Networks must be software enabled and open ahead of 5G: Ciena

Ciena is focused on driving high-capacity, high-performance software-enabled networks that are open, the telecommunications equipment and software provider has said.

Telecommunications equipment and software provider Ciena has said it is preparing for the evolution towards 5G by driving network resilience and performance through network function virtualisation (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN), as well as by encouraging network openness.

"5G in my mind is just scale of connections, devices; it's going to open up a lot more around machine to machine, and also the data analytics that can come from the network," Ciena VP Anthony McLachlan told ZDNet at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona on Tuesday.

"We have to tune and do different things to the network to get it ready [for 5G]. From a Ciena point of view, the underlying technology or network needs to be reliable, it's got to be open; I think it's very important to have an open ecosystem."

In adapting to the oncoming technology shift, McLachlan said the two biggest focuses for Ciena -- which provides optical transport links, Ethernet transport solutions, and underlying connectivity for telecommunications operators globally via presence across many subsea cables -- are resilience and performance via network virtualisation.

"What we're focused on is -- it's the resilience of that network, performance of the network, I would say, and also how you can manipulate that data around to get the best experience for customers," McLachlan explained to ZDNet.

"Time and cost is really what we're taking out, so we're moving away from these monolithic approaches to more of a services architecture.

"For us, our focus is about driving high-capacity, high-performance software-enabled networks ... we think we're bringing the right portfolio set together to give our customers that flexibility and openness."

Ciena is also conscious of opening up networks to allow for greater technological innovation.

"The software enablement of networks ... we're going to use our toolset called Blue Planet to be able to open that up, not only for our kit, but ... across the rest of the network elements as well," he said.

"We're an innovation company ... so we spend a lot of our R&D dollars focused around that [network] performance, so our WaveLogic [product] and the evolution of that to make sure we extract the most value -- and again the rest of R&D is around the software driving our customer experience.

"Open network architectures fuel innovation."

Ciena recently announced its WaveLogic Ai product, which is billed as an more autonomous optical network that allows operators to have more granular control over the end user's experience.

"You can actually choose to software tune the network for distance, scale, or latency, and we do that by changing different modulation schemes to be more adaptive to a particular environment, and you know in fact you can actually do it real time in the network if you have to," McLachlan explained.

Ciena is also focused on extracting the highest spectral performance across subsea cables, McLachlan said, and providing "bandwidth on demand" as more cables are being built out across the Asia-Pacific region.

In Australia, Telstra and Ericsson in January achieved the encryption of data while in transit over a 10Gbps link between Australia and the United States thanks to using Ciena's 10Gbps wire-speed ultra-low latency advanced optical encryption solution.

According to Ciena, the end result was secure, encrypted data that does not slow down the network.

"Businesses today recognise the importance of securing data not only inside the enterprise, but also as it leaves the private cloud and traverses across the network, without adding latency or sacrificing the end-user experience," Francois Locoh-Donou, senior vice president and COO of Ciena, said at the time.

Ciena, Telstra, and Ericsson will next trial data encryption while in transit across a 100Gbps link.