If its adaptive, its Ciena

If you go to Ciena’s facility in Kanata Canada, and miss the signage stating that “If its adaptive, its Ciena” you’re eyes must be closed.  Through presentation after presentation, but more importantly demo after demo with real software and hardware, Ciena hammered home its laser-like goal: deliver flexibility and automation to all layers of the network. It was an exciting and compelling week.

Hardware defines the possible.

While many associate operations and automation with software, this week’s heavy focus on leading edge hardware reminded us just how critical hardware advances are to the issue.  Why?  Because it provided confirmation of tomorrow’s capabilities – the “knobs, speeds and feeds” that management systems can control, and must monitor, model, and inventory.  Management software, after all, plays a supporting role to wring the absolute most flexibility and performance from the trillions of dollars that will be invested in global networks over the next decade.  In fact, the changes in Cloud, SDN/WAN and underlying transport (including adaptable optics) mean we, as an industry must rethink long held assumptions regarding automation, best practices and the art of the possible.  (See our recent Market Outlook on “OSS Sea Change” for a more expansive discussion)

In our demos we saw a raft of hardware advances.  While we must respect our NDA, its worth relaying that Ciena showed a range of developments that will lead to higher speeds, greater densities, but most importantly, great “remote control” flexibility via remote orchestration, from understanding real-world optical path performance to configuring paths at Layers 0,1,2 and 3; in the core, access and even front and back-haul for 5GNR.

The take-away is that optical and packet hardware are rapidly becoming more and more configurable — or  in Ciena-speak, “adaptive”.

But software enables reality.  And automation.

For what is clearly a hardware-centric firm, Ciena put software, and specifically its rapidly expanding Blue Planet solar system, front and center.  Their message, with which we agree , was “successful automation demands both capable hardware and ambitious software”.  Software in fact often makes sense out of chaos.  When Layers 0,1,2 and 3 can all dynamically change, there is great power and great danger.  Ciena showed software that does, or will:

  • coordinate across layers and logical dependencies
  • federate and cleanse physical and logical inventory views, and expose it as a common resource
  • automatically calculate paths and routes, both for fulfillment and healing
  • Automatically identify faults, determine the likely root cause, and remediate

Most importantly, Ciena showed how the software pieces fit together to, over time, deliver higher levels of automation, and to automate based on far more accurate and timely data.  Since experience indicates that bad data is the enemy of automation (and who wants to automate errors?), we found this particularly encouraging.

Centina Systems: The Blue Planet Family Expands

Vectors was effectively the first opportunity for Ciena, and the Blue Planet software BU, to explain the recent acquisition of Centina Systems in the greater context.   While relatively small, Centina systems has a strong roster or Tier-1 and Tier-2 customers (including Verizon and Shaw), and a deep library of network adapters, both important tactical assets to Ceina’s management software aspirations.  More strategically though, Centina completes Blue Planet’s closed loop (its orbit?) by providing the data, event/trigger generation and analytics necessary to instruct orchestration in automated healing and scaling.  We have not had the opportunity to deep dive on Centina or the proposed integration, but it is very consistent with Blue Planet’s consistent goal of enabling automation.

Interested readers can buy Appledore’s (pre Centina) solution profile covering Blue Planet and automation in our research library.


Image courtesy of Francis Haysom