Capellas Sees 'Gradual Recovery' for Tech

MCI's chief executive Michael Capellas talks of trends in the tech industry during his keynote address at CeBit America in New York.

NEW YORK -- Michael Capellas, the chief executive of telecommunications company MCI (formerly WorldCom), said convergence of voice and data networks is the key to making both applications and enterprise networks more intelligent.

"Our goal is to merge voice and data into IP," Capellas said during a keynote address at the start of the CeBIT America technology conference here.

He also said he expects the technology industry's recovery from its current recession to be gradual. In the process, he continued, MCI sees an increasing focus by enterprises to architect voice and data interoperability, further enabling productivity gains and cost-savings.

Data centers are becoming "increasingly commoditized," and businesses are demanding "pervasive mobility" along with the integration of voice and data applications, said the former Compaq chief executive.

Capellas avoided discussion of MCI's bankruptcy reorganization, as well as any discussion about a pending $500 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission regarding past fraudulent accounting charges leveled against the company when it was WorldCom. Instead, he stuck to the big picture on the current trends in information technology, and how he sees MCI playing a role.

As enterprise networks build infrastructure that can scale up as their computing demands rise, they will also extend core applications, he said, with data going to the server side, and modular designs leading to lower costs, as "intelligence moves into the network."

Capellas spoke briefly about the importance of network security, saying there is a need for multi-tiered, multi-purpose approaches to securing both public and private networks. "I'm amazed at how many people think there is a silver bullet for security," he said.

"There is a need for security at the edge of the network, and some security is also needed at the core." What companies need to do is devise customized multi-tier security systems in order to address differing corporate, government and consumer needs, he continued.

Capellas said he is encouraged by continued investments in utility, on-demand computing services, as well as the development of grid computing, both of which are based on intelligent IP networks. He said he expects these initiatives to drive development of more intelligent networks.

During the demo portion of his presentation, Capellas said he expects voice portals to grow significantly in the future. He said by linking voice applications to Web applications, databases and the back office, MCI wants to drive the next generation of integrated voice and data services.

Capellas demonstrated how a voice message could be converted into a combined voice and text message by simply wrapping a voice message in XML-format and then tying it to an application.

The discussion was also a chance for him to argue that MCI's voice/data convergence strategy dovetails with other major computing companies', such IBM's grid computing initiative, Microsoft's .NET strategy, and Sun Microsystems' SunOne approach to clustered network computing.

Capellas emphasized the importance of maintaining "the flexibility of the infrastructure, so that applications can be customized."

He concluded with a demo, which included Yankee Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who invoked his classic adage: "It's never over til it's over." The message was a not-so-subtle reference to MCI's bid to emerge from bankruptcy and, under Capellas's leadership, put the corporate scandals of WorldCom behind it.

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