Evaluating entries for the Leading Lights award category of Best Telecom Product is inherently the most difficult job that exists at Light Reading. Don't let anyone tell you different. Dry cleaning Steve Saunders's chicken outfit? Easy. Spending a day as Ray Le Maistre's coffee go-fer? Not easy, necessarily, but still much less difficult than sizing up the Best Telecom Product entries.
The biggest challenge with Best Telecom Product is that it's never an apples-to-apples comparison. The entries are not all optical products, or cloud solutions, or even all hardware or all software. This category also receives, by far, more entries than any other category. Though we received almost 50 entries for Best Telecom Product this year, we were determined to whittle the list down to no more than 10 finalists. We did not succeed. Competition for that tenth spot was just too intense, so we expanded our shortlist of finalists to 12.
Here are the first six, in no other order but alphabetical, and tomorrow, we'll highlight the remaining six:
Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) -- Cloudband 2.0 -- The latest release to what in many respects was a genre-defining cloud NFV solution came out in February of this year, making its debut on the global stage of Mobile World Congress, where Alcatel-Lucent and China Mobile ran through a demonstration of how mobile Radio Access Network, Evolved Packet Core (EPC), and IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) functions can be virtualized. The 2.0 release also adds new capabilities such as advanced SDN network control, OpenStack infrastructure management, and an enhanced operator portal for different roles and responsibilities.
- Alcatel-Lucent Lays Out Its NFV Plans
- How Alcatel-Lucent Set a Telco Cloud Example
- Alcatel-Lucent Creates NFV Community
Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) -- WaveLogic Photonics -- 2014 is shaping up to be the year of increasing software intelligence at the optical layer, with the goal of changing the network operational model from one of "configuring" to "programming." Ciena's WaveLogic Photonics package delivers in a major way, with capabilities such as an integrated optical time domain reflectometer for remote testing of deployed fiber, reducing the operational costs of field testing with portable OTDR units.
The package, already deployed by several carriers despite debuting less than three months ago, has other capabilities that include programmable line amplifiers, Smart Raman, customizable Reconfigurable Optical Add/Drop Multiplexer (ROADMs) configurations, and intelligent control plane from metro to core. This gives operators the ability to respond to new service requests quickly while reducing the need for upfront forecasting and traffic capacity planning.
Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) -- Network Convergence System -- When Cisco announced its NCS last fall, the big dog of the system -- the NCS 6000 core router -- was viewed in some quarters as a do-over of the company's CSR-X platform, and the announcement itself as just a core router announcement. But, from a broader perspective, the NCS is a network fabric that represents the physical and virtual infrastructure of Cisco's Evolved Programmable Network. It now looks to have been an early move to deliver greater levels of programmability, and provide support for NFV and SDN in a converged environment, which is the way many customers will have to live with these transformational trends.
The 400Gbit/s nPower X1 processor behind the NCS fabric is key to the system, as it brings performance to handle "Internet of Things"-scale transactions, but also puts greater programmability into play.
Coriant -- Intelligent Optical Control -- Most of the attention Coriant got during the past year revolved around the company's efforts to build an optical version of Frankenstein's monster out of assets acquired from NSN, Sycamore, and Tellabs. However, Coriant also found time to provide its own take on the concept of increasing optical network intelligence.
The IoC is a modular online network management, provisioning and planning tool that allows automated, real-time management of optical network assets and capacity. It's service set-up agility comes through its ability to have more comprehensive control over all planned and installed network resources. It accounts for the ONF's three networking layer SDN model, but adds an application to the top-most layer to automate operational procedures, and incorporates an SDN controller to the middle layer, designed to exploit the intricacies of the optical layer through overseeing the network elements in the infrastructure layer. This allocates only the minimum transport capacity required for packet services, monitors for congestion, and reroutes client services to different optical VPNs when required. This automated intelligence brings the photonic layer into concert with higher networking layers.
Cyan Inc. -- Blue Planet Carrier Ethernet Services API -- Built to the Carrier Ethernet 2.0 standard, this solution, announced in February, is the first SDN northbound API for service management and orchestration across the WAN. The solution continues Cyan's aggressive movement on SDN, and goes beyond simple connectivity planning to support path computation, traffic engineering, protection, resource management, and service operations, administration and maintenance (SOAM). It's service creation capabilities also include coordination across multiple network domains, through networking technology layers, and over multi-vendor equipment -- not just homogeneous environments.
Gigamon Systems LLC -- NetFlow Generation Application -- This application offloads a significant processing burden from network switches and routers by handling the generation of NetFlow traffic and usage records in a centralized manner through Gigamon's Unified Visibility Fabric architecture, and sending that information directly to one or more NetFlow collectors or analyzers. Flow Mapping techniques, filtering and replication can be applied to allow very granular control of flow information. The solution represents Gigamon's migration from being an optimizer of the tools infrastructure to actually optimizing the network.
To be continued…
— Dan O'Shea, Managing Editor, Light Reading