Leading Lights 2017 Finalists: Most Innovative SDN/SD-WAN Products & Deployment

Software-defined networking (SDN) has certainly caught on with vendors, so for the best strategy category in this year's Leading Lights, we tried to focus on the entries that took a holistic view. Plenty of point products are adding programmability to specific parts of the network, but which vendors are vying for big-picture changes?

We took our best shot at shortlisting the entries that displayed that kind of vision. And if you're wondering about SD-WAN, take a look at the service-provider finalists on the next page.

The winners will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 15, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. The following day, the Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of networking, learning and fun.

To find out which companies were shortlisted in all of this year's Leading Lights categories, see Leading Lights 2017: The Finalists.

Adtran: Mosaic
SDN has its roots in the data center, but Adtran is among the companies bringing it to the carrier access network. Mosaic is the company's software-defined access architecture, meant give carriers flexible and automated ways to provide high-speed services regardless of media; it supports NG-PON2 and 5G for instance.

The platform is compliant with the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) architecture, so it's pointing toward a future that has more to do with data centers than with traditional COs. The Mosaic OS is based on open source components and was built with SDN programmability in mind.

Adtran says Mosaic is in more than 100 G.fast trials and 20 CORD trials.

Infinera: Xceed Software Suite
Continuing our theme of "taking SDN into other places," optical networking vendors have long been trying to weave Layer 1 into the carrier SDN narrative. For Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN), that's taken the form of Xceed, a software component for a multilayer SDN deployment. Xceed includes an SDN controller based on OpenDaylight, so it's an interesting example of bringing openness and open source into the optical world.

Xceed's Dynamic Bandwidth application handles provisioning of OTN circuits as well as Ethernet services. Another application called Instant Virtual Networks allows for the creation of many virtual transport networks on one physical network. Xceed also contributes to the Instant Network capabilities that Infinera announced at OFC in March.

Rival Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) has its own take on transport SDN, including the Liquid Spectrum set of capabilities launched just before OFC. Ciena did not submit a Leading Lights entry for Liquid Spectrum. (See Ciena Adds Apps for Optical Network Flexibility.)

Nuage Networks: VSP
While Nuage Networks has joined the ranks of SD-WAN vendors, it's getting Leading Lights consideration more for the overall SDN strategy and its Virtualized Services Platform (VSP). SD-WAN is only a byproduct of that strategy; in fact, Nuage's Virtualized Network Services (VNS) technology was available before the "SD-WAN" term was invented.

Having said that, Nuage's headlines lately have mostly been around SD-WAN. Announced customer wins for VNS include British Telecom, China Telecom, Telia and Vodafone. (Nuage also announced a deal with Telefónica this week, but that arrived too late to count for Leading Lights consideration.) It all stems from the fact that Nuage -- now part of Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) -- was one of the earlier SDN players to specifically target carrier networks rather than data centers.

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