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OFC and the Digital Journey, Where the Enterprise Boldly Goes

11 months ago

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Greetings from San Diego – ‘Americas finest city’. A few weeks ago, I was there for the Optical Fiber Communications Conference (OFC), where I participated in a panel discussion about – you guessed it – fiber optics! Since we’ve got 65,000km of these tiny glass strands, carrying data at the speed of light as they crisscross the Earth and its ocean trenches, these conferences are particularly relevant for us. The full panel title was “Optical Fiber Plant Infrastructure – Technologies and Markets.” Ably led by Ovum’s principal analyst Lisa Huff, we were joined by fellow fiber luminaries Merrion Edwards from Corning, Takanori Inoue from NEC, Robert Lingle of OFS, and Lei Shen from Yangtze Optical Fiber. While there, I had a good chance to chat with several industry analysts, partners and fellow fiber enthusiasts and this blog covers some key takeaways.

Where the Enterprise boldly goes on its digital journey may now be a return trip to the public internet (I can’t resist a good Star Trek reference). Something called SD-WAN, which stands for software-defined wide area networking, has solved previous challenges for the public internet to deliver the reliability and security features that digital business requires. On the enterprise side, SD-WAN enables them to use their broadband more flexibly according to their needs, and the public internet is the preferred method for connecting to public cloud services such as AWS, Azure and Google. Most of the analysts I spoke with agreed that the public internet will be more and more important in the enterprise space. At Telia Carrier, we have established direct onramps to all the global cloud players, in addition to a robust ecosystem of CDNs, security, operators and other service providers that are already hooked up to our global backbone. This gives us a powerful “plug and play” ecosystem of major partners that can easily support enterprises on their digital journeys, to boldly go where no business has gone before.

The return of CoCo and the emergence of 5G were also big topics at the event. First, I should explain that CoCo was a pet project of mine that I’ve blogged about before and refers to a pun and smart shortening of the term, “Cost Control.” OFC used to be the place where everyone announced a new higher speed product or service. While there is still an interest in increasing speeds, the big focus this year was more on achieving lower costs, for example by vertically integrating and doing more things in house. Other conversations focused on how to use more of the available light wave spectrum to deliver higher speeds and capacity over existing fiber systems. And, it seems like you can’t go to any networking conference these days where 5G isn’t a major topic of discussion, though opinions on business models and actual rollouts varies widely. While the majority of 5G’s impact will initially be on the network edge to support massively higher speeds in local towers, some cities may need loads of more fiber in the ground. Fixed wireless microwave systems can deliver part of this capacity but not all of it. Is it time to dig up every street again in every city as fiber to base stations and antennas will be in dire need?

Speaking of speaking, I will participate in a panel at NGON and DCI World in Nice on May 21, covering the topic “An Adaptive Network, Strategies to deliver coherent transmission.” It will be moderated by the European Photonics Industry Consortium’s Jose Pozo and we’ll be joined by our friends Emir Halilovic of Global Data and Scott Swail from Lumentum. I hope to see you there!