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Interview with Ciena Corporation’s Steve Alexander

December 08, 2017

Interview with Ciena Corporation’s Ste...

US-based network strategy and technology company Ciena Corporation has significantly expanded its operations in India in the past few years. Its successful run has been driven by its strong research and development (R&D) base, which supports processes such as software design and development, product verifications, integration, interworking and customer trials. In an interview with tele.net, Steve Alexander, chief technology officer, Ciena, talks about the emerging trends in the telecom space, the opportunities in 5G and internet of things (IoT), as well as the company’s plans for the Indian market.…

What are the key emerging telecom trends globally? How different is the Indian market from other global markets?

The main driver in the telecom space today is the convergence between the traditional telecom and IT industries, with the cloud emerging as a key focus area. The Indian market is very interesting because it has all the ingredients for rapid growth and some fantastic adoption rates related to applications that leverage the cloud in key vertical industries from health care to banking to education. This movement is spurring network infrastructure investment by operators to support locally generated content that is accessed by users from the cloud. And while the investment in these network builds continues, India is still an emerging market where operators must balance the current needs of existing legacy networks while laying the foundation for the future.

What are Ciena’s key offerings for the Indian market?

From an R&D perspective, we have been investing in the Indian market for over a decade now, with our second largest R&D centre globally located in India. On the product side, we have been observing and weighing the opportunities offered by the Indian market, particularly amongst service providers, large enterprises and internet content providers in the region. Given the pace of infrastructure development in India, we also work with network operators to integrate solutions that enable them to enhance their networks to support demand for advanced services and applications. To this end, Ciena is known for putting more intelligence in the network equipment itself via advanced software to enable networks that are self-healing. This enhances the scalability, capacity and connectivity of current network infrastructure. Ciena specialises in providing high connectivity and high capacity networks.

What has been the industry’s response to Ciena’s Blue Planet software portfolio?

Blue Planet has been very interesting for us. We have high interest in the automation of networks. Blue Planet is known as a platform for network automation and orchestration. This gives us a great analogy: in an orchestra, there are a lot of different instruments that are built differently and sound different, but it is the orchestration that gives the perfect symphony. Likewise, network automation involves different pieces of equipment to accomplish the creation of either a service or an application. Blue Planet helps put in place the platform for automation that companies need in order to scale up their networks.

What is your outlook for the adoption of SD-WAN globally? How is the Indian market catching up?

Software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) over time will emerge as one of the preferred ways of connecting enterprises to available networks. It offers a lot of flexibility, ability to resize and change, and supports cloud connectivity. It is a global phenomenon being adopted in various countries at different rates. In India we think it is going to emerge as a key solution for enterprises. These are early days, but over time it will become a fact of way for connectivity.

What kind of opportunities does Ciena foresee in the 5G space?

It is important to note that 5G will affect all parts of the network, from end users to data centres and everything in between. To succeed, mobile network operators will need more than just a new radio access network, they will also need fibre – and lots of it – to manage the massive increase in bandwidth that will come as billions more users, both humans and machines, join the network. We look at the whole 5G evolution as something that is going to exist for the next 10-15 years globally. This will drive additional bandwidth and connectivity demands in the network and that will be a driver for our business as well.

What are your views regarding the development of an IoT ecosystem in India?

The IoT ecosystem will be very interesting in India. The populations, that never had readily available internet access before are now coming onto the network. They will first experience IoT on their mobile devices through apps and later through additional sensors as they come on board. One key area that comes to mind in the IoT space will be health care, where one can remotely monitor vitals such as blood pressure and glucose levels through smartphones.


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