Autumn 2017 Optical Connections Magazine


Optical disaggregation rears its big head at NGON Europe

Software management innovations are completely changing the nature of optical networks, as was discussed at the Next Generation Optical Networks conference in Cannes in June. Antony Savvas attended and gives this report.

ANTONY SAVVAS T he composition of network deployments has changed rapidly over the past few years as a result of expanding cloud take-up, network virtualisation and the acceptance of software-defined data centres (SDDC) and software-defined networking, and the relatively new emergence of software-defined WANs (SD-WAN). The optical networking hardware providers are not immune to such changes, not least the issue of safely navigating the disaggregation versus integration debate. Antony Savvas reports from the recent Next Generation Optical Networking (NGON) Europe conference in Nice, where the disaggregation issue was top of mind for many delegates attending. The big technology providers would find it far easier and much more profitable to carry on providing all-encompassing end-to-end optical networking systems to the likes of BT, Deutsche Telekom, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, but such customers increasingly do not want that. The cloud players, and increasingly the telco incumbents, want to buy and install what they see as the best bits of dierent optical hardware systems from a variety of vendors, to create their own niche network to address their specific needs. The vendors relying on selling full end- to-end solutions therefore will clearly have to adapt if this trend continues, but will it? MARKET CHANGES “The composition of optical equipment demand has changed dramatically over the past five years, as cloud companies such as Amazon, Google and Microsoft have become the predominant source

extend into EMEA and APAC in “2017 and beyond”.

There is a limit to how far down the road service

BUSINESS AND OPERATIONS Helen Xenos, director of portfolio marketing at Ciena, says: “Network operators are considering new

providers are willing to go

technology consumption models and investigating the disaggregation of various network functions to accelerate their transformation objectives.” She stresses that next generation network architecture greatly depends on the end user’s business and operational model, but she maintains there is some consensus that disaggregation oers the potential of better control over pricing and supply, from eliminating vendor lock-in and accelerating time-to-market for roll-outs. Says Xenos: “These benefits are achieved by deploying a network with an open photonic line system. But it is acknowledged that there is a limit to how far down the road service providers are willing to go in mixing and matching dierent vendor equipment before it becomes a nightmare to manage.” There is also the question of how long it can take for service providers to get the bandwidth they require if they choose to piece together their own networks instead of opting for an end-to-end solution from a single vendor. ENDTOEND At NGON, Huawei, like other vendors, announced various new products and services and was keen to promote its end- to-end systems to plug “business gaps, operations gaps and network gaps” in the market. Huawei promises this with the help of a troika of a “full lifecycle automation platform” in the form of its NCE (network

of growth in optical transport equipment purchasing,” says Andrew Schmitt, lead analyst for Cignal AI, which recently published its global optical spending report. Opening the NGON conference, Schmitt said: “What Google wants is totally dierent to what the likes of Verizon wants, and that poses big challenges to the vendors. They are being asked to produce something specialist but are then being told by Google and others that it will be benchmarked against what they can build themselves.” The power that Google, Microsoft and Facebook have in the market is illustrated by the market figures for optical hardware that Cignal AI has produced. They show that even though expenditure by telco incumbents remains the largest portion of the market, the cloud and co-location segments are responsible for almost all spending growth, alongside that by the Chinese telco incumbents. Incumbent spending in North America, which was half of all spending in 2014, will “drop considerably” by 2021, says Cignal AI. It says cloud and co-lo growth, while currently centered in North America, will


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