Analytics Systems

Ciena's Blue Planet Packs Analytics Punch

Ciena today unveiled Blue Planet Analytics, built on the same platform as its orchestration system and designed to let network operators rapidly analyze data from their operations for a variety of new business applications.

Ciena is also introducing the first such app, Network Health Predictor (NHP), which will pinpoint failing systems before they cause problems for customers. (See Cisco's Cloud Scale Networking: Automation, Virtualization & Simplification.)

The Blue Planet Analytics computational engine becomes the platform on which applications are then run, including NHP and other Ciena-planned apps but also those developed by third parties and by the customers themselves, using a DevOps tool Ciena plans to deliver, the company says. The underlying platform will take in data from a wide range of network systems and gear from multiple vendors using either industry-standard interfaces or resource adapters which Ciena will provide, similar to those it provides to tie other vendors' gear into its Blue Planet Orchestrator.

Network Health Predictor is "specifically designed to analyze all of the data coming through the network and make predictive decisions on what is going to fail," Joe Cumello, Ciena vice president of portfolio marketing, tells Light Reading in an interview. "We have one customer using it for their IP network, and they have given us two years of data from their network. Our analytics engine is looking at all that data and looking at the network in its existing state. And, based on that data, it can predict if a node is going to fail."

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The idea is to let network operators avoid such failures and the penalties they must pay on service-level agreements when customers have resulting service degradation or outages. But Blue Planet Analytics could be used for much more, he says. The other current Ciena customer using BPA and NHP is a utility company that uses the app to keep its optical network up and running and prevent electrical grid problems.

"The analytics framework is agnostic -- it is not built for networking," Cumello explains. "It is generic in that you can supply, in a data lake, what kind of resource you want data gathered on and the app you build on top of it. It's just like how service templates work on Blue Planet Orchestration -- you just write service templates for what kind of service you want."

Analyzing the vast amount of data every network operator collects on a regular basis to improve network operations and customer experience has long been part of the industry game plan. As Dana Cooperson, research director at Analysis Mason, notes, it's "increasingly important as the network becomes more autonomous and programmable -- it's an essential capability to creating the programmability and autonomy, in fact."

She believes this addition "strengthens the Blue Planet story and should widen its addressable market and strengthen not just Ciena's product opportunity, but its services opportunity as well," since Ciena plans to make the Network Health Protector available as a service from its professional services operation, as well as a capability operators can deploy.

"BPA's initial capabilities do 'align closely' with Ciena's own products; time will tell how well it extends the analytics capabilities and apps and how many third parties jump in," Cooperson adds. "Big data analytics solutions are a bit out of Ciena's core market expertise, so it may be a go-to-business challenge for the company."

To this point, analytics and big data have largely been the purview of operations and support vendors, more than network equipment makers, although Nokia's acquisition of Deepfield could signal its intentions in this arena. (See Deepfield Buy Goes Beyond Telco Opportunities, Says Nokia Exec.)

The dual consumption models -- network operators can buy BPA and NHP and use it themselves and develop apps or buy them elsewhere, or they can buy the capabilities as a service from Ciena -- is intended to let a range of operators take advantage of analytics, whether or not they have their own data scientists, Cumello says. Of its two existing (unnamed) customers, one is a telecom operator using the capability itself on its IP network, and the other is the utility company buying NHP as a service.

One important thing will be avoiding vendor lock-in, Cooperson notes, so communications service providers aren't forced to buy everything from a single vendor. Cumello says Ciena is committed to openness on the BPA platform, as it is with Blue Planet's orchestrator. It will take in data from entities as big as a data center or as small as an individual router and consume those using everything from traditional command line interfaces to newer systems that talk OpenFlow or have their own APIs. That's where the Ciena experience building resource adapters will come in handy.

Ciena sees this as both a money-saving and a revenue-generating opportunity for network operators and analyst Cooperson agrees.

"The saving money would come from better asset utilization, and the making money could be from better customer quality of experience based on proactive troubleshooting and network assurance," she says. "We'll see where the Ciena and third party apps go -- there could be lots of opportunities for revenue upside, but I think those will take a while to materialize, whereas the network efficiency applications will be easier to put in place and are the starting point. Network efficiency and quality are more in Ciena's wheelhouse, for one thing, than are more customer-centric analytics applications."

One possibility, to which Cumello points, would be using analytics to feed customer-facing portals or using the guaranteed uptime opportunities to develop higher-paying services.

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

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