publishing it.)
Caspian is building a box targeted right at the meat of the core
Internet router market and, by extension, at the current router duopoly of
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO
board) and Juniper Networks Inc.
Clearly then, a nervy move on Larry’s part. And with terabit router
companies like Avici Systems Inc.
board; Frankfurt: BVC7), Charlotte’s
Web Networks, and Pluris Inc.
already vying for the number three spot in the router game, why is it even
worth giving serious consideration to Caspian (let alone give it the
number five spot on our list of the Top Ten Private Companies? -- see Caspian
A few reasons: First, Larry doesn’t want to be number three in routing
-- he wants to be number one. Second, Caspian isn’t building an IP
router –- it’s building a mondo switch with some snazzy signaling smarts
that could really set it apart from the hoi polloi.
Third, Larry’s interviews are always of value. For journalists,
interviewing Roberts is like a refreshing day at the spa: Warnings are
issued. ("Service providers have to make IP profitable within a year or
they are going to go under.") Entire swathes of competitors can be
dismissed with a wise smile and a two-word epithet ("too edge").
And, of course, answers -- definitive ones -- are delivered with an air of
absolute authority. ("There’s got to be a shakeout.")
It’s all choice stuff. And Roberts's pitch has already gone over big
with a number of venture capital firms and banks, which have bankrolled
Caspian to the tune of $140 million in three rounds of funding (see Caspian
Prepares for an IPO and Internet
Pioneer Plots IP Revolution ).
Not everyone’s a fan, of course. Witness this missive from a partner at
a venture capital firm in California, who cravenly requested anonymity:
“Larry Roberts may be an Internet pioneer, but he has a long history
of cooking up 'technology religious' ideas that are not commercially
viable. As a result, he shopped Caspian (then Packetcom) in the valley for
12 months or so before he got someone to bite. As times have changed he's
added some optical themes to the punch for effect. Larry Roberts is no
Dave Huber and Caspian is no Corvis.” (Begging the question: Is this a
Make up your own mind about Doc Roberts’s new gig by reading the
following interview, in which he also talks about:
Future of Caspian
|We're not worthy! Larry,
kickin' it with the Light Reading
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