ADTRAN pledges commitment to meaningful, unexciting innovation

ADTRAN executives walked media and analysts through their product strategy, with new technology that they said few will find exciting, but which is nonetheless indispensable.

Kevin Schneider ADTRAN

Kevin Schneider, ADTRAN’s CTO

HUNTSVILLE ALA – At their consecutive Connect Press and Analyst, and Broadband and Business Solutions Summit events here over the last two days, networking vendor ADTRAN has been stressing its commitment to delivering what their tagline describes as ‘innovation that matters.’ It refers to technology that won’t raise eyebrows with edge-of-yer-seat excitement, but which the company believes to be indispensable to the future of the industry.

“Everybody’s talking about innovation, and I’m not sure our innovation will excite you,” said Kevin Schneider, ADTRAN’s CTO, to an audience of media and analysts. “But our slogan is ‘innovation that matters,’ and I hope you will see that it is more than just a slogan.”

Jay Wilson, ADTRAN’s Senior VP of Technology and Strategy, noted that a lot of the company’s strategy is influenced by user-driven service models.

“Our kids are influencing the market more and more every day,” he said. “The whole approach to services has changed as a result.” Instead of lowest common denominator services, broadband providers now want to provide a more Uber-like experience. At the same time, they are demanding more cost-efficient and better networks.

“It means that we have to be capable of being cloud-based, even if a specific operator doesn’t want to do that,” Wilson said. “It means we have to introduce new features and functions through micro-releases, to minimize the time it takes and disruption to the networks.

“Many operators today update their technology every 24 months,” he added. “Facebook updates every hour. Operators have to change the way they do things.”

Wilson said that these demands create the need for a Resultant Network that is open, programmable and scalable.

“It has to eliminate the high cost of network overhead. It has to let you rapidly create differentiated services. It also has to gives the subscriber a good quality of experience. This is the basis of our Mosaic strategy,”

ADTRAN introduced its Mosaic cloud platform in late July.

“The genesis of Mosaic lies in our becoming an early adopter of an agile development process,” Wilson said. “It took us too long to get releases out and get them tested adequately. So we had to break software down into more manageable APIs.”

Wilson said that the strategy, which began 4-5 years ago, involved breaking ‘the big ball of mud’ down into first 8 pieces, and ultimately 30 pieces.

“This turned out to be a wise decision, at first to address the hard time we were having predicting when a release would come out, and now for micro-services architecture and Mosaic architecture. We did this for selfish reasons to get our code out, but it helped us to understand better what customers need.”

“From an R&D perspective, our Mosaic SDN platform is our cloud platform, but it’s also our open services architecture,” said Eduard Scheiterer, ADTRAN’s SVP, Research & Development. “We are converging all our products on one architecture across the whole portfolio. This ensures systems will be ready for third party use and micro services. It lets service providers transition to open programmable and scalable networks.”

One brand new product release was announced at the event. ADTRAN announced its first Subscriber Edge Tunable (SET) optical transceivers, its first foray into the new category of tunable optics.

“Things are driving us to new optical access standards, and a lot of things are driving service providers to think beyond GPON,” said CTO Kevin Schneider. “SET is a new class of optics to address the needs of NG-PON2.

The SET optics will be a key enabling technology for ADTRAN’s NG-PON2 solution, enabling access providers to cost-effectively and efficiently leverage Nx10G NG-PON2 to deliver high speed FTTH services to homes and business.

“We are a strong believer in NG-PON2,” Schneider said. “We’d like to deliver a 10G service for it looking to wavelength bonding to deliver, that but there’s a debate, with two approaches under consideration – packet-based [LAG ECMP] and fragment-based [block, protocol] that’s closer to the physical layer. ADTRAN has proposals on the table for both approaches. I don’t know where that’s going to end up, but we are pursuing both.

“Another prime project currently underway is standardizing 10G-EPON operations at GPON wavelengths,” Schneider indicated. “The reason to do that is to have ONUs that can be upgraded from GPON to 10G-EPON without changing out optics. It will be an interesting tool in the tool belt for service providers on GPON.”

Schneider also indicated that some major projects were deeper on the roadmap.

“We are putting more emphasis on customer and problem-first innovation, but that’s for next year,” he said. “At ADTRAN, innovation is not just a marketing slogan.”