What network challenges does the industry face as we head to the middle of 2018 and beyond?
One of the biggest challenges we see in the industry and among our customer base is the time-to-deploy or implement new massive compute nodes or transport clusters. The end-to-end ecosystem required to deliver capacity or compute is extremely complex and made of many internal and external parts. All of the internal bodies—from network acquisition teams to engineering organizations—must line up with a large system of vendors and suppliers, all of which can introduce delay or slow down deployment cycles. 

What technologies do you see changing / shaping the industry and how?
Technologies that provide efficiency and cost gains in power consumption and that reduce total carbon footprint in the Data Center and Colocation environments are high priority targets. Compute services moving towards Hyperscale environments will continue to shape the speed and cost through which applications and services can be delivered. This will have a massive positive impact on Enterprises and end-users and their ability to scale their own businesses. In both cases, new technologies will impact the market profoundly. For example, evolutionary steps in ASIC technology and Memory evolution. And Hyperscale compute environments will drive specific hardware and software design on a per-application or per-service basis, optimized for that service delivery.

What impact will industry changes (you describe the industry change) have on digital transformation plans within organizations?
The Telecom Industry’s transition towards all-digital Central Offices/Head-ends/Data Centers and Outside Plant is an exciting transition that will require corresponding changes in all organizations. For Vendor organizations, the transition will require the development of an entirely new set of products- including Appliance-based and Virtualized Cores, Spine and Leaf Switches, , Wavelength Mux/Demux Equipment, Orchestration Engines, and Virtualized Management Engines. For Telecom organizations, the transition will require re-training of craft personnel in the many areas listed above. It will also require these organizations to carry out deployments of the various types of equipment defined above. The predominant areas that require change include the conversion of the fiber feeds in the Outside Plant from Analog Optical transmission to Digital Optical transmission. Another predominant change is the addition of virtualized/containerized processes running in an orchestrated fashion on Commercial Off-The-Shelf X86 servers in the head-end, supporting Management Plane, Control Plane, and Data Plane processes. This transition is also leading towards heavy use of new, high-speed Message Bus technologies to collect streaming telemetry data at a much higher rate than was typical in the past. This higher-speed telemetry will undoubtedly lead to the application of more Big Data Analytics techniques in the core, permitting new AI & Machine Intelligence technologies to be employed in the future.

How important is SDN for the industry and what is your company doing to implement and deploy this technology capability?
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is an important tool within the Operator toolkit of the future. It is basically an architecture that separates the control plane from the data plane in networking equipment, with the control plane being moved onto virtualized Commercial Off-The-Shelf X86 servers in a public or private cloud environment. The cloud-based control plane creates a layer of abstraction between applications and the networking equipment. With the use of Open Interfaces on the Northbound side of the control plane, applications can be developed by more organizations at a faster pace, permitting higher feature velocity within the networking gear. In addition, the use of SDN also offers the benefits of centralized management of many network elements and vendor neutrality. The Southbound side of the control plane can communicate with various network elements from different vendors, and it can use OpenFlow protocols or other protocols to perform the communication with these network elements. Because of these many benefits, SDN and its associated Open Source technologies (ex: NFV) will undoubtedly be important technologies for the future. Our company will be intelligently incorporating SDN Controller technologies (ONOS, ODL, etc.) into the various virtualized management platforms that will be used to control and monitor the data planes within the networking gear of the future.

Are you seeing Artificial Intelligence and/or Machine Learning deployed (or planning to deploy) in your business - and how?

AI and Machine Learning will undoubtedly be an important part of the network management in the future. In particular, it will be used to monitor networking gear and to monitor subscriber Quality of Experience. This data will be collected using the high-speed telemetry feeds that are enabled by the distributed architectures of the future. The monitored data will then be analyzed to identify issues or to help Operators manage and plan and architect and modify their network going forward. Traffic Engineering and Capacity Planning will be a big part of this AI/Machine Learning effort going forward in the near-term. In the longer-term, AI and Machine Learning will be utilized to detect faults or congested links within network elements and to rapidly detour traffic around those network points. The network operations can also be optimized and the network can be better managed based on historical information that will be continually collected and analyzed by the AI engines. 

What broad trends do you see in telecoms in the next 12 months?
Primarily SDN and Automation in Service Delivery. In both cases, Enterprises with Cloud Service needs on the order of 100s or 1000s of servers will need to reduce Total Cost of Ownership of their own delivery models. 

What are new developments and initiatives that are exciting for your company in 2018?
ARRIS is working on developing solutions and expanding services designed to help our customers scale network and compute deployments in a compressed timeframe. This includes a great deal of automation and system-level improvements to the way in which virtualized services are delivered as well as the common framework for multi-vendor workflows. By coupling automation and workflow improvements with our World-Class Services Organization, we’re able to help our customers grow in every corner of the globe at a pace consistent with their business demands.

What technologies or solutions inhibiting growth today and how do you see innovation adapting to solve that problem?
Every deployment of a new and revolutionary technology will eventually run into some issues and obstacles. The job of the engineering teams working on those technologies is to find clever and innovative ways around those obstacles. The move towards a digital transformation, like all technological moves, will also encounter some of its own issues and obstacles; and like all technological moves, innovations will be found to resolve those issues and obstacles. In many cases, the servers within Data Centers of central offices and head-ends are now being asked to carry and process all of the subscriber data traffic that used to by-pass the Data Center. Software is also becoming more complex as this transition takes place. Streaming telemetry data rates are also rising. For all of these reasons, the digital transformation is placing an ever-increasing demand on processors and memories and interface cards within Commercial Off-The-Shelf servers. Improvements are continually occurring within the processors, but there are also “escape routes” being studied, such as PCI-E cards with hardware accelerators to assist with processor-intensive tasks. The move to distribute network elements is also leading to an ever-increasing level of processing and complexity in outside plant equipment, and the cooling of these high-power devices is another area requiring innovation. The use of heat pipes and other technologies to assist with thermal management has become another area of innovation as problems are being found and solved. Clever techniques of this type will undoubtedly be applied over and over again as the Telecom Industry continues its continual evolution into the digital future.