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CTO INDUSTRY INSIGHTS




Building a Platform for Change

“Every once in a while a product comes along that changes everything”, a quote from the late Steve Jobs, during what most observed as the launch of the first iPhone product. Only now with hindsight can we really appreciate the vision held by Jobs and his team at Apple at that time. Ultimately, the iPhone and all the iThings that followed were components in a platform. A largely open platform that served as a common environment through which the best ideas and content from throughout the world could reach global audiences at near zero cost, which as we all know paved the way for a tidal wave of innovation in applications, business models, and communication. In building their platform and its surrounding product portfolio, some might argue that Apple had it easy, as it did not have to cater for the complexity that comes with having a legacy. It is amazing how much easier things are when starting with a clean slate. One doesn't have to worry about legacy systems, alignment of vendor capabilities, consistency of features, translation between protocols and modeling languages. Imagine for a second, that we were afforded that opportunity. To build our access networks again from the beginning? What would we do differently?

It transpires that roughly once every decade we are presented with an opportunity to do things differently. As access technologies continue to evolve, frequently advancements force us to deploy our access services from new locations. The journey so far has seen us start in the central office, and a decade later begin our migrations out to the street cabinet. Right now our industry is facing its latest generational upgrade, and with that comes the opportunity for a clean slate. Whether we are deploying G.fast DPUs in building basements, or employing a distributed access architecture for DOCSIS 3.1, or migrating to next generation 10 Gbps Symmetric PON solutions, we are presented with a once in a decade opportunity to do things differently.

When one considers how the Web-scale giants have constructed the elastic infrastructures that seem to provide them with what often feels like infinite expansion capacity, one cannot but be impressed with the ease and pace with which they can launch and expand new services. Much of their success is attributable to the platform thinking they have applied to the network. Rather than being divorced from the compute and storage resources that create and deliver their services, the network is an integral component of that platform. Exploiting the benefit of open SDN control, along with the capabilities of OpenFlow, and standardized YANG data models, the Web-scale giants have unleashed the sort of network agility that traditional network operators could only dream of - until now!

ADTRAN, working in line with initiatives spawned from ON.LABs, such as ONOS SDN control and the CORD architectures has introduced Mosaic. Mosaic is a platform around which an ecosystem of ADTRAN-developed network elements and applications, seamlessly coexist alongside third-party solutions to provide our customers with an open environment for service innovation.

Built on open principles, and with ONOS and ODL integration at its core, Mosaic brings that once in a decade opportunity for operators to break the shackles of vendor lock-in, and really focus on service innovation that can set them apart from the competition.

Open platforms represent the future. Whether it is Amazon or Uber, those platforms that can connect users of services with providers of services, and bring monetizable value in the process, are the ones which will succeed in the long term. The future for network operators is to elevate from being a service provider to becoming a platform that permits them to be a services provider.