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With the relationship between traditional vendors and service providers broken, Lumina thinks it's found a new way to push SDN into telco networks


via Flickr © vkurland (CC BY 2.0)

  • Silicon Valley start-up woven from Brocade's cast-off SDN assets
  • Open Source first and always
  • Getting SDN out of the labs and into real live networks
  • Good start: begins life with 200 customers including Tier 1 US carriers

Establishing a startup technology company anywhere is a difficult and often fraught process, but launching a new one in the super-heated crucible that is Silicon Valley is particularly daunting, requiring as it does a heady mix of confidence, self-belief, nerve and vision as well as leading-edge technologies, great products, a well-honed strategy, an adaptable business and marketing plan and a sizeable wedge of cold hard cash. A lot of start-ups soon find that can't keep all the plates spinning fast enough or long enough to make a success of their act and the curtain comes down on them with a resounding 'thwack'.

But there are some start-ups with the evident ability and potential to make it and be successful even by the exacting standards of the Valley. One such is Lumina Networks, a brand new company with an exceptional range of factors in its favour as it begins life, not the least of which is its corporate antecedents and the experience of its senior staff.

Led by Lumina's CEO, Andrew Coward, a group of former Brocade employees have bought-out Brocade's SDN controller assets (the bulk of Brocade having been acquired recently by Broadcom) and Lumina's prime objective  is to help service providers get SDN and automation projects out of the lab and into live service provider (SP) networks using open source products.

Speaking exclusively to Telecom TV this morning as Lumina Networks was launched, Andrew Coward said, "Service providers have been testing SDN and automation technologies for more than two years now but they face some severe integration challenges in bringing them out of the lab and into live networks in the outside world. At Lumina we will design, build and deploy network controller-based products and services for service providers and enterprise customers and open source and OpenDaylight are of prime importance to what we are doing."

It seems that Lumina has resolved what, hitherto, has been an intractable challenge for service providers: the ability to make both old and new technologies and network components work together. The elusive but vital ability to meld old and new is being effected by Lumina via the use of open source and OpenDaylight modular platforms to customise and automate networks of any size or scale.

The platforms, in combination with the expertise of Lumina's staff, and the immediate relevance of its products, permit all legacy network equipment and provisioning and management tools to work with all new virtual components. As Andrew Coward said "Lumina is the catalyst that service providers can add to their projects to make that happen via a simple package that guarantees incredibly quick and efficient results."

Fixing the broken relationship between vendors and service providers

Andrew Coward added, "The relationship between traditional vendors and service providers is broken. A new way of working is needed - and that is what Lumina Networks provides." Rather than going down the traditional "long-haul" route to network virtualisation and automation, an approach than can often take two years or more to negotiate and complete, Lumina's development staff work in short, sharp bursts with their service provider and enterprise partners, usually over the period of two weeks at a time spread over the duration of any given project.

These intense spans of concentrated work ensure that the SPs are fully aware of, and learn throughout each and every step of the entire transformation process. In this way service providers gain a deep understanding of exactly what the network is supposed to do - and so does Lumina. Andrew Coward says, "The point is that at Lumina, we deliver a project WITH the customers and not TO them. Obviously, our customers know what they are doing and what they want to do and are already very well versed in network management and control. Our role is to provide the new, open source tools that are needed to develop and manage the platforms that we we jointly deploy."

Lumina's OpenDaylight-powered SDN Controller provides a common, open platform for developers and gives SPs complete control over their SDN development and implementation. It also eliminates the scourge of "vendor lock-in" that in the past has so bedevilled service providers as they found themselves trapped in vertical silos with no means of escape other than to junk all their existing legacy infrastructure and equipment - something none of them could afford to do.

It should also be remembered that the OpenDaylight SDN Controller is no flash in the pan. It is already widely deployed and currently supports in excess of a billion users all over the world, and Lumina's thinking is that building a software network with open source brings with it the opportunity for SPs to change vendors if necessary. Now there actually is a  real choice available. Furthermore, in maintaining the open source ethos and ensuring total ongoing compatibility with the OpenDaylight code base, Lumina will contribute any enhancements that are made to its SDN controller straight back to the open source community and so the virtuous circle will turn.

Hits the ground running with 200 customers already in place

Lumina Networks may be a brand new start-up but it isn't starting from scratch. It begins life with a 50-strong workforce and the benefit of three year's worth of technology in its portfolio together with three year's worth of established customer relationships. Andrew Coward says, "The big challenge has been co-ordinating all the various components and aspects of the buy-out and start-up together at the right time, to make it all happen and bring  our customers along on the journey. And we are very fortunate that a couple of Tier 1 carriers here in the US are coming along for the ride with us, as are a number in Asia as well. We have 200 strong customer base and that is very important."

In the drive towards an automation outcome, Lumina wants to make it easy for the business logic that drives services to be abstracted from the actual product that makes the decision packet to forward or what to do. As Andrew Coward says, "That automation is what drives costs dynamics down radically and what products will be used in the future."

Lumina Networks is headquartered in San Jose in California and has teams already in situ in the UK, Australia and India. Service providers and enterprises needing assistance in the implementation of an open source network can work with Lumina's NetDev services team to jointly develop production systems to speed through proof-of-concept and pilot phases of a project.

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