If asked what word you would use to sum up 2017 for our industry, what would it be? Transformative? Software-centric? Complex? Much like “dog years”, a year in our industry can feel like seven years’ worth of action crammed into one. 

Which trends are Ciena pros anticipating will dominate the industry in 2018? Here’s what they expect the industry to be buzzing about this year: 

1.     2018 will set the stage for the “adaptive network” 

Steve Alexander, Chief Technology Officer, told eWeek that he expects the escalated evolution of intelligent networks to be at the forefront of 2018 discussions. 

The stage is now set for the next evolution in networking – using hardware, software, analytics and services to make the network run more efficiently, be more responsive and act on operators’ policies faster than ever before. End users are asking for more – and networks must be built to adapt to these requests as they occur, not days or months later. 

This brings an incredible opportunity for network providers. This next network will grow smarter, be more agile, and be far more responsive in anticipating and reacting to the voracious appetite for bandwidth of our increasingly demanding customer population.


2.    
The 5G drumbeat intensifies

Ravi Mali, Regional Sales Director, told Intelligent CIO that with the excitement for 5G, there will be a greater need for a demand-driven infrastructure to support 5G and the Internet of Things.  

As certainty around 5G builds, we can expect to see carriers ramp up network investments to enable the technology. As with pre-5G, we can expect to see a wide-ranging use of SDN and NFV to virtually ‘slice’ the network to provide appropriate service performance for various new high-bandwidth services, not least the region’s growing smart city applications. 

5G will soon become standardized and we believe it will be the hottest topic in the regional telecoms industry for years to come. 

To support high bandwidth consumer applications like 5G, as well as massively distributed IoT networks, a new driver will emerge in multi-layer integration – virtual network functionality integrated with transport layer agility. Providers will need to adopt a demand-driven network where bandwidth is supplied based on real-time customer requirements, rather than on a pre-planned view of what should be required.  

Developing increasingly intelligent networks, deploying advanced software solutions and the quest to accomplish this at a fair price will be the name of the game for network operators in 2018. 

3.     VNF is ripe for the taking 

Tim Pearson, Senior Director of SDN, NMS and Tools, relayed to Virtual Strategy Magazine that there is a significant need to develop increasingly intelligent and responsive networks, deliver new software, analytics and automation as well as services for an increasingly demanding customer population. 

There is currently a lack of commercial incentive to collaborate on the infrastructure to build and deploy virtual network functionality (VNF). VNF is an unrealized opportunity as the technical basics are outweighed by the operational challenges of deployment – everything from operations, administration, and maintenance (OAM), ownership of failure modes, and more. 

A cohesive infrastructure is needed to deliver solutions to the service provider industry, otherwise providers will struggle with bespoke solutions with limited scalability. If the industry wants to get serious about VNF deployment, then collaboration and standards (de facto or otherwise) will have to be developed that take into the account practical deployment challenges. 

4.     A substantial increase in demand for subsea bandwidth 

Jatinder Khurana, Regional Director Sales, India, pointed out to Voice and Data that the industry will see a substantial increase on the demand for bandwidth to support the escalating anticipation of the adaptive network. 

In APAC, data consumption grew in 2017 due to drops in data tariffs and smartphone prices. In 2018, the expansion of 4G networks will support continued growth in data consumption. Growth in mobile access speeds will result in more data flowing between data centers, which is increasingly the major contributor to subsea bandwidth demands. 

Thankfully, innovative technologies such as adaptive modulation and new wet plant designs are available to help service providers increase the capacity of submarine cables. 

5.     IoT will put dramatic pressure on network operators 

Anup Changaroth, Senior Director, APAC CTO Office and Strategic Business Development, predicts in this Networks Asia article that the growth of IoT use cases and the corresponding growth of IoT sensors will have a dramatic impact on network operators this year. 

IoT will push network demand to the edge of the network, pressuring operators to quickly deploy more connections at faster speeds, while monitoring and managing the performance of those connections to deliver thousands of end-user services. 

In response to these market pressures, carriers will place compute power and high-capacity connectivity closer to end users; both man and machine. This will create a strong market for new edge access and aggregation products as carriers seek to boost network availability at the edge while optimizing costs and closing the service delivery gap. 

6.     DCI expansion is white hot in the CALA region 

Hector Silva, Chief Technology Officer of Central American and Latin America, expressed in the recent Ciena Insights podcast that in the CALA region, 2018 is ALL about DCI.

The DCI market is growing globally, but in the CALA region specifically, it’s outpacing the rest of the world. It is extremely important that DCI is being refined, as numerous cloud source apps are a huge part of everyone’s personal lives and businesses. Cloud is and will continue to move more and more to the edge, and to the access of networks.

To prepare for this huge increase in demand of growth in their networks, service providers will need to have highspeed connectivity that links users to the content faster – geography shouldn’t be a factor of convenience, the content delivery should be instantaneous.

Only a month in to 2018 and we have already begun to experience a monumental shift of focus onto 5G, adaptive networks, and the network solutions needed to bring these colossal giants to fruition - I can’t wait to see what the next eleven months have in store.