As I was preparing my presentation for this week’s Next-Gen Optical Networking (NGON) conference in Nice in the south of France (it’s a tough gig, but someone has to do it…), it forced me to spend a bit of time reflecting on our industry and what is new and interesting. The more I look at it, the more I realize that our industry has become kaleidoscopic, with multiple facets of change from continued optical innovation and vertical segment optimisation to programmability, software automation and virtualization.

My task is to try to digest this and make sense of it in some sort of orderly fashion, so the obvious first thing to check is what the analysts are saying, and Infonetics reported that 1Q16 worldwide optical spending was up 13 percent year on year, and showing positive momentum going forward.  

Well ok, great, but the more I think about it the more I realise that this only tells half the story. Ciena’s business in this space -- and indeed the content and evolution of the NGON conference -- is complex, multifaceted and revolves around constant innovations. WDM and packet optical are delivering ever greater bandwidth, more programmability, lower density, less power consumption and higher security. 

Take products such as Ciena’s 6500 T-Series, real-time hardware-based 100G/200G encryption, and continuous optimisation of Ethernet solutions for Mobile Backhaul and Ethernet Business Services. And let’s not forget the advances in submarine optics delivering even more bandwidth over the existing subsea plant – while these GeoMesh solutions seamlessly link to the terrestrial networks.


A Kaleidoscope of Technologies

And beyond packet optical, Ciena and the NGON conference are also targeting multiple adjacent customers segments with multiple complementary and related solutions.

First, there are the new customers we are addressing with data centre interconnect (DCI) – the ICPs (internet content providers) like Microsoft, and data centre hosting companies, such as Equinix. These guys have been served well in the past with traditional packet optical solutions, but are now demanding optimised DCI solutions such as Waveserver, with simple operations, open interfaces, and cloud based emulation for DevOps self-customisation and agility.

Then there is the new(ish) kid in town, SDN/NFV, and the associated huge customer interest for software-based automation, end-to-end service orchestration, and new virtualised IT network applications.


SDN/NFV and the future of Optical

Having been to many of the recent SDN/NFV centric conferences where sometimes we are still enamored by the technology, it is clear that NGON are approaching this subject from a very pragmatic viewpoint – looking at how we can leverage SDN/NFV to add maximum value to automate packet optical networks and the services they deliver. There is also clear interest and a growing understanding of the importance of having the right software architecture and DevOps approach to SDN/NFV.

Network operators are tired of being reliant on big monolithic software stacks that require expensive professional services and a lot of time to make changes. They now want and value modular (microservices) architectures with DevOps toolkits where they have a choice – be it DIY or 3rd party software development - for service definitions or device resource adaptors.

I hope this blog gives you a feel for why I find it incredibly interesting to work in our part of the industry where the landscape is continually evolving (Kaleidoscopic?) and there is always something new to learn.

It would be great if you get the chance to join me at the Next Gen Optical networking conference in Nice, and you are very welcome to join Ciena’s pre-conference customer workshop on the 28th of June 11.00 – 14.00 with special guest speaker Winston Carrera from BT.