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Transformation and Practical Automation on Display at MEF '19

portrait of Tim Doiron

November 25, 2019
By Tim Doiron
Sr. Director, Solution Marketing

I am on my way home from the MEF ’19 conference in Los Angeles, California.  Since it’s starting to get colder in Chicago, my thought on Monday morning’s flight out to LA was that some extra sunshine and warm weather wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to me.  Upon my arrival at LAX I was not disappointed, as I was greeted with 70-degree weather and a blinding reminder that I should have packed my sunglasses.  Unfortunately, my taxi ride to the JW Marriott was about the extent of my outdoor adventures, as the remaining three days were packed with nonstop MEF meetings, presentations, and deep customer discussions.

Transformation and Federation

The three main themes at this year’s MEF conference were transformation, federation, and certification.  Embedded in these themes and consistent with our own thinking is the need to transform the network to drive down costs and improve operational efficiency.  There were a number of presentations that talked about the need to make the networks more open and programmable and easier to configure and lifecycle-manage.

Network orchestration and service orchestration were top of mind, including federation across domains, as well as inter-carrier federation to make service delivery easier for enterprise customers and to eliminate logical and geographical service delivery boundaries.  Listening to the many challenges that were addressed in the presentations and our discussions with service providers, I believe Infinera’s focus on delivering practical automation solutions that help service providers drive operational complexities and challenges out of the network is right on point.

The feedback from the service providers and several industry analysts we spoke with was that our practical automation approach is both refreshing and aligned with the practical business needs of service providers to demonstrate incremental progress in reasonable timeframes.  The big bang software automation approach that attempted to redo everything all at once has simply not succeeded, and it’s time to get real and make incremental progress in a step-by-step fashion.

If we can focus and improve one area of the network, and then another, and string a series of improvements together while keeping our target destination in mind, we can get there while also maintaining support from upper management and demonstrating return on investment along the way.

Someone once asked: How do you eat an elephant?  The answer of course is one bite at a time.

An Antidote for the Uncertainty Caused by Changing Traffic Patterns

There were many presentations about the changes that edge computing will bring to the network.  The need to distribute computing resources into the network and beyond the central core will have profound impacts on network traffic patterns.  A portion of the traffic that passed from the network edge to the core will be serviced locally or regionally with distributed computing resources in order to meet service requirements like latency and privacy.

Network and traffic planning will be disrupted and harder to predict.  We don’t have to wait for mass commercial adoption of edge computing to see this happen.  We already see traffic pattern disruptions due to an explosion in the number of inter-carrier network peering points. Gone or the days when two service providers in the U.S. only had three direct peering points – one each in LA, Chicago, and Los Angeles.  Peering points are being expanded to more than 30 cities as service providers seek to reduce transit costs and latency of delivery.

The indeterminate nature of changing traffic patterns is already making it harder for service providers to know what capacity equipment to plan and purchase for the network, including IP/MPLS routers for transport.  Infinera’s CNOS/DRX distributed routing solution is a great example of how we can help service providers overcome such uncertainty by enabling them to deploy the right capacity where they need it and easily expand it as they grow with our Lego-like stacking approach.

Machine Learning for Network Health

Finally, our proof of concept demonstration provided a clear example of how streaming telemetry from our optical infrastructure can provide source data to feed an intelligent analytics and machine learning engine to identify and predict potential issues in the network well before they happen.  I would like to give a shout-out to both CenturyLink and Telia Carrier for their close collaboration with us on the demonstration to create real-world scenarios with practical applications in today’s network.

I want to take a minute to also say thank you to Stan Hubbard, MEF Marketing Director, and the entire MEF team for another well-run event.  Nice work.

I’ll Be Back

Well that’s a wrap from what was sunny Los Angeles.  As I headed from the hotel to LAX for my flight back to Chicago, the temperature had dropped 30 degrees, and it had been rainy and overcast since the day before.  It’s OK though, because as Arnold once said in The Terminator: “I’ll be back!”

Safe travels everyone.