While cloud and software rightly get plenty of attention in industry coverage, Nokia’s SReXperts/Wavelength event offers an important window into progress and innovation in places that end users likely never see – and where most of the money in telecom is actually spent.

After several years of Covid-induced delay, Nokia’s SReXperts and Wavelengths shows were back recently, complete with in-depth access to experts, demos, and even hands-on with hardware and software.

Appledore attended Nokia’s annual Americas IP+Optical event, held this year in Orlando Florida. The event was well attended, with a broad audience from many sectors (cable, telco, enterprise) and geographies (including non-US). The primary audience for this show is Nokia’s customer base and, presumably, integration partners, as well as those who select, specify, buy, and integrate these products. Consequently, the show is a balanced mixture of cool new tech, important upgrades, new features, API extensions, and best practices.

This is really two events running in parallel – SReXperts for routing and Wavelengths for the optical side. While Appledore focused primarily on the routing side of the show (SReXperts), much of the news blurred the lines between the two with significant focus on cross-layer management, pluggable optics on SR-series routers, and modern management methods such as intent being applied across the board. It became apparent that Nokia is implementing common methods across products, whether they are access systems, core systems, service and PE systems, optical, or IP/routing. Nearly every process had a closed loop taking telemetry and analytical data and feeding it back to repair or improve a product, service or path. Similarly, nearly every system emphasized intent-based or declarative operations.

“We are seeing capabilities in network technology that make possible things we have only wished for over the past decades. Those of us who focus on automation and control software have a new sandbox of opportunity.” – Grant Lenahan, Appledore Research

Nokia’s elevator pitch was “faster, cheaper per TB, lower power and TCO, more upgradeable, and closed loop automation support pretty much at every turn”. Mid-show they threw an innovative curveball, showcasing a clever way to ride the opensource and Kubernetes train and apply it to networking.

Some trends stood out including:

  • open interfaces (both in IP and optical).
  • a huge focus on automation, intent-based operations and automation.
  • integration across layers 0 through 3 for both visualization and automated operations.
  • …and of course, the constant drumbeat of performance/speed improvements – some of which demand truly exciting efforts (and brought out my inner geek).

Nokia showcased automated DDoS mitigation, automated fiber impairment mitigation, faster packet processing chipsets, faster and more upgradeable chassis, faster (see a pattern here?) router chassis and “backplanes”, as well as upgrades to nearly all their software – from giants like NSP (network services platform, aka SDN+ controller) to smaller point apps and new developments for edge clouds.

We go into much greater depth in the full Research Note (free to subscription customers, modest paywall for others).

Throughout, there was a continued drumbeat of open interfaces, open-source components, and a recognition that telecom is but one of many players in the API-sphere, and that ought to be a guiding principle in how we manage and automate networks – not exactly the historical mindset of CSPs.

Events like SReXperts/Wavelength remind us that no matter what capabilities are added to automation software (“NAS”), our fundamental limit is the capabilities of underlying network hardware. And 90% of this event was about just those capabilities and how to harness them.

For Grant Lenahan’s full 10+ page debrief on SReXperts, click here

Image courtesy of Getty Images/iStockphoto