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Will 2017 be the year of the autonomous network?

Karl Horne, Chief Technology Officer Asia Pacific, Ciena | Dec. 16, 2016
Karl Horne, CTO Asia Pacific, Ciena, shares some of his predictions for networking trends we may see in 2017, including self-driving networks and more

This is not the only cable of interest in the region, however. The Southeast Asia-Japan Cable (SJC) went live three years ago, and has a 23 Tbps ceiling. And, the SJC, which links Japan with China, Brunei, Singapore, and the Philippines, received investment from Google illustrating once again the growing importance of submarine links to enabling global connectivity and the critical role Asia plays in that endeavor.

Open networking ushers in a new era of choice

In a world that was previously incapable of being software-driven, fully-integrated solutions were the only option. There was simply no other choice - it was the easiest way. But with Software Defined Networking (SDN) and orchestration that's no longer the case; software is helping to open up networks and break down the walls of proprietary systems. As they mature, these open networks will be operated, managed, and controlled via open source control software, through published APIs that allow best-in-breed component selection for integration by the service provider.

This does not mean the end of hardware. Systems vendors will concentrate on delivering solutions that can meet or exceed the performance characteristics required of the underlying applications. Whether the performance targets include demands for higher bit rates, more dense service aggregation, driving signals over longer distances or reducing latency, vendors will continue to innovate to ensure their solutions are open and programmable - albeit in some cases without the requirement of creating the software themselves.

As an example, white box is already a real choice in data center environments, and is becoming an option for customers outside the data center and into the wide area network as they consider how virtualised network functions can be deployed. Ultimately, different network operators will take different approaches, but all will want the freedom to choose what's best for their business and will expect the flexibility that programmability affords.

Will there be another Pokémon GO sized phenomenon in 2017? Who can say? But many of the factors that require networks to work hard to support additional usage are only going to grow in importance. Although they are yet to hit the mainstream, VR and AR have the potential to cause significant demand for bandwidth, access, and content provision. Perhaps in the provision of those new levels of service we will start to see new trends emerge that will shape the next few years of our industry.


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