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Ciena Agrees to Buy Centina, Keeps Kicking OSS

Phil Harvey
10/3/2019

Is Ciena becoming an OSS provider?

The company says no, but it has been active in acquiring several vendors that solve specific carrier problems that stem from having an outdated back office.

Ciena announced on Thursday that it would acquire privately held Centina for an undisclosed sum. Plano, Texas-based Centina provides software to help carriers by giving them the analytics necessary to provide service assurance and monitor their networks. The acquisition will close by the end of this year.

"This looks like a nice tuck-in for Ciena and a good exit for Centina as they were a small player in a competitive field (service assurance) that is increasingly being morphed into closed-loop, self-healing orchestration platforms (like ONAP) rather than a clearly separate category," said James Crawshaw, a senior analyst at Heavy Reading, in an email exchange with Light Reading.

"Centina had a fairly low profile but were active in a number of TMForum catalyst projects," Crawshaw recalls. "They claimed to have some Tier 1 wins in North America (an MSO and an MNO) and Europe, but named customers were quite small … They joined Ciena's Blue Orbit ecosystem in 2016, but they also had a strategic partnership with Fujitsu."

Fujitsu began reselling Centina solutions related to SLA management of Carrier Ethernet services back in 2013.

The move to acquire Centina fits in with what Ciena CEO Gary Smith has said regarding the company's overall software strategy.

When I spoke with Smith on a recent podcast he noted that the main opportunity for the vendor in the carrier software space was in helping service providers automate their networks.

"The challenge that most of the carriers [have] is their back office … it was not designed to deliver data and video. It was designed to deliver, you know, phone service to your house and your enterprise. And so this need to automate their networks to be able to deliver these new kinds of traffic is really what's driving that."

Smith continued: "The challenge they have is how do they automate the delivery and creation of those services. And so it's things like inventory -- what have they got on their network? -- route optimization, and then just pure orchestration of the connectivity.

"Those are the things that are, that are driving that as they seek over time to replace their legacy OSS systems," Smith said.

That said, Smith was clear that Ciena wasn't going to be a replacement OSS vendor.

He noted that Ciena was interested in making smaller acquisitions of "specific elements" in the carrier's back office. "I don't think our ambition would lie in replacing the full OSS stack. It's really picking off the elements that we think we can deliver good outcomes to. And specifically, you know, in the pain points of these carriers. I would hesitate around thinking we'd be in the broader OSS market," Smith said on the podcast.

Ciena's software group really got going with the vendor's acquisition of Cyan in 2015 for about $400 million. Blue Planet, Cyan's network and services orchestration software, helped update carrier fulfillment and provisioning capabilities, a legacy OSS function.

"Last year they bought Packet Design for IP network performance management and DonRiver for inventory federation," Crawshaw said, via email. "Now they are rounding out the OSS portfolio with service assurance from Centina."

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Phil Harvey, US Bureau Chief, Light Reading

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