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Making the access network pieces fit together

mosaic

via Flickr © osiristh (CC BY-ND 2.0)

ADTRAN has announced the initial members of its Mosaic Open Network Alliance - an organisation that aims to provide operators with a single point of reference for best-of-breed SD-Access and NFV solutions, involving user-driven services which can be scaled and provisioned dynamically and rapidly. And it appears to be getting traction amongst access equipment providers who want to onboard themselves with SDNFV-ready access components that can hang off the edge of the telco cloud.

“ADTRAN has experienced great interest from many industry leading parties who are keen to collaborate and integrate with truly open platforms as we support the acceleration of the industry’s transition to open, programmable, scalable networks,” said Chris Thompson, director of Mosaic software and solutions portfolio for ADTRAN. “We eagerly welcome alliance members from across the technology landscape who share our objectives.”

The newest members include (it’s amazing how many ‘A’s there are out there) Aricent, ASSIA, Axiros, iPhotonix and  SmartRG.

ADTRAN argues that if CSPs are to handle the scale and velocity of service that’s required in the ‘new digital world’, they will need to build a dynamic and open SD-Access platform. The templates for this are the clouds constructed by Amazon and Google who took modular commodity hardware parts and connected them with smart software that could automate and orchestrate dynamic connectivity to resources.

The same thing needs to happen in the access world, says ADTRAN, if telcos want to stay and play in the digital access game (and considering it’s nearly the only game in town, they must).

In a white paper the authors points out that with the SDN and NFV model, hardware platforms will be designed to be more open and programmable so that they can be quickly provisioned with software to deliver new services. They will also be geared toward a cloud-based model – in other words, they will be able to dynamically interact with other networking systems and software in the cloud, gathering information, analytics, and other data to adjust dynamically to changing network conditions.

For Mosaic, SD-Access network requirements include the following:

  • Open hardware with programmable Application Program Interfaces (APIs)
  • A programmable operating system (OS)
  • Software-defined control from the cloud
  •  Built-in network management and visibility tools
  • Customer-based provisioning The appeal of a software-defined model is obvious: just like on a digital consumer platform, the customer can control the technology and update software and services on demand. Updates and services can be pushed out through the cloud.  

For network operators like Australia’s nbn the flexible software defined access network concept represented by Mosaic is highly attractive. Apart from the usual transformational benefits around agility, cost and customer experience, it floats boats there because it promises to help take the focus off access technology silos. Instead of talking about  FTTC, FTTN, FTTP, PONs, G.fast, VDSL, DOCSIS and so on, nbn would love to move the conversation on. It hopes that with a software driven access network the nbn will eventually be seen to deliver ‘broadband’ not acronyms, according to nbn’s Executive Manager of Corporate Media, Tony Brown. If the SD-driven access network lives up to its promise he hopes it will ultimately create a flexible software driven heteronet, so that customers can choose from a range of speeds and associated price-tags and have the network  deliver the appropriate broadness using the appropriate access technology.

That’s the theory. And after several divisive election cycles where controversy raged over the relative merits of fibre or copper,  you can see why the nbn is desperate for it to become real.

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