Telecom network operators have not determined their strategies for moving to software-defined networking (SDN). This makes now a good time for strategic moves such as Ericsson's collaboration with Ciena, the deal's architect says. (See How Will Ciena + Ericsson Play Out?)
Jan Haglund, vice president and head of IP and broadband at Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), told us the partners will be able to bring a higher level of competency to guiding those transitions than either could separately. Ericsson specifically will be able to direct its investments toward the IP aspect of the next generation of networking as Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) handles the packet-optical space.
"It means we can focus our increased investment on IP going forward with our SSR platform and yet have access to world-leading optical technology, including Ciena WaveLogic Technology," Haglund said. Ericsson is honoring "customer commitments" to its own packet-optical equipment, but Ciena has a superior market position in a critical area for SDN.
The next shoe will drop at the Mobile World Congress, where Ericsson will unveil a pre-integrated bundle of operations support/business support tools that enable operators to deploy new services quicker in the virtualized world. (See CenturyLink, Ericsson Leverage Legacy for Agile IT.)
Ericsson is already helping customers deploy SDN in some scenarios, such as service orchestration and service chaining, but he said the packet-optical space represents a more complex transition. (See Ericsson Balances 'Open' Future, Legacy Past.)
- I think the packet optical space we are attacking with Ciena is a little bit more complex because it hits on a larger installed base. I think that is why we see this partnership as so beneficial, because it will require the kind of competency we have, both in Ericsson and Ciena, to take it forward from a technology point of view, to migrate the installed base, and understand all the benefits.
Haglund sees two basic approaches emerging in this transition phase. One is to use SDN to control the legacy installed equipment base and newer virtualized gear, phasing out the legacy equipment as it makes sense to do so. The other approach uses a network overlay, with new traffic and services being deployed on a separate SDN network, while investment and traffic growth on the old network is frozen. "Both of these strategies are in their infancy, and operators are largely undecided on how to go about it. I think it is a new area, so now is exactly the right time to start discussing these kinds of projects."
Migration is the key to making SDN a reality for Ericsson's telecom operator customers, most of which are under pressure to develop services, expand network capacity, and make the most of their spectrum as consumers use more wireless data and competition drives down prices. It is imperative to determine the quickest and most cost-effective means of getting to the stage where both SDN and network functions virtualization will enable faster rollout of services to generate revenue and more efficient use of network resources to tackle the capacity challenge, Haglund said. (See Ericsson Unveils Virtual EPC .)
A core element of the Ericsson-Ciena strategy will be using Ericsson's assets in the network management realm (where its acquisition of Telcordia and ConceptWave play heavily) to help network operators with all aspects of the virtualization migration, including the core back-office systems.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading