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January 12, 2018 by Alan DiCicco

Looking Ahead to a Great Year in Software Defined Access

SDA
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Time to look forward, across the networking vista, and make some predictions on how technology and business transformation will impact Software Defined Access in 2018. While there are many things I might point out, I’ll limit myself to these three.

Software platforms will transform the business of broadband access. Just in case you missed it, software platforms are taking over the world. Every data center, smartphone, consumer device, and streaming service is being transformed through the power of software platforms. Just recently, streaming media pioneer Roku unveiled a voice-controlled Roku Entertainment Assistant to enable OEM brands to integrate the Roku software platform into consumer devices. Software platforms are everywhere.

The good news is that service providers can leverage software platforms, like AXOS and EXOS, to achieve profound positive business impact on operations efficiency, capital cost reductions, and new revenue opportunities. In 2018, I expect even more broadband access software platform announcements as systems providers realize they are woefully late to the game and outclassed by the maturity and feature set of AXOS and EXOS.

OpenCORD gains momentum, but splinters. Calix has made multiple contributions to the ONF vOLTHA (virtual OLT-Hardware Abstraction) and ONOS controller projects. In 2018, I expect to see the OpenCORD reference implementation make further progress, adding more OLT management and control functions along its march to a disaggregated OLT implementation. However, I am still convinced that the OpenCORD reference implementation won’t be adopted by any large carriers – and that is probably OK.

Every network operator I discuss CORD architectures with sees something positive in OpenCORD but has their own unique business, network, operations, and regulatory constraints that will shape how they implement software-centric central office and head end solutions in 2018. So, the OpenCORD reference implementation will remain, but the real CORD implementations will splinter off in multiple directions. Fortunately, the underlying system software platforms like AXOS will be the flexible framework that enables the transition to next-generation architectures.  

Automation is the initiative of interest for service providers, not massive SDN/NFV deployment. Read the headlines of just about any publication, and you are sure to find content telling the story of automation reducing operations costs and delivering an exceptional customer experience. What you won’t see are articles about massive SDN/NFV deployments in the service provider space. And it will remain true in 2018. Rightfully so. The business case for SDN/NFV is still elusive, but not for automation and the gains that come from it. Operators globally are turning their attention to automating manual deployment and configuration processes, enabling subscriber self-care, and implementing new services with zero-touch end-to-end orchestration. If SDN tools can help, then great, but, in 2018, no one will be waiting around for some perfect SDN protocol to emerge. Automate to Thrive is the game.

There you have it. In 2018, software platforms will transform the business of broadband, enabling a variety of service provider network transformation initiatives, while also providing the framework to automate the network and delight subscribers. And in the end, that’s what really matters.

Have a great 2018, and add your thoughts for SDA in 2018.