The first Big Communications Event related blog focused on Virtualization and Security. In this entry, the focus is on the other hot topics at the show, specifically Automation and Disaggregation.
Nearly every topic at Big Communications Event - from security to NFV - mentioned automation as a driver. The main reason given for functionality virtualization is to enhance network automation. The scale of the security problem will require additional network automation. Automation leads to efficiency, especially in networks that are increasingly dynamic and complex. While automation has been a theme of network operation for many years with varying and usually somewhat disappointing results, network operators must begin to embrace advanced network automation to meet the expectations of their every more sophisticated customer base.
One cautionary comment about automation was provided by William Owens, the Chairman of the Board of CenturyLink and a seasoned industry veteran. In his keynote, Mr. Owens cautioned that all of this automation will result in a reduction in jobs and that we as an industry should be thinking about what that means. It is always interesting to have a big-picture take on the impact that technology will have on society at large, and his comments were a source of vigorous discussion for the remainder of the show.
Following up on the disaggregation theme from this year’s OFC, disaggregation was a topic that showed up in many places throughout the show. The concept of separating functions out from large, aggregated boxes into specific function hardware was mentioned in several different sections. This theme is one that was developed primarily in the data center market, but has begun creeping into the main service provider market as well. Disaggregated, open optical systems was a specific theme in several sessions. The much discussed AT&T Open ROADM project was a part of this topic, but others presented open optical systems that could be combined in flexible ways with other network functions.
Those who remember the push in the 2000s to aggregate functionality as a way to reduce network complexity and capital costs are justifiably wary of the disaggregation trend (a wariness most prominently expressed by Verizon at OFC).
Other themes throughout the Big Communications Event show included DevOps, analytics, OTN, the impact of 5G, and network slicing. Each of those themes is expected to play an increasing role in network operations and administration in the future, and will likely be topics major topics in future trade shows and discussion topics for future blog posts.
Dr. Wilkinson has deep experience in the telecommunications and technical startup fields, with positions held ranging from deeply technical systems engineering to entirely customer-focused marketing leads. A recognized public speaker and writer as well as a detail-oriented team leader, Dr. Wilkinson has been successful in companies ranging from Fortune 100 to small startups with less than 50 employees. Dr. Wilkinson's career includes significant interaction with major carriers in the United States as well as experience with rural telcos, utilities, and municipalities.