Light Reading

Can Virtualization Enable the Next Big Bang?

Carol Wilson
5/20/2014
50%
50%

The move to virtualization will enable large equipment manufacturers such as Alcatel-Lucent to move innovation into the commercial market faster by creating more "insertion points" for new technology and allowing good ideas to develop independently of existing products, the head of Bell Labs said today. (See Bell Labs Toasts Big Bang Discovery With Prize, Israeli Office.)

Marcus Weldon, president of Bell Labs and CTO of Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU), spoke to Light Reading in advance of today's 50th anniversary celebration of one of Bell Labs' biggest discoveries: the strongest evidence of the Big Bang Theory, identified by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, when they were trying to enhance radio communications for AT&T. (See AlcaLu Breathes New Life Into Bell Labs.)

As part of that celebration, Alcatel-Lucent is announcing a new Bell Labs Prize, an award of up to $100,000 for innovations addressing the big challenges facing the IT and communications industries. The award winners then work with Bell Labs to bring their ideas to market.

"This is an open call for ideas that are 10X game changers," says Weldon. Those who produce the best ideas in the annual competition will be teamed with an internal researcher to help refine their ideas. All of those will be presented to a panel and the winner announced in January.

Weldon, who took over Bell Labs in December, says the institution had become a bit too academically focused and needed to get back to focusing on the "grand challenges in the industry -- the things that confronted us in telecom which we now call ICT."

The advent of SDN and NFV plays into that shift in thinking in two ways: Not only will innovations be able to reach the marketplace faster through virtualization, but the myriad choices that virtualization creates require the kind of basic math and science solutions for which Bell Labs is justifiably known, Weldon says.

In today's telecom world, getting new things that come out of the research lab requires working closely with the existing product teams, because any innovations have to be embedded in the existing systems -- many of which are proprietary and monolithic, Weldon admits.

"There wasn't an obvious way that you could take a piece of the code or a functional module and adapt that functionality module and give it back to the product," he explains. " You had to deeply innovate with the product teams -- and that is a very time-consuming business."

NFV and SDN will separate functional elements as well as the control and data planes to allow for "more insertion points for innovation," Weldon adds.

"From a research standpoint, it means we could innovate and run a functional module -- which could run in the cloud next to the piece of software that is the ALU software and not have to deeply integrate it other than to service chain it together."

At the same time, virtual systems will have complex data plane processing requirements, he notes, and those are things Bell Labs has historically been able to address.

"SDN, when it is done properly, particularly between the IP and optical layer, is a complex optimization problem between sending a packet over an IP network or sending a packet over an optical network or both," Weldon says.

As SDN "escapes" the data center into the wide area network to become transport SDN, network operators will have many options for optimizing the performance of their network and compute capabilities. Multiple data centers connected by multiple networks, all with resource varying by the second in terms of availability and utilization create a massive math and algorithmic problem.

"Increasingly our IP and optical business lines are coming to Bell Labs and saying 'Hey this multi-layer optimization between IP and optical is really hard -- you guys are really good at that, help us out,'" Weldon says.

So Bell Labs researchers are deeply embedded in those teams just writing algorithms for how to compute the right path, when there are so many degrees of freedom.

The Bell Labs Prize hopes to identify people with expertise to share who either don't want to or can't develop their ideas on their own and team them with Bell Labs staff who are expert at bringing new ideas to market.

Penzias and Wilson were experts imported into Bell Labs to try to help AT&T improve satellite communications, working with satellites initially deployed on balloons and later in space. They had the skill and intellect to recognize that what they were noticing "off the side," as it were, were key clues to the origin of the universe.

"That's the kind of thing we want to be doing -- classic Bell Labs solving a real-world problem but having the diversity of disciplines, intellect and experience to see stuff off to the side that is remarkable and game-changing and insightful," Weldon says.

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

(6)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
Mitch Wagner
50%
50%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/21/2014 | 9:48:18 PM
Re: Big Ideas in Little Packages?
The prize could go to someone who's creative enough to do the work, but also values job security and doesn't want to hassle with running a startup.I imagine this might be a significantly sized group. 
bdcst
50%
50%
bdcst,
User Rank: Light Beer
5/21/2014 | 2:02:35 PM
Re: Big Bang
Carol,

A satellite can launch a balloon.  But a balloon can't lift a satellite into orbit!  You are refering to the Echo One and Echo Two passive reflector satellites that happend to have been huge Mylar metalized balloons inflated once in orbit.  The material was similar to emergency survival "space blankets" you can buy in sporting goods stores.

Being passive the path losses from one end to the other of a microwave link were quite large.  At first, when the liquid nitrogen cooled Maser amplifiers proved too noisy, it was thought they were faulty.  Eventually someone covered the opening of the huge horn antenna and the noise went away.  That was the aha moment!  Noise was coming in quite evenly from all directions in the sky, an imposibility as there are plenty of dark spaces between the known sources of RF emitters in our Galaxy.

Hence the search for someone who could figure out where this distracting noise was coming from and maybe how to eliminate it.

A larger horn antenna was built by Bell Labs in Andover Maine and was used a couple of years later with Telstar One, the first active orbital microwave relay satellite to demonstrate transoceanic television transmission between the huge radiotelescope at Judrell Bank in the UK and the US.  The first broadcast from Europe was supposed to be between the French radiotelescope antenna at Pleumeur-Bodou and Andover.  But the Brits jumped the gun which angered the French to no end.
lrmobile_Stevery
100%
0%
lrmobile_Stevery,
User Rank: Lightning
5/20/2014 | 4:28:13 PM
Re: Big Ideas in Little Packages?
The person is incredibly smart but not driven to do a start-up 

So the award candidate has the business sense to come up with an idea to make a big pile of money for AlcaLucent, but not enough business sense to make a big pile of money for him or herself?

Given that the $100K award is small compared to amounts that you get from startup accelerators, I'm dying to know who the target candidates are.
Carol Wilson
100%
0%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/20/2014 | 12:49:34 PM
Big Ideas in Little Packages?
One thing I didn't have room for here was a long conversation with Marcus Weldon over who exactly would likely go for this prize.

The person is incredibly smart but not driven to do a start-up and not committed to another company or at least willing to leave that company. 

It's a potentially interesting subset of people that would provide the basic ideas. 
Carol Wilson
50%
50%
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/20/2014 | 12:47:46 PM
Re: Big Bang
Too true, Mitch. The hed should say "Big Band discovery" ...or maybe, "the next major scientific breakthrough that happens when folks are working on something but discover something entirely different."

 
Mitch Wagner
100%
0%
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/20/2014 | 12:32:00 PM
Big Bang
Replicating the Big Bang would obliterate the entire universe as we know it, along with any evidence it ever existed. This is not a desirable event.

Or maybe I'm reading into it too far. :)
Flash Poll
From The Founder
Ericsson's Hyperscale Datacenter System (HDS) 8000, featuring Intel's Rack Scale Architecture, caused a stir when it was announced at MWC 2015. For more on this revolutionary product, join me on Thursday, April 30 at 12:00 p.m. EST for a Super Webinar event, A New Hardware Paradigm for the Telco Data Center.
LRTV Documentaries
CableLabs' Clarke Updates Cable Virtualization

4|23|15   |   05:41   |   (1) comment


Former BT exec now leading CableLabs' NFV and SDN efforts explains key role of open source and updates efforts to virtualize the home network.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. II

4|23|15   |   08:19   |   (1) comment


In the second installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about cultural change, network slicing and technology advances.
LRTV Interviews
Ericsson's CTO Talks Transformation: Pt. I

4|23|15   |   09:27   |   (3) comments


In the first installment of an in-depth two-part interview, Ericsson's CTO Ulf Ewaldsson talks to Light Reading CEO and founder Steve Saunders about the incredible transformation underway in the communications networking industry.
LRTV Documentaries
LTE Paves the Way for the 5G Revolution

4|20|15   |   4:20   |   (0) comments


Håkan Andersson, head of 5G product strategy of the Radio Business Unit at Ericsson, discusses the role of LTE, the US and other industry verticals in building a true 5G ecosystem.
LRTV Documentaries
The 3GPP's Road to 5G Standardization

4|17|15   |   4:43   |   (0) comments


Satoshi Nagata, chairman of the 3GPP's TSG-RAN group and a manager at NTT Docomo, explains the standardization process for 5G, as well as the biggest challenges and opportunities.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu CTO Makes the Case for a New 5G Air Interface

4|16|15   |   3:54   |   (0) comments


Michael Peeters, CTO of wireless at Alcatel-Lucent, explains why 5G will require a new air interface to meet its diverse performance targets.
LRTV Documentaries
AlcaLu + Nokia: The New Uber-Vendor

4|15|15   |   2:42   |   (4) comments


Heavy Reading Senior Analyst Gabriel Brown discusses the technological and competitive opportunities and challenges if a merger between Alcatel-Lucent and Nokia comes to pass.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei's Data Center Power Play

4|15|15   |   6:22   |   (0) comments


Huawei has developed industry-leading energy efficiency capabilities for its indoor and outdoor data center solutions, explains Dr. Fang Liangzhou, vice president of Huawei's Network Energy product Line.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Huawei’s Routers, Switches Get the Green Mark

4|15|15   |   2:02   |   (0) comments


TUV Rheinland's Frank Dudley explains how Huawei's routers and switches have been successfully tested by energy efficiency experts and have gained Green Mark Certification.
LRTV Documentaries
A Finn, a Frenchman & a Guy From New Jersey Walk Into a Merger...

4|15|15   |   3:17   |   (0) comments


Stop us if you've heard this one before... Light Reading CEO Founder & CEO Steve Saunders weighs in on the technical and cultural implications of a Nokia and Alcatel-Lucent merger.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
Accounting for Better Solutions

4|10|15   |   02:31   |   (1) comment


Murad Yousuf, CTO at Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Finance (Dept. of Zakat & Income Tax), talks about the benefits of deploying router technology from Huawei.
LRTV Huawei Video Resource Center
What's in Store for Huawei & DataCore?

4|10|15   |   05:44   |   (0) comments


At the CeBIT trade show in Hannover, Germany, George Teixeira, CEO of software-defined storage (SDS) specialist DataCore Software, explains why he has just signed a partnership agreement with Huawei Technologies.
Upcoming Live Events
May 6, 2015, Georgia World Congress, Atlanta, GA
May 12, 2015, Grand Hyatt, Denver, CO
May 13-14, 2015, The Westin Peachtree, Atlanta, GA
June 8, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9-10, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 9, 2015, Chicago, IL
June 10, 2015, Chicago, IL
September 29-30, 2015, The Westin Grand Müchen, Munich, Germany
October 6, 2015, Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
November 11-12, 2015, The Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, GA
All Upcoming Live Events
Infographics
In its latest survey covering network operators' plans and strategies for ICT transformation, Heavy Reading asked telecom operators worldwide to identify the most important goals and objectives for their ICT transformation initiatives. Heavy Reading also asked operators about the importance of a "digital first" strategy, which enables customers to complete an interaction across different digital channels, such as web and mobile self-service and social media.
Hot Topics
What if the Comcast Merger Fails?
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/20/2015
Google's WiFi-First Mobile Service 'Fi' Is Here
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 4/22/2015
Comcast Merger May Hinge on Hulu
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/22/2015
Comcast Formally Ends Its Bid for TWC
Mari Silbey, Independent Technology Editor, 4/24/2015
Google Ready to Release Thousands of Loons
Sarah Thomas, Editorial Operations Director, 4/20/2015
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Webinar Archive
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Many leading communications companies can claim to have undergone significant periods of reinvention during their histories, but none have been through more major ...
Data Center Interconnect, or DCI, is one of the hottest sectors in telecom currently. Since coming back to Light Reading last year, prodigal-son style, I've ...
Cats with Phones
Learning Curve Click Here
Pierre could never remember how to use Excel.
Latest Comment