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DZS adds cloud clout with RIFT buy

Going to the M&A well a second time in 2021, DZS has acquired RIFT, a provider of network orchestration and automation software. DZS will now look to deploy the technology to a global installed base of some 20 million mobile and fixed broadband products.

RIFT and its open source "RIFT.ware" offering gives DZS an overarching software-defined network and software orchestration automaton tool that can be offered as a standalone product or in tandem with DZS's fixed and mobile networking products. RIFT will also help form the basis of DZS Cloud, a new portfolio/pillar that will also include AI and data analytics capabilities, and be offered alongside the company's historical focus on broadband and access transport products and its existing SDN operating system.

RIFT adds "a big missing ingredient for us," Charlie Vogt, DZS's CEO, said.

DZS didn't disclose the purchase price or say how many RIFT employees are joining the company. But the deal does include RIFT's software development center in Bangalore, India, and a product operations center in Boston.

Vogt said the deal will provide cloud-based management tools that can facilitate the move by operators to more distributed mobile and fixed network architectures, including the ongoing shift by mobile operators to 5G and activities centered on new open RAN setups. The company also believes RIFT's platform will help DZS gain a higher level of management for its base of deployed products and a new layer of data analytics, automation and predictive analysis.

"The biggest opportunity is to unlock the value that is our installed base," Vogt said.

DZS also expects the deal to help it add a few clients and pursue deals with operators looking for a partner that can provide a full stack of cloud management and network elements. However, DZS will continue to support cloud management and automation systems from other suppliers.

"It's a strategy to embrace open [networks] and customer choice," Andrew Bender, DZS's chief technology officer, said, noting that DZS will continue to use standard APIs to make functions interchangeable. "In some cases, [customers] might make independent decisions on orchestration or SDN control or the access domain."

The deal also puts DZS in competition with companies with pure-play orchestration platforms and in more competition with vendors, such as Nokia and Ciena, that also offer automation and orchestration products in their broader repertoires.

"But it's adjacent and a natural extension to our business," Vogt said. "We're not going out into left field. This is something that's really a necessity ... for the fixed and mobile side."

Vogt opening his M&A playbook

The deal is another indicator that Vogt, CEO of DZS since last August, is in the early stages of an expansion drive focused on strategic M&A – a playbook that he used extensively while CEO of Imagine Communications and Genband.

In January, DZS acquired Optelian, a Canada-based optics company focused on coherent technologies that gives DZS a path to 200-Gig and 400-Gig transport capabilities. It was the first acquisition for DZS with Vogt at the helm.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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