Every vendor of virtualization technology is promising to help network operators get services to market faster, but Calix today is tackling one of the tougher elements of service delivery -- the testing and integration of new gear in the pre-deployment phases.
Its new AXOS Sandbox uses virtual instances of Calix software to let a network operator do the lab testing, BSS and OSS integration work, and software certification needed for new broadband access gear on a virtual machine, much faster and more cheaply. (See Calix Launches AXOS Sandbox.)
"This makes a lot of sense because it actually addresses all the behind-the-scenes stuff that has to happen before you can introduce new broadband access," says Greg Whelan, analyst with Greywale Insights. "Service providers care about two things: taking orders and sending bills. There is a lot of stuff required to take an order and provision a bill. This focuses on all that grunt stuff and how to do it faster."
What the AXOS Sandbox does is allow Calix broadband customers to download its broadband access system software and drop it into a virtual machine to enable a series of tests, cutting out a swathe of physical lab processes normally performed by a small army of people before new applications can be rolled out, notes Alan DiCicco, senior director of solutions marketing for Calix.
"This helps us solve the problem on the front end, where we are log-jammed up by the processes that exist today," DiCicco tells Light Reading. "Service providers are not only waiting for hardware, they have to be able to test the network to scale, to integrate to a number of back-office systems. They have multiple certification processes, in some cases hundreds of engineers and multiple labs across the country -- an individual lab might have 5,000 pieces of equipment in it."
Coordination of all that work at larger carriers is a major time-consuming process while at smaller operators, there may not be enough engineers to do the work in a timely manner, notes analyst Whelan. "If you walk into some of these big labs, they weren't planned with a ton of foresight," he says. Equipment is added as it is being tested for deployment and over the years, all that piles up. "It's worse when you leave the Central Office and move into the access network, where you are looking at telephone poles. There are a lot of things to do to offer new services."
The Calix AXOS Sandbox moves all the pre-deployment integration into a much easier virtualized process, DiCicco says, speeding up time to deployment and thus time to service and revenue. It uses open standard interfaces including Netconf/Yang and OpenFlow, and has been in use internally at Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) for some time now. The company has been making it available for customer download since last fall and is now formally announcing the product.
"I can test every management interface and it's a real production environment," DiCicco says.
Anything that simplifies broadband deployment will be attractive to the Calix traditional customer base of smaller telcos but also to larger operators as well, says Whelan. "Compared to a pretty data center, access is tough, broadband is tough, but it is mandatory for survival so they have to figure out a way to do it. And this is going to help with the hard stuff."
For Calix, the AXOS Sandbox is also a competitive tool in its battle against competitors such as Adtran, Huawei and Nokia, all of whom are trying to capture the broadband access market in the US and abroad and promising virtualized systems to do that.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading
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