2020 FierceWireless Rising Star — Intel's Dan Rodriguez

Dan Rodriguez, Intel (Intel)

For 2020 the FierceWireless editorial team has selected a diverse slate of  wireless executives who are on the rise in their careers. We’re doling out the names of our winners, two per day, so that our readers have the time to enjoy reading their profiles. Next week, we’ll post our popular Rising Stars poll, giving everyone the opportunity to vote for their favorite top executive to watch in wireless. 

It is hard to believe that only about 10 years ago, the world of communications networks revolved much more around hardware than it does today. Back then, what operators could do with their networks, how quickly and at what cost depended very much on the innovation and product delivery schedules of their equipment vendors. No one was talking about NFV or SDN yet.

Dan Rodriguez, corporate vice president and general manager of Intel’s network platforms group, remembers when the light bulb flashed on for telecom network operators who saw what other kinds of companies were accomplishing with strategies centered more around servers and software.

“We laid the groundwork with our network platforms strategy a decade ago when operators started wanting the flexibility and scalability of hyperscale cloud providers,” he said. “This was the beginning, and today we are seeing the shift and growth to server-based networks.”

Now, Rodriguez lists his primary goal as helping communications service providers “architect their networks in a way that takes advantage of the benefits of server-based economics.” This year, he added, “We’re expecting 50% of core network deployments to be on virtualized servers, and by 2024 that should be well over 80%, according to third party reports, due to the massive tailwind behind network transformation and 5G.”

RELATED: Intel, CableLabs view network virtualization from different angles: Special Report

Inside Intel, what Rodriguez feels he brings to the table is “an ability to connect with people and create and lead teams that actually feel and act like teams, in that they know how to work together and have fun, but also can win.” Creating inclusive teams also is of utmost importance, he said. Rodriguez forged these priorities working under the guidance and mentorship of such Intel executives as Rose Schooler, Sandra Rivera and Navin Shenoy.

2020, with the Covid-19 pandemic holding sway, has brought about a new set of unforeseen challenges for such teams, and a need for workforce leaders to bring a greater degree of attention and understanding to managing and enabling them. “This year has been like no other,” Rodriguez acknowledged. “It has served as a reminder that you have to nurture teams, and that you can’t innovate without that. Taking care of each other is always paramount.”