& cplSiteName &

Can Virtualization Enable the Next Big Bang?

Carol Wilson

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
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. 
User Rank: Light Beer
5/21/2014 | 2:02:35 PM
Re: Big Bang

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.
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
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
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
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. :)
Light Reading’s Upskill U is a FREE, interactive, online educational resource that delivers must-have education on themes that relate to the overall business transformation taking place in the communications industry.
Wednesday, October 26, 1:00PM EDT
Security: Tackling DDoS
Gary Sockrider, Principal Security Technologist, Arbor Networks
Friday, October 28, 1:00PM EDT
Security: The Plusses and Minuses of Open Source Software
Nick Feamster, Acting Director, Center for Information Technology Policy, Princeton University
Wednesday, November 16, 1:00PM EST
SDN 101
John Isch, Practice Director, Network & Voice, Orange Business Services
Friday, November 18, 1:00PM EST
SDN & Open Source
Christopher W. Rice, Senior Vice President of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design
in association with:
From The Founder
Light Reading today starts a new voyage as part of a larger Enterprise.
Flash Poll
Live Streaming Video
Charting the CSP's Future
Six different communications service providers join to debate their visions of the future CSP, following a landmark presentation from AT&T on its massive virtualization efforts and a look back on where the telecom industry has been and where it's going from two industry veterans.
LRTV Custom TV
Next-Generation Technology Beyond DOCSIS 3.1

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Liu Jianhua speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Hybrid Video Solutions to Change TV, Change Future

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Ian Locke speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei Future-Oriented Giga Coax Network

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

At SCTE 2016, Huawei's Allen Wang speaks with Alan Breznick for an exclusive interview.
LRTV Custom TV
Huawei at SCTE 2016

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Alan Breznick of Light Reading and take a sneak peek at the Huawei booth at SCTE 2016.
LRTV Custom TV
Assuring Network Quality in a Rapidly Changing Environment

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

As the rate of change and complexity increases in agile networks, the importance of introducing DevOps methodologies for integrating active test and assurance solutions throughout the full service lifecycle becomes critical to ensure that customers are experiencing the service quality they demand. The industry landscape is changing, and software-based test and ...
Telecom Innovators Video Showcase
A10 Networks on Service Providers' Industry Needs

10|20|16   |     |   (0) comments

Light Reading's Steve Saunders hears how A10 enables service providers to accelerate, secure and optimize their application delivery to drive down costs, enhance service availability, and better respond to customer requirements, so they can improve customer satisfaction, monetize their network, and grow revenues.
LRTV Custom TV
New NFV Use Cases for Cable TV

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

A large number of NFV use cases are focused on the enterprise domain, looking at virtualization of customer-premises equipment (CPE). To date, there has been little focus on the use cases and business case for virtualization of the video content delivery networks required to deliver unicast and streaming video to consumers. Amdocs commissioned Analysys Mason to ...
Women in Comms Introduction Videos
Meet the Future Workforce: New Faces, Expectations & Motivations

10|19|16   |   5:33   |   (1) comment

Millennials and their younger peers, Gen Z, expect more out of their network and more out of their work. Intel's Lynn Comp shares how the industry can prepare for this new generation of workers.
LRTV Custom TV
ZTE Global Services User Congress 2016 Highlights

10|19|16   |     |   (0) comments

ZTE held its 2nd Global Service User Conference in Dusseldorf on October 13-14. Representatives from network operators, leading industry analysts and ZTE senior expertsattended the event, exploring the best practice in managed services and the vision to transform network operations into the operations center of the future (OpCF) in the software-defined networking ...
LRTV Custom TV
Cliff Grossner on Cloud & Network Synergy From Carrier Service

10|18|16   |     |   (0) comments

Local carriers offer the collaborated cloud and network service that benefits from their understanding of the regulations operating in different vertical markets.
In this interview, Cliff Grossner from IHS Technology talks about how this advanced service can support business agility and flexibility.
LRTV Custom TV
VeEX: Live from SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Cyrille Morelle, VeEX's President and CEO, talks with Light Reading's Alan Breznick live from the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo 2016. They discuss DOCSIS 3.1 technology, deployments and early lessons learned. New products on display include the CX350s-D3.1, CX380s-D3.1, CX310, AT2500-3G, FX150 OTDR and MTT WiFI Air Expert.
LRTV Custom TV
Smith Micro's Carrier-Grade WiFi Component

10|17|16   |     |   (0) comments

Join Carol Wilson of Light Reading as she interviews the CTO of Smith Micro, Dave Sperling.
Upcoming Live Events
November 3, 2016, The Montcalm Marble Arch, London
November 30, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York City
December 1, 2016, The Westin Times Square, New York, NY
December 6-8, 2016, The Westin Excelsior, Rome
May 16-17, 2017, Austin Convention Center, Austin, TX
All Upcoming Live Events
Hot Topics
Attacks Have Major Internet Sites on the Ropes
Brian Santo, Senior editor, Test & Measurement / Components, Light Reading, 10/21/2016
Trump: Dump AT&T/TW & Comcast/NBC
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/24/2016
T-Mobile: AT&T & TW Means Ma Bell Not Focused on Mobile
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 10/24/2016
Layer3 TV Comes to Town, Hints at Future
Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, 10/21/2016
Verizon Wants More Data on Yahoo Breach
Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading, 10/20/2016
Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
BETWEEN THE CEOs - Executive Interviews
Join us for an in-depth interview between Steve Saunders of Light Reading and Alexis Black Bjorlin of Intel as they discuss the release of the company's Silicon Photonics platform, its performance, long-term prospects, customer expectations and much more.
There's no question that, come 2020, 5G technology will turn the world's conception of what mobile networking is on its head. Within the world of 5G development, Dr. ...
Animals with Phones
'Oh, Were You Looking for This?' Click Here
'I was just playing some games...'
Live Digital Audio

A vital part of increasing the number of women in comms is transforming the ways companies can support and empower women. While progressive company policies that support both men and women in achieving work-life balance are a step in the right direction, creating a company culture that supports those policies can at times be more challenging.

During this show, we'll talk to Lynn Comp, Senior Director of Industry and Sales Enabling (ISE) in the Network Platforms Group at Intel, about why those challenges exist and how companies can overcome them. She'll provide insight into how Intel has worked to create a culture that supports work-life balance, and provide steps and guidance for other companies wishing to do the same. We will also leave plenty of time to get your questions answered live on the air.