Accedian Builds APAC Bridgehead at SK Telecom

Network performance monitoring specialist Accedian Networks has landed itself a role in the mobile network of progressive operator SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM) that, the vendor's management believes, will open further doors across the Asia-Pacific region.

The South Korean operator is deploying a broad range of network technologies from multiple vendors that, in theory, will enable it to run a more automated, programmable and agile network that will pave the way for the introduction of 5G. (See SK Telecom: Small Cells Key to 5G, Q&A: SK Telecom Talks All Things 5G.)

Accedian's SkyLIGHT VCX Controller, a virtualized performance monitoring management tool that is deployed at about 100 network operators globally, is playing a key role in that network strategy by collecting information from cell site and aggregation routers in the operator's multivendor radio access and backhaul network and feeding it in near real time into management and analytics systems. (See SK Telecom Deploys Accedian's Monitoring Tech and Accedian Takes Virtual CPE to the Minimum.)

SK Telecom is already monitoring the performance of about 12,000 basestations using Accedian's gear and is now expanding that, as it builds out its network, to cover more than 50,000 locations servicing about 28 million customers across South Korea.

"SK Telecom is building a self-optimizing network and we're the nervous system in that network," says Patrick Ostiguy, CEO of the Montreal-based vendor. "What is special about this deployment is the way in which SK Telecom is being very innovative and unique in the way it uses the data that is collected -- it is being fed directly into the SDN architecture to enable [network management] automation."

The deployment of Accedian 's technology has been undertaken in parallel with the operator's SDN and big data strategy, says the vendor's VP of solutions development and marketing Scott Sumner. "The performance assurance solution feeds information into the SDN and analytics engines to provide real-time data to the SDN controllers. Any information that is older than 15 seconds smells bad," says the fragrant Sumner, adding that the deployment is part of a "three-year effort that will culminate in a fully-automated network."

That's notable, as network performance data is traditionally used to provide a screen-based view of the infrastructure and stored for retrospective access, whereas SK Telecom is aiming to use it for near instantaneous, automated network resource management decisions. "SK Telecom is heading towards human-free intervention," adds Sumner, who says he expects to see a number of other operators start talking about similar deployments during the coming year.

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Ostiguy says the deal at SK Telecom is "very healthy but not transformational" in financial terms and should generate revenues of more than $10 million over a five-year period.

What could be transformational is the shop window that the South Korean deployment provides, as SK Telecom, along with other Tier 1 operators in the region such as NTT, is regarded as leading edge and innovative in the deployment of next generation technologies, making it influential in Asia-Pacific and beyond. "We started expanding into Asia-Pacific about two years ago and we expect this deployment at SK Telecom to be the catalyst for further business" in the region, says the CEO. "Working with SK Telecom brings prestige," he adds.

Accedian has 210 staff (about half in Montreal), nearly 370 active customers (telcos, cable operators, large enterprises) and has been profitable for a number of years, says the CEO. It is currently generating revenues in the $70 million-$80 million range and, with expected sales growth of more than 20% this year, Ostiguy is looking to hit the $100 million turnover target by the end of 2016.

And what then? Are there any IPO plans? "The focus currently is to hit the $100 million run rate, which will open up possibilities of a financing event," says the CEO.

Accedian has raised a little more than $30 million from investors including Summit Partners , Skypoint Capital Corp. and Rho Ventures . Its most recent round was in August 2010. (See Accedian Lands $19.5M to Expand Sales.)

Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

[email protected] 7/15/2015 | 4:41:09 PM
CPRI @ SKT The TWAMP paths they are covering here are the mesh between aggregation, cell site routers and base stations (largely to macro, so part of what is more normally known as the backhaul), not the fronthaul side where CRAN would be employed -- at least not yet. Not sure what their mix of CPRI vs. Ethernet fronthaul is. Would be a good question for the likes of Gabriel Brown or Patrick Donegan, who probably have a better feel.
bogdanovici 7/15/2015 | 3:43:12 PM
L3 vs CPRI Based Transport Network It appears SK is using TWAMP to characterize performance of (parts of?) their mobile transport network. To my knowledge, TWAMP is L3 performance management protocol. I was under impression SK is one of the larges proponents of CRAN so it would be interesting to learn what % of their sites is on L3 backhaul vs. CPRI fronthaul.
[email protected] 7/15/2015 | 2:07:31 PM
Automated Analytics I think the difference this time is that -- as it has to happen -- someone actually HAS done it. The analytics platfrom SK is showcasing, as recently as at BTE, is deep into their maturity model deployment, and is paying dividends. The driver for them is their 5G network push for the 2018 Olympics - which relies on an SDN underpinning to be pulled off. They've known this for a couple of years and have taken it as their challenge to make this work. I think a trip to Korea to feel what GbE to the UE feels like, is a recommened proof point :)
thebulk 7/15/2015 | 11:44:28 AM
Re: Joined up thinking I think we could argue that it has looked like it was happening a few times. Not sure this time is any different. 
[email protected] 7/15/2015 | 11:39:42 AM
Network Automation I think we will see similar announcements coming in over the coming months, regarding fully automated networking. Many tier-1s are not yet opening the kimono on what they have been up to, but they have moved along in step with SK Telecom - some have larger networks, more complex geographies, more subscribers, etc. that gate their introduction of this type of technology.

The true test of this migration, for most operators, will be if they deploy the instrumentation layer as a groundwork, as SK Telecom did, or if they consider this after they have started working on their SDN architecture. When you get into live network control based on analytics, the performance monitoring becomes a nervous system for control, so needs to be developed along with the control strategy - to allow well planned integration.
Sarah Thomas 7/15/2015 | 10:12:12 AM
Re: Joined up thinking It seems like the industry often waits on SK Telecom or, at least, stays one step behind it, which may not be a bad thing given how innovative the operator is. The stuff about near-100% automation is really interesting. This will be a big proof point for Accedian if it's able to demonstrate more of an ROI stemming from the automation. 

We've been hearing about people challenges (not sure what perople is, but it sounds challenging too) for awhile now. I agree it's as big of an issue as technology, in many cases, but it's time to move beyond it. Adapt or get left behind!!
[email protected] 7/15/2015 | 7:59:20 AM
Joined up thinking Breaking down silos/integrated tech is something I have heard industry execs talking about for years. Now it looks like it's happening, albeit in pockets.

The question is - can other operators afford to wait to see if SK Telecom and its ilk get it right? If they wait too long to start the process of integrating their service provider IT systems, analytics and network resource control functions, it could be too late because it's not something they can do overnight.

As we've said so many times, though, this is as much a perople challenge as it is a technology challenge.
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