Bell Labs to seek 'next big cloud thing' in Israel

Now a part of Alctatel-Lucent, Bell Labs is looking to the Startup Nation for some new ideas.
Written by David Shamah, Contributor
Alcaltel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes
Alcaltel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes. Image: Alcatel-Lucent

Alcatel-Lucent is opening a branch of Bell Labs in Israel.

Alcatel-Lucent's research arm Bell Labs, of course, is where many early IT innovations were born — and now the company will integrate more Israeli-developed technology into its products.

Home to the invention of the transistor, the C programming language, the 32-bit microprocessor, and other accoutrements of modern life, Bell Labs' focus today is on numerous Alcatel-Lucent projects — and in Israel, that means cloud technology.

Although it has only about 250 employees of Alcatel-Lucent's worldwide 70,000 workers, Alcatel-Lucent's Israel location is the world centre of development for its Cloudband platform. 

CloudBand is Alcatel-Lucent's implementation of network functions virtualisation (NFV) — the consolidation of carrier network functions across distributed industry standard servers, creating a cloud that telcos can use for standard and even advanced services.

Speaking at a tech conference in Tel Aviv recently, Alcatel-Lucent CEO Michel Combes said that Alcatel-Lucent and Bell Labs had realised early on the promise of moving networks to the cloud, but that it would take a dramatically different set of capabilities and products to make the change happen.

Alcatel-Lucent's new capabilities in this area, he said, will come from within Bell Labs but also from the creation of Alcatel-Lucent's inhouse startups such as the Israeli-based CloudBand business.

Combes did not announce how many people would be working at the Israel branch of Bell Labs. However, it's thought that around 20 people will be hired to start, with most of them coming from the computer science field.

According to Alcatel-Lucent VP and CloudBand business unit General manager Dor Skuler, CloudBand technology is all-Israeli. "This started here in 2011 with one person, and now we have over 100 working on it," he said.

According to Skuler, Israel had the right knowledge base to help CloudBand come to fruition. "We have a melting pot of talent here," he said. "CloudBand is a place where networks, infrastructure, cloud, and information technology collide.

"It's not easy to find engineers who are familiar with these things, but they are available in Israel because of the startup and tech ecosystem we have here."

Alcatel-Lucent has been operating in Israel since 1985 (first as Alcatel, and following its merger with Lucent in late 2006, as Alcatel-Lucent).

According to Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and CTO of Alcatel-Lucent, who spoke at the event: "Bell Labs is once again looking at solving the big real-world problems that will change the way we communicate, collaborate and connect with each other and with our 'things'.

"We know that great new discoveries and innovations in 'cloud networking' will emerge from our new Tel Aviv office."

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