Pune-based networking component manufacturer & servic provider Sterlite Technologies Ltd has unveiled an advanced and open standards-based software-based networking solution for fiber-based broadband providers.
“With the programmable FTTx announcement, STL becomes one of very few companies in the world to have a software-defined network (SDN) solution for access connectivity,” it said.
SHIFT TO SMART NETWORKS
Networks based on open standards are becoming increasingly popular as they allow network providers, such as telecom companies, to avoid ‘vendor lock-in’ and offer greater freedom to program their networks in previously unimaginable ways.
Traditionally, a network would be managed by using largely ‘dumb’ equipment from one or two vendors, such as Cisco, Juniper, Huawei, Samsung and so on.
In fact, most telecom players in India outsource their network management function to equipment companies due to the complexities involved in managing them.
However, with increasing data demand, the cost of expanding the network and managing them have become a large part of the total expenditure incurred by a telecom or broadband company.
Fortunately, there has also been a move towards coming up with vendor-independent and open standards and software, which can be fully understood and programmed by the IT staff of the telecom or internet provider, without having to rely on equipment vendors.
As these network equipment are ‘smart’, their behaviour can also be programmed and controlled from a central location, irrespective of who made the equipment. In some ways, it is like the switch-over from dumb phones — running proprietary software designed by Nokia, Motorola etc — to smartphones that run open software like Android.
In other words, traditional network equipment such as switches were largely ‘independent and autonomous units’ and functioned on their own, controlled by proprietary operating software. They had to be used like bricks to build a house.
These autonomous units could not be controlled, beyond a point, by the staff of the network provider, and functioned more like hardware switches than like mini computers.
Not surprisingly, therefore, the emergence of open standards and equipment that run open software has also coincided with the rise of ‘software defined networking’.
Unlike traditional networking, which would require physical intervention at various points in the network for adapting it to a change in traffic patterns or increasing its capacity or redirecting traffic, software defined networks do not require technicians to physically visit various network locations to replace, augment or otherwise manipulate such equipment.
The equipment can be controlled by the network provider from a central location using software. This makes it cheap, easy and quick to rapidly redesign a whole network, redirect traffic or increase or decrease capacities at any particular location.
Such agility is especially useful in modern networks where the establishment of a new datacenter in a particular city, or the holding of a mega sports event, can suddenly alter the entire traffic pattern of the network in that region.
Within India, Reliance Jio is reported to have made massive use of open standards-based, software defined networking.
STERLITE AND SDN
Players like Sterlite, who do not have much of a stake in the traditional, proprietary market dominated by the likes of Cisco, have been quick to offer solutions based on the open standards model, in association with a new breed of equipment vendors.
Sterlite’s latest programmable FTTx solution for fiber broadband players has been designed with the help of equipment maker Edgecore Networks.
“Software-defined solutions such as pFTTx will reduce hardware and software costs with open network hardware at the edge, providing greater agility for innovation, and free providers from vendor lock-in,” said George Tchaparian, President and CEO, Edgecore Networks.
Under the new model, Sterlite pointed out, the hardware and software do not have to be purchased from the same vendor.
Rather, the network provider can buy the hardware from the supplier who offers it at the most efficient cost, and continue to expand its network at low costs.
“By enabling programmability at the core of the network and decoupling white-box hardware from software, SDNs bring more flexibility, cost efficiency and service excellence to data networks.
“In an industry weighed by legacy monolithic systems and infrastructure, and long periods of vendor lock-in, STL is driving break-through disruption with programmable, open networks,” Sterlite Technologies said.
Such products are a big step forward for Sterlite, which started out as a cable manufacturer, and in recent years, ventured into network architecture and implementation services.
With software-defined networks, Sterlite is pushing into smart network territory and AI, enabling its networks to self-heal and adjust itself to ever-changing traffic patterns, the company said.
“At its core, STL’s pFTTx is built on disruptive SDN and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) technologies,” said Ayush Sharma, Head of Programmable Networking and Intelligence, Sterlite Technologies.
“It will convert existing FTTx networks to programmable FTTx, thereby providing radical flexibility to service providers’ business models.”
The company is part of the Open Networking Foundation and leverages many technologies and concepts supported by the foundation, such as VOLTHA (Virtual OLT Hardware Abstraction), ONOS (Open Network Operating System) and SEBA.