Where would the communications networking sector be without the efforts of the test and measurement brigade? In a deep, dark and costly virtual hole, basically.
So which of the many players in the test sector have stood out in the past year as influential leaders?
Seven companies made the Outstanding Test & Measurement Vendor shortlist in this year's Leading Lights awards -- find out more about them below.
The winner will be announced at the Leading Lights Awards dinner on Monday, May 15, at Brazos Hall in Austin, Texas. On the following day, the Big Communications Event opens its doors for two days of learning, networking and fun.
To find out which companies were shortlisted across all of this year's Leading Lights categories, please check out this story. (See Leading Lights 2017: The Finalists.)
So let's take a look at our finalists.
EXFO (Nasdaq: EXFO; Toronto: EXF) has had an impressive year, reporting improved revenues and margins and lighting a fire under its share price during the course of the 'Leading Lights year' (March 2016 to March 2017) as it gained more than 70% in value.
The Canadian company has continued to innovate in its core test system sector -- portable Fiber Optic Test Equipment (FOTE) – and has been breaking into new markets, including test tools for data center interconnect (DCI) and submarine networking applications.
The company has also expanded its horizons by striking strategic partnerships and splashing out on some strategic acquisitions, of technology from Absolut Analysis, a specialist in real-time optical RF-over-CPRI protocol analysis, and of network visibility software specialist Ontology Systems.
- EXFO Snaps Up Ontology for Network Visibility
- NEC/Netcracker, EXFO Team on NFV
- EXFO Acquires Optical RF Test Technology from Absolute Analysis
What a year Ixia (Nasdaq: XXIA) has had! Not only has it been expanding its product portfolio into key areas such as next generation Ethernet and network security, but it also announced that it is being acquired for $1.6 billion by Keysite Technologies .
On the technology front, Ixia set the pace by: Bringing 100/50/25 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE) test solutions to market; had the world's first demonstration of a test system running 400GbE with RS-544 Forward Error Correction; showed, with fellow test vendor Viavi, an interoperable 400GbE test system with Forward Error Correction; unveiled CloudStorm, a multi-terabit network security test platform for Hyperscale Data Centers; and shipped 400GbE test tools to customers.
- Keysight Unlocks Ixia Takeover Deal With $1.6B in Cash
- Ixia Boasts 400GbE Demo First
- Ixia Launches Software for Pre-Silicon Testing
- Ixia Delivers First Multi-Terabit Network Security Test Platform for Hyperscale Data Centers
Kentik is a very focused company – but what a focus!
It offers one product, Kentik Detect, a purpose-built, big data-powered solution for network traffic visibility, network performance monitoring and DDoS protection, which is offered as an on-premises deployment or as software-as-a-service (SaaS).
The Kentik system retains and enhances months of network data details, offering "powerful network anomaly detection, cloud-friendly network performance monitoring, DDoS detection and automated mitigation triggering," in addition to "multi-dimensional analytics on billions of rows of data with query responses in a few seconds," the company notes in its Leading Lights submission.
That approach is clearly resonating with the market, as Kentik, having secured some of the biggest names in the world as customers, saw a six-fold uptick in its revenues in 2016 and is expecting a significant sales boost again this year. That progress lead to a Series B funding round in 2016.
Polystar , which boasts scores of major mobile operators as customers, enjoyed "sector-leading revenue growth rates" during 2016 and is expecting another year of sales growth in 2017.
Its major push during the past year has been with its KALIX network analytics system, which was launched in early 2016. KALIX, which is designed to "make data available for all -- democratising network analytics for business and technical teams alike," has already been purchased by seven EMEA operators.
Prisma Telecom Testing
As mobile networks evolve from 4G LTE towards a 5G world, Prisma Telecom Testing Srl is building its business and preparing for a pre-5G explosion in 2018 for its Radio Access Network testing suite, which enables "network operators and infrastructure vendors to validate network performance by emulating real network traffic."
The Italian company's test systems are aligned with the latest 3GPP specifications, enabling Prisma to currently offer LTE-Advanced Pro testing capabilities for Gigabit LTE performance validation. The company showed this capability at MWC 2017, along with signaling verification for unlicensed 5GHz spectrum and multi-standard IoT testing.
Spirent Communications plc is one of the best known names in the communications test sector and, like many of its rivals, has a broad portfolio of test and assurance products.
Also like many other test vendors, it has identified network security as a prime area of potential business growth. To that end it made "significant advances in its application performance and security testing product family," launching its CyberFlood application layer test solution and SecurityLabs, "an ethical hacking service that put Spirent on the map as a full-service, security-testing firm," the vendor noted in its Leading Lights submission.
- Spirent Introduces New Security and Performance Testing Solution for App-Aware Devices and Infrastructures
- Required DDoS Counter-Measure Needs Counter-Counter-Measure
- Spirent Boasts First 200G Ethernet Test System
- Spirent, Calient Team on Hybrid Test Beds
Now well settled as a newly-formed, standalone test business, Viavi Solutions Inc. has been focusing during the past year on securing its position as a leader in a number of key telco, mobile and cable test and measurement markets, a move that has paid off and won the backing of investors – the company's share price increased by almost 49% during the course of the 'Leading Lights year' (March 2016 to March 2017).
Viavi has retained a high or leading share in areas such as DOCSIS and DSL broadband access testing, Ethernet and fiber field test and optical transport network lab testing, in turn strengthening its customer relationships with key network operators, systems vendors and components specialists. In addition it has advanced its portfolio in key areas such as G.fast, DOCSIS 3.1, 400GbE and the testing of virtualization capabilities.
- Viavi Boasts 400G Test Tool Success
- Next Plugfest Gets G.fast Closer to Market
- Viavi's OneExpert Supports Openreach on G.fast Pilot
- Viavi Touts New Testing Tools for 100G, 400G
- Viavi D3.1 Testing Tool Expands Reach to 1.2GHz
— Ray Le Maistre, , International Group Editor, Light Reading