Nokia Jumpstarts the Future

Jun 15, 2017

Nokia Jumpstarts the Future

by Tim McElligott

Hopes and dreams and what-ifs only become reality when the criteria for enabling and supporting them become real themselves. For example, artificial intelligence hit a brick wall in the late 1990s, shortly after IBM’s Deep Blue beat chess champ Garry Kasparov, because memory and processing progress hit the wall first. Only recently with a surge in both technologies has the dream of AI begun to blossom again. To site another example, our dreams of sending humans to Mars won’t happen until someone builds a proper mechanical counter-pressure spacesuit. In other words, technology vision must at some point be matched by actual capability.

The multi-terabit routing chipset introduced by Nokia this week—a first--will help the industry match capability with dreams in the next phase of IP networking. It is the first routing platform capable of delivering terabit IP flows, which is a 10x improvement over the existing 100 Gb/s links used to construct the internet backbone.

With the introduction of its new chipset and a petabit-class service router, Nokia is confident it has just enabled the fourth industrial revolution. The router has been built, tested and will be generally available in the fourth quarter. It was designed not only for speed, but for agility, programmability, and visibility. The company believes it has spawned a new era of IP. Stratecast believes it probably has. The new era will not happen tomorrow, or this year, but fundamental change can now begin and service providers can begin to invest in their dreams and visions.

Basil Alwan, president of Nokia’s Optical/IP Routing group, said connecting and automating everything is now a foregone conclusion, that the new network can handle it. This leap will set a high bar for core routing competitors, but why, you might ask, is Stratecast’s OSS analyst blogging about IP routing? Here is why.

Besides the latent network engineer in me that still feels the tickle of a great leap forward in bandwidth speeds, I believe there are implications for OSS and operations management in general that will fundamentally change the way networks are managed and supported. The new Nokia technology is not just about speed. It is also about incorporating and fully realizing the promise of the company’s two recent acquisitions--Alcatel-Lucent and Deepfield, a provider of real-time analytics for IP network performance management and security.

Deepfield technology was an integral part of the design of the new product capabilities. It is designed to provide greater visibility deep into the IP stream in real time and enable the intelligence and automation that logically follows. Alwan’s claim that automation is a foregone conclusion, thanks to this routing advance, is supported by Neil McRae, Managing Director and Chief Architect at BT, who said this week that automation is an absolute necessity. He said people can no longer hold a picture in their heads of the network and foresee all that will happen when a change is made. The network has gotten far too complex. McRae said he wants to get to a world of closed-loop automation and AI as quickly as possible. So much for service providers’ reluctance to go full auto.

Nokia calls the new mode of routing and control: insight-driven automated networking. This is the vision OSS suppliers, operations management teams and CIOs have had for several years. The logical conclusion is that is has not been achieved because the underlying technology was incapable of providing the intelligence, flexibility, deep insight and process automation necessary to support it. Although OSS has continued to make incremental improvements toward such a vision—as AI has and as NASA and others have as they reach for Mars—operations support needs to make the same kind of leap Nokia made this week with routing.

It is starting to become clear that network equipment manufacturers are taking it upon themselves to incorporate some fundamental OSS capabilities into their routing platforms, such as data mediation, quality of experience monitoring, and data stream inspection. Nokia initiated its own pause when developing the new multi-terabyte platform and waited for certain chip technology to catch up in order to support it. When it did not, Nokia invented its own memory. The new Nokia Smart Memory does a lot of great things for routing, but it also does real-time packet inspection looking for signatures such as those indicating a DDos attack. Because the memory is command-based rather than typical read-write memory-based, it can issue commands and take action to mitigate threats before the data stream even leaves the box. The platform also grooms traffic and prioritizes it directly from the chip. This and other data collection capabilities built into the router suggests changes ahead for today’s external mediation platforms. It also suggests changes ahead for QoS monitoring and assurance if the level of deep packet inspection is as deep and useful as promised. Simply put, the new chipset and the new router built around it are developing deep insights into the data stream as it passes through, putting the intelligence for quality and automation directly into the core of the network.

OSS and the network infrastructure will become more tightly bound than ever as decisions about performance cannot take the additional milliseconds needed to be measured or interpreted by an external support system. As both fulfillment and assurance processes are automated and built into a closed-loop environment, more and more OSS capabilities will need to be either internalized or find a way to work at the speeds and depth of the network infrastructure they are built to support.

 


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Timothy McElligott

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