David Young, senior vice president of Lumen’s Public Sector and global hyperscaler business and a two-time Wash100 Award recipient, recently spoke with ExecutiveBiz regarding CenturyLink’s recent rebranding to Lumen Technologies. He discussed Lumen’s new initiatives, advanced platform for managing data and applications, and work across government agencies to support real-time decision making. Young also addressed the company’s vision and where it’s looking to expand moving forward.
“We wanted a brand that was representative of who we are as a technology company and that is focused on serving our business and public sector customers. That's where the Lumen name came from. It is centered around our platform for managing data, applications and technology that enables businesses and public sector organizations to do amazing things.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are some of the new initiatives that Lumen is working on?
“There are very clear trends going on in the marketplace around technology. It's the fourth industrial revolution and organizations are relying on mounds of data as they adopt these emerging technologies, which has already begun to happen. As we viewed the marketplace, we looked at how we fit into that new environment.
Today we’re in an environment that is driven by data and applications, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI). There have been vast changes across technologies and services in capturing data, analyzing data, and using data. This has all become so critical in the fourth industrial revolution, so we felt we were at this really critical juncture.
Our legacy has been incredible. We have decades of industry knowledge, especially in the public sector space, and our corporate history is even longer. But we got to a point where we were looking at this fourth industrial revolution and questioning how we could best bring our network assets to market and how we, as well as our customers, use those assets.
We saw that our network assets fit into a different place inside this fourth industrial revolution, and it was about a platform. If we look at Lumen’s expertise, it's really about this platform that allows organizations to deliver better services to citizens and customers. It's about how they're using our platform to enable their products and services, as well as how they interact with their customers and stakeholders.”
ExecutiveBiz: Will Lumen operate in similar markets as CenturyLink?
“Our public sector business is a very big part of our company and we’re committed to continuing to serve government agencies and their missions. Our CEO and board of directors are very involved in what we're doing in the public sector, and it's going to stay a large component of what Lumen is, what it does and the services it offers.
We're seeing the same thing happening with enterprises that’s happening in the public sector domain. The way we all serve customers and citizens is radically changing. We now do things in a mobile environment, so we have to support how the government is evolving to adapt and embrace today’s technologies.”
ExecutiveBiz: How do you see technology morphing and furthering Lumen’s vision?
“What we see in Lumen is light, vision, future and fiber optics. So all of those areas have become part of our new brand. It’s about the stage we're setting around our platform for the fourth industrial revolution.
We looked at how data is used, consumed and analyzed in order to solve organizations’ challenges and improve services. There is more data in existence today than we had even a year ago, so it's really about the challenge of using data and technology in a manner that furthers human progress and benefits the human race.
We have to figure out how we can continue to create the foundation and the platform for that to occur. We're seeing this mountain of data create challenges for enterprises because it regularly morphs, changes and flows. The platform has to be adaptive and the network infrastructure that the platform is built on has to be able to adjust and adapt on demand.
In order to be able to adapt on demand, organizations need network orchestration tools. Humans have to be available to deal with the anomalies, while the machines can deal with the routine, repetitive transactions. And we have to bring those resources closer to the point of digital interaction that’s known as the edge.
When we begin to look at the platform and at the cloud technologies, there are a host of benefits around the classic cloud, but there can be a bit of latency to get to those cloud cores. As Lumen, we’re focusing on developing applications that are very time sensitive and accessible at the edge of the network with low latency to create that value.
For example, when it comes to NASA, milliseconds matter. You have to consider not only the investment in the rocket, but the human life inside the rocket. Five milliseconds versus 15 milliseconds could make a massive difference in this environment. We know you can achieve a higher level of performance when your compute resources are closer to the edge and closer to that digital interaction point.”
ExecutiveBiz: What are the characteristics of Lumen’s platform?
“Our platform is really about the network assets. Lumen is fortunate to have over 450,000 route miles of fiber optics that ring the globe and 98 percent of U.S. enterprises are within five milliseconds or less of this 450,000-mile fiber optic core. Our network assets give our customers access to an adaptive, very powerful platform for amazing things.
Security is so important. Lumen’s environment has a very high security level, which comes from a variety of different places in our heritage. One benefit of our platform is that we run one of the world's largest internet backbones. That means we have a very good view of cyberspace. Our ability to use the network as a sensor and be the first to detect anomalies in the cyber domain is very powerful, especially when we share that with customers.
Another important characteristic of our platform is our years of experience with the federal government. Through FedRAMP and FISMA, we’re able to build a secure environment around government customers’ information. When you layer those two capabilities together, we have a very solid, secure, connected story to tell government customers.
The last characteristic is our ability to foster collaboration. It's one challenge to build a network, then it's another challenge to get people to interact across it. We provide unified communications and collaboration services that have really been highlighted lately with the pandemic and telework. We've all had to learn how to use a variety of collaboration tools.
We’re also beginning to see and support things like smart cities, which is a great example of how our platform can be used to serve our communities and our citizens.”
ExecutiveBiz: How will Lumen work to further human progress through technology?
“Manufacturing is a great place where we've seen robotic technologies excel and make a real difference. Our platform is ideal for that type of environment. We see the same thing with retail, which is also evolving very quickly. The way we shop remotely has continued to evolve, especially with the pandemic.
Healthcare is another area of focus for the company and for our platform. The idea is so you're not dependent on being close to a healthcare specialist, but technology can bring that specialist to you. We’ve also launched next generation 911 centers that support data gathering in real-time and provide new capabilities that help first responders save lives.
It’s also important to think about how we begin to use AI to understand these sorts of challenges. Technology is changing, but community challenges come in all sizes and variations. It could be a fire, a crash, a crime scene, or it could be a societal need, such as mental health assistance. Either way, we need a quick and appropriate response.
When all of these things happen, it can be very powerful to be able to operate efficiently close to the edge of the network and thus quickly determine what is needed so we can send out the right public servant out to deal with these challenges.”
ExecutiveBiz: What is your projection for Lumen’s future growth?
“In the public sector domain, we've already begun to see the major contract awards move away from focusing on a specific CLIN or line item, for example, to moving towards customized solution sets. GSA has done a really good job of developing contract vehicles for agencies to use to tackle this.
I believe we will start to focus on the high end of the IT world and will soon align government contracting with a world that is solutions based instead of focused on very specific point-to-point delivery of services. I see this as a challenge that we’re up to tackling together.
Enabling industry to truly collaborate with the government can take work because what we see in the enterprise side with private business is a lot of collaboration back and forth before an opportunity is launched. Agencies need to embrace some more of that pre-RFP collaboration in the public domain.
Lumen is already focused about building customized solutions. It's really about the opportunity to use a platform like Lumen’s to develop a deeply thought-out solution. The government doesn’t have to put the pieces together themselves. We stand ready, willing and enable to collaborate across different technologies and with various groups to solve the public sector’s IT challenges.
That’s how we’ll further human progress through technology and how we’ll serve as the platform for our customers to do amazing things.”