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Adtran Pieces Together a Software-Defined Access Mosaic

Carol Wilson
7/27/2016
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Adtran has unveiled its software-defined broadband access platform, dubbed Mosaic, built around an open, multivendor approach that supports any access technology while allowing the kind of residential and service delivery that is offered today in the web-scale app-driven world. (See Adtran's Mosaic Offers SD Access.)

Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) has been working for the past couple of years with both Tier 1 and smaller operators to make sure its platform is an open approach that moves the access portion of the network out of its single-vendor status and into a software-defined network built on more generic hardware and operated as part of a seamless cloud-based service model. (See Calix First to Launch Software-Defined Access and Leading Lights 2016: The Winners.)

Mosaic includes a cloud service delivery platform, a multivendor operating system and programmable network elements that integrate into an open SDN-controller environment.

Adtran is not first to market with an access platform for the software-defined world: Other broadband access companies, notably Calix Networks Inc. (NYSE: CALX), are already pitching cloud-friendly broadband access technology. (See Calix First to Launch Software-Defined Access.)

"This is where everyone is headed," says Lee Doyle, principal analyst with Doyle Research. "Everyone has their twist on it but what will be important is how they can interwork with partners as part of an ecosystem. Saying something is open doesn't mean it interworks. I think we'll see Calix users try their approach and Adtran users try theirs."

Verizon at this point is trying both: Adtran is participating in its NG-PON2 trial, as is an Ericsson/Calix partnership. (See Verizon Readies Landmark NG-PON2 Trial.)

"We realize service providers want to get to the point where they are like Android, where every vendor doesn't have to create a separate unique app store and OS to be effective," says Robert Conger, vice president of carrier strategy. "We wanted to create the right abstraction techniques so an app developer that has little or no knowledge of G.fast or GPON can use our APIs [applications programming interfaces] and write the apps, or service providers can do it themselves, or any third party can."

To do that, Mosaic adopts an open source framework, that uses SDN for automation and programmability, using either ONOS or OpenDaylight controllers, and whatever open orchestration system the operator chooses. In today's world, that could be OPEN-O, Open Source MANO or ECOMP. With a simple, abstracted network API, app-based network programming delivers management and control in a higher layer, and multiple access networks -- copper, fiber or wireless -- operate in the access.

Those access networks don't have to be based on Adtran technology, Conger notes. "We won't make wireless access," he says. "We wanted to find a platform that could integrate other types of gear into a single approach."


Get up close and personal with service provider NFV strategies in our NFV Elements section here on Light Reading.

Moving away from using vendor-specific element management systems common today means replacing their capabilities: Adtran is doing that with a series of software-based management apps that are modular and can be built on top of the open source control architecture and plug into either of the two open source controllers, Conger says.

"There is nothing proprietary -- our device plugs natively into the control environment," he comments. "You have this modern restful API on those controllers but not everybody's OSS is ready to talk to that. We have an adaptation app that gives operators the ability to leap forward to the SDN environment by still maintaining their existing OSSs."

So the applications that will run on top of the Mosaic platform still need to be developed but that will happen as part of the transition process, Conger says, and Adtran is prepared to work with its customers in that transition.

Analyst Doyle notes that Tier 1 operators are demanding this kind of functionality today but the smaller network operators may wind up moving faster to get to full virtualization of their access networks.

"They don't have 50,000-person organizations they have to change," he says. "So in some cases, they will move faster. Everyone wants to get this."

"The smaller guys may be more reliant on us because they don't have big DevOps teams," Conger comments. "The big guys may be their own general contractors and we will be a smaller specialty contractor for them. Whereas for the smaller guys, we are everything -- general contractor, cloud software, network elements, all bundled together so they can make it deployable."

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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