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Life in the Fast Lane: Blurring the Lines at the Edge of the Network Featured

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Life in the Fast Lane: Blurring the Lines at the Edge of the Network Image Credit: Viavi Solutions

The past decade has seen a great deal of transformation throughout the telecommunications industry. But by all accounts, we haven’t seen anything yet. The evolution of the edge and access networks, as well as continued convergence and crossover between wireless and wireline technologies are ushering in a new paradigm in how networks are built, managed and maintained. This is one of the key trends that will shape the networking industry in 2018 and beyond.

#1: COLLISION OR CONVERGENCE? AT THE INTERSECTION OF FIXED AND MOBILE

As subscriber demand for ever faster data speeds continues to escalate, the race is on to deliver gigabit internet via FTTH, DOCSIS 3.1 and G.fast, as well as fixed wireless via 5G. Add to this mix the groundswell of interest in IoT and M2M communications, and you have a recipe for more and more convergence between fixed and mobile networks.

Mobile network operators are looking to push the limits of wireless technology and increase sub bandwidth to increase capacity and add new offerings to their menu of services, such as 4K video streaming and smart home management over IoT. To ensure capacity to meet the demand for bandwidth at the edge of the networks, these mobile providers will need to install more fiber — not just for backhaul, but also FTTH. At the same time, wireline service providers are weighing fixed wireless as an alternative to deliver gigabit to the home, as they pursue multiple wireline technologies to reach speeds above 1 GB.

As fixed and mobile service providers rely on multiple technologies to achieve the same goals, we will see increasing convergence of wireless and wireline technologies. This blurring of the lines creates blended networks that necessitate more efficient and innovative approaches to network management and optimization.

#2: SPEEDING UP TO 400G AND BEYOND

Sameh Yamany,
CTO,
Viavi Solutions

A new highest-speed premium rate for Ethernet is defined approximately every eight years. Although 100G was first standardized in 2010, we are just now seeing widespread adoption expanding beyond the core to the access network. But the pace of advancement isn’t slowing down by any means, and various associations and industry players are working quickly to formalize standards for the next evolutionary phase, 400G. These advances allow new generations of transport equipment to be developed to meet the ever-increasing demands for bandwidth driven by video streaming, surging mobile traffic, uptake in cloud computing, massively high capacity data center interconnect (DCI), and other emerging applications.

Next year will see 400G deployments gathering speed, as service providers and data centers strive to maximize capacity per fiber at the core of the network. This move to 400G will bring new challenges requiring more insightful testing to diagnose issues. No longer can testing be confined to just one of the layers, but it must cover the link from the physical layer through to Ethernet.

#3: TRANSCENDING THE PHYSICAL WORLD

With data growing exponentially and becoming more dynamic, and with the new complexity of several technologies and network architecture at the edge, greater automation will be needed to deliver, optimize, and manage network service performance — manual operations simply can’t scale sufficiently and the skill sets needed to manage the fast evolving complexity are not easy to acquire. The tasks of network management and optimization are even more challenging given all the legacy, emerging and competing technologies that are co-existing on many networks today, or soon will be, from 2G to 5G on mobile networks; DOCSIS, G.fast and FTTH on fixed networks, to name a few.

In 2018, analytics and machine learning will provide the foundation for this movement towards increasing automation. This nascent network intelligence will be the brain needed to manage network functions in the cloud as the industry continues its transition to SDN / NFV technologies. Dynamic allocation of resources will become the norm, necessitating new real-time optimization techniques and processes as service providers strive to provision services at speed.

This also means a need for greater automation, virtual test and activation, and programmability in field testing tools. Workforce automation will be the trend moving forward, including autonomous tools, simulation capabilities and real-time collaboration with off-site experts via augmented reality. Automation not only enables faster time to market for the growing number of fiber deployments, but also supports the complexity of new services running on these fibers.

About The Author:
Sameh Yamany, PhD, is Chief Technology Officer for VIAVI Solutions where he drives technology innovation and execution for the company. He is the former CEO and President of Trendium, where he led innovations in service assurance and analytics and the creation of a new paradigm in Customer Experience Assurance. Dr. Yamany's industry experience also includes his senior executive role at Tektronix Communications where he set the vision and development of the Iris wireless and wireline monitoring and troubleshooting suite of applications.

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