Technology visions can take many different forms, but the companies that make our shortlist in this category -- Apstra, Cohere and Juniper -- have all been investing in technologies that will be critical for the communications service providers of the future, including 5G, intent-based networking and virtualization.
The winner of the award is due to be announced on Monday, May 14, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. On the following day, Light Reading's Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of learning, networking and fun.
Readers can find out more about the companies that were shortlisted across all award categories here.
But let's provide some more details on the candidates shortlisted for the communications technology vision award.
A startup dedicated to the concept of intent-based networking, Apstra claimed to have pioneered the world's only multi-vendor intent-based network back in June 2016. It has subsequently enjoyed more commercial success than a range of other IBN specialists, according to a recent Heavy Reading report, and is turning its attention from the data center and enterprise world to the service provider industry.
While that transition may take several years, Apstra's hardware-independent technology may hold plenty of attractions for prospective customers. A "closed loop" system, it has been designed to automate the full lifecycle of network operations and can "configure, fix and defend itself," says the company. But what makes Apstra stand out from the crowd is its ability to work across major vendors and open alternatives. With interoperability still a pressing concern in the telco world, that could prove essential.
Cohere Technologies made the headlines in March this year when it was revealed to be working with Spain's Telefónica on trials of its turboConnect-branded fixed wireless access technology. That technology is based on a new modulation scheme called orthogonal time-frequency and space (OFTS), which has been designed to bring major improvements regarding spectral efficiency over the traditional OFDM modulation.
Telefónica's interest would be enough to mark Cohere out, but the company has also raised investment from cable giant Altice and Australia's Telstra. Both of those companies as well as Charter Communications have also been conducting trials of turboConnect. Expect to hear a lot more about the company as 5G testing and deployment gets underway.
As one of the world's biggest vendors of IP network equipment, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) needs little introduction. But while the company has a long history in the networks market, its self-driving network initiative is taking Juniper in a different direction. Like other companies that have thrown their weight behind the concept of intent-based networking, Juniper is now developing technologies that can automatically adapt to their environment and take corrective action when problems emerge.
Juniper deserves marketing plaudits for applying the "self-driving" label in a network context. And while the initiative includes too many components to describe in detail here, its work on designing bots for so-called "intelligent automation" warrants a mention. They mean a technician can describe the desired outcome for a specific network task, which the bot will then figure out how to deliver. "We can... merge some of these bots, [and] create... super bots to go do some higher layer things that could be integrated into an orchestration system," said Donyel Jones-Williams, Juniper's director of product marketing management, in an interview with Light Reading in December.
— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading