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Ciena's Alexander: The Future's Open

Carol Wilson

Ethernet has been a major change element for the telecom world, and it has set a new standard for openness that telecom carriers need to continue to expand. So says Steve Alexander, CTO and senior vice president for Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and a keynote speaker at the upcoming Ethernet and SDN Expo Oct. 2-3 at the Javits Center in New York.

Ciena's Steve Alexander: 'Ethernet is one of the things that can change that world.'
Ciena's Steve Alexander: "Ethernet is one of the things that can change that world."

Alexander plans to bring that message to his presentation, "The Experience of Openness," in large part because he sees the telecom industry poised for a dramatic shift. He told us opening up the network will be crucial.

It's time to open up the network. If you look at what has been accomplished in the conventional IT space, there is open compute, open storage, but there really isn't open networking yet. It is time for connect, computer, and store to come together in all their glory of opening up to build a better programmable platform that people can build businesses on, that applications and services can be built on.

In the past, service providers and supporting vendors attempted to implement standards that enabled open interconnection (Sonet/SDH is a case in point). By the time those standard systems hit the market, they were commonly burdened with vendor-specific enhancements that made interconnection difficult and sometimes impossible. "Historically, that has been very common, but Ethernet is one of the things that can change that world."

Ethernet has had a dramatic impact on carrier networks in recent years, because it represents a global standard that is the same in China as in the US, and it imposes very different expectations on the network for openness, Alexander said.

That doesn't mean vendors won't make enhancements that let their boxes do certain things better. The change here is that now there is an established adopted technology that drives people to opening up connectivity in a way that has never happened before. And specifically, I would point to converged packet-optical, which generally means Ethernet infrastructure, WDM infrastructure, coherent infrastructure, all of those things rolled up into one -- that's a huge enabler for change.

The combination of Ethernet connectivity worldwide and coherent optical over which Ethernet can connect has created a powerful change force in the network. The move to virtualization is the next step, and the industry needs to get it right.

We are at the beginning of a generational shift. We always say that photonics was a revolution 40 years in the making. It has taken all this time to get to this confluence of technologies -- coherent plus the Ethernet in a converged packet-optical approach, the emergence of SDN, OpenFlow, and NFV -- they are all kind of coming in at the right time. And you have basic desire to have connect, compute, and store come together to build a better machine.

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

Interested in learning more on this topic? Then come to the Ethernet & SDN Expo, a Light Reading Live event taking place Oct. 2-3 at the Javits Center in New York City. Co-located with Interop, Light Reading's Ethernet & SDN Expo will focus on how the convergence of Carrier Ethernet 2.0 with emerging carrier software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) technologies could change the whole telecom landscape for service providers. For more information, or to register, click here.

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User Rank: Blogger
9/21/2013 | 12:06:51 PM
A rare occasion
So, this is one of those rare occasions when a true global standard meets market opportunity and technology innovation at the right time. Still, it took a lot of service providers of a certain type to come around to that standard.
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