Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Time to Register for IEEE Women in Engineering Leadership Conference

We often have the skills to be makers of innovative products, to teach or inspire our kids, but often we have trouble getting started.

In this video, Natalia Baklitskaya, CAD Infrastructure Software Engineer at Intel's Programmable Solutions Group, talks about her upcoming workshop at the the IEEE Women in Engineering Leadership Conference, which will be held May 22-23, 2017 at the San Jose Convention Center.

Join your industry colleagues and reserve your spot, register here:

Can't attend the full 2017 WIE ILC event? Register to attend Tuesday s Career Fair or Networking Reception Monday evening here:

Google Cloud Platform launches No. Virginia region

Google Cloud Platform (GCP) activated its latest cloud region: Northern Virginia (us-east4). The region has three zones (data centers) and now supports GCP compute, Big Data, storage and networking cloud services.

With this addition, Google now has four regions serving the Americas market including Oregon, Iowa and South Carolina. Future regions are planned in São Paulo, Montreal and California.

Facebook dreams of better network connectivity platforms – Part 1

Facebook's decision to launch the Open Compute Project (OCP) six years ago was a good one. At the time, Facebook was in the process of opening its first data centre, having previously leased space in various third party colocation facilities. As it constructed this first facility in Prineville, Oregon the company realised that it was going to have to build faster, cheaper and smarter if this strategy were to succeed, and that to keep up with its phenomenal growth it would have to open massive data centres in multiple locations.

In 2016, Facebook kicked off the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) with a mission to take the principles of the Open Compute Project (OCP) model and apply them to software systems and components involved in access, backhaul and core networks. The first TIP design ideas look solid and have quickly gained industry support. Among these is Voyager, a 'white box' transponder and routing platform based on Open Packet DWDM. This open line system will include Yang software data models of each component in the system and an open northbound software interface (such as NETCONF or Thrift) to the control plane software, essentially allowing multiple applications to run on top of the open software layer. The DWDM transponder hardware includes DSP ASICs and complex optoelectronic components, and thus accounts for much of the cost of the system.

The hardware design leverages technologies implemented in Wedge 100, Facebook's top-of-rack switch, including the same Broadcom Tomahawk switching ASIC. It also uses the DSP ASIC and optics module (AC400) from Acacia Communications for the DWDM line side with their open development environment. Several carriers and data centre operators have already begun testing Voyager platforms from multiple vendors.

In November 2016, Facebook outline its next TIP plans including Open Packet DWDM for metro and long-haul optical transport networks. This idea is intended to enable a clean separation of software and hardware based on open specifications. Again, there is early support for a platform with real world possibilities, either within Facebook's global infrastructure or as an open source specification that is ultimately adopted by others.

What's cooking at Facebook's network connectivity labs

At its recent F8 Developer’s conference in San Jose, Facebook highlighted several other telecom-related R&D projects out of its network connectivity lab that seem to be more whimsical fancy than down-to-earth practicality. In the big picture, these applied research projects could be game-changers in the race to the billions of people worldwide currently without Internet access, or potential Facebook users of the future. Facebook said its goal here is to bring down the cost of connectivity by an 'order of magnitude', a pretty high bar considering the pace of improvement already seen in mobile networking technologies.

This article will focus on three projects mentioned at this year's F8 keynote, namely: Terragraph, a 60 GHz multi-node wireless system for dense urban areas that uses radios based on the WiGig standard; Aquila, a solar-powered drone for Internet delivery from the stratosphere; and Tether-tenna, a sort of helicopter drone with a base station. It is not clear if these three projects will eventually become part of the TIP of even if they will progress beyond lab trials.


Terragraph is Facebook's multi-node wireless system for delivering high-speed Internet connectivity to dense urban areas and capable of delivering gigabit speed to mobile handsets. The scheme, first announced at last year's F8 conference, calls for IPv6-only Terragraph nodes to be placed at 200-metre intervals. Terragraph will incorporate commercial off-the-shelf components and aim for high-volume, low-cost production. Facebook noted that up to 7 GHz of bandwidth is available in the unlicensed 60 GHz band in many countries, while U.S. regulators are considering expanding this to a total of 14 GHz. Terragraph will also leverage an SDN-like cloud compute controller and a new modular routing protocol that Facebook has optimised for fast route convergence and failure detection. The architecture also tweaks the MAC layer to solve shortcomings of TCP/IP over a wireless link. The company says the TDMA-TDD MAC layers delivers up to 6x improvement in network efficiency while being more predictable than the existing WiFi/WiGig standard.

At the 2017 F8 conference, Facebook talked about how Terragraph is being tested in downtown San Jose, California, a convenient location given that is right next door for Facebook. Weather will not be a significant factor since San Jose does not experience the rolling summer fog of nearby San Francisco, nor does it suffer torrential tropical downpours, whiteout blizzard conditions, scorching summer heat, or Beijing-style air pollution that could obscure line-of-sight.

While the trial location might be ideal, one should also consider in which cities would Terragraph be practical. First, there are plenty of WiFi hotspots throughout San Jose and smartphone penetration is pretty much universal and nearly everyone has 4G service. Heavy data users have the option on unlimited plans from the major carriers. So maybe San Jose only serves as the technical trial and the business case is more applicable to Mexico City or Manaus, Lagos, Nairobi, or other such dense urban areas.

At the F8 conference, Facebook showed an AI system being used to optimise small cell placement from a 3D map of the city centre. The 3D map included data for the heights of buildings, trees and other obstacles. The company said this AI system alone could be a game changer simply by eliminating the many hours of human engineering that would be needed to scope out good locations for small cells. However, the real world is more complicated. Just because the software identifies a particular light pole as an ideal femtocell placement does not mean that the city will approve it. There are also factors such as neighbour objections, pole ownership, electrical connections, etc., that will stop the process from being fully automated. If this Terragraph system is aimed at second or third tier cities in developing countries, there is also the issue of chaotic development all around. In the shanty towns surrounding these big conurbations, legal niceties such as property boundaries and rights-of-way can be quite murky. Terragraph could be quite useful in bringing low-cost Internet into these areas, but it probably does not need fancy AI to optimise each small cell placement.

Generally speaking, 3G and now 4G services have arrived in most cities worldwide. The presumption is that Facebook is not seeking to become its own mobile carrier in developing countries but that it would partner with existing operators to augment their networks. Meanwhile one suspects that the reason carriers have been slow to upgrade capacity is certain neighbourhoods or cities is more economic than technical. It is probably not a lack of spectrum that is holding them back, nor a lack of viable femtocell products or microwave backlinks, but simply a lack of financial capital or a weak return on investment, or red tape. One reason for this that is often cited is that over-the-top services, such as Facebook, suck all the value out of the network, leaving the mobile operator with very thin margins and little customer stickiness.

Part 2 of this article we will look at Facebook's Aquila and Tether-tenna concepts.

Verizon expands universal CPE portfolio with whitebox, OpenStack

Verizon announced it has expanded its Virtual Network Services offering with the addition of x86-based whitebox options leveraging OpenStack to its universal customer premises equipment (uCPE) portfolio.

Verizon's uCPE offering means that enterprises do not need to invest in separate, dedicated hardware appliances to deliver key virtual network functions (VNFs) such as software-defined WAN (SD-WAN), security, routing, WAN optimisation, or any network function that can be virtualised.

Verizon is seeking to simplify the transition to software-defined, application-centric network deployments for organisations of any size by expanding its Virtual Network Services uCPE options from vendor-specific platforms to an open hardware, open source whitebox architecture.

Verizon's uCPE portfolio targets applications ranging from solutions suitable for small retail sites up to large data centre deployments and leverages commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and a globally distributed open source architecture. This allows enterprises to rapidly deploy services globally using Verizon's application library.

The uCPE solution features service chaining and enterprise orchestration functionality that enables automated onboarding and provisioning, with future orchestration releases to offer service assurance capabilities for fault and performance monitoring, closed-loop healing and a VNF factory. The enhanced life-cycle orchestration capabilities are designed to enable enterprises to implement near real-time SDN technologies.

Verizon noted that the combination of COTS hardware and a distributed deployment of OpenStack allows customers to decouple hardware from software and removes the need for proprietary hardware. This capability can help customers to reduce costs and simplify the physical network architecture, as well as allowing them to choose the most suitable hardware and applications for their individual requirements.

Telefónica Picks Nuage Networks for SD-WAN

The Telefonica Group has selected Nuage Networks, a division of Nokia, as its provider for next-generation Software Defined Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) services. The installation will deliver automated end-to-end services leveraging next-generation cloud technology to several thousand global enterprise customers using Nuage Networks Virtualized Network Services (VNS). Financial terms were not disclosed.

The companies said the new SD-WAN service from Telefonica is expected to be available in second half of 2017 in Spain, and will be followed by Telefonica Business Services (International) and other subsidiaries. Telefonica is integrating the Nuage Networks SD-WAN solution with new full-stack approach across the Group and will develop a superb customized self portal for user-driven service customization and fulfillment, which will accelerate deployment and bring individual sites online while reducing operational overhead at the customer site.

"The IT, communications and service demands of today's enterprises are much higher than just a few years ago. Companies require new cloud technologies to support them while simplifying traditional service models. We worked closely with Telefonica to ensure the Nuage Networks' VNS solution addresses their new SD-WAN service requirements around the globe. Enterprise customers who need more flexibility and agility to adapt to rapidly changing business needs can get it through a trusted provider like Telefonica," stated Sunil Khandekar, founder and chief executive officer of Nuage Networks from Nokia.

SDN Market Update: Sunil Khandekar, Nuage Networks

What is resonating in the market today for software-defined networking (SDN) and SD-WAN technologies? Sunil Khandekar, founder and CEO of Nuage Networks, says it is the ability to connect users everywhere with applications anywhere, whether they are in public or private clouds. Real deployments are becoming the new normal.

See video:

NEC begins construction of 3 subsea cables in Micronesia

NEC, in partnership with Belau Submarine Cable (BSCC) and the government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), announced it has commenced construction of three submarine cable links that will connect the islands of Palau, Yap and Chuuk in the western Pacific Ocean to the global network.

BSCC, supported by a loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), has signed a supply contract with NEC to build the spur to Palau, while FSM, backed by a grant from the World Bank (WB), has signed a supply contract with NEC to construct the spur to Yap, and recently signed an additional agreement for the extension from Pohnpei to Chuuk.

The spurs to Palau and Yap will both interconnect with the SEA-US cable system, also under construction by NEC, which connects the Philippines and Indonesia to the west coast of the U.S. via Guam and Hawaii. In addition, the extension from Pohnpei, the capital of FSM, to Chuuk branches out of another existing cable linking FSM, the Marshall Islands and Guam. All three routes feature transmission speeds of 100 Gbit/s per channel.

BSCC is a state-owned entity of the Republic of Palau with responsibility for the submarine cable project. BSCC has signed an IRU agreement with GTI (a subsidiary of Globe Telecom) for the provision of 5 x 100 Gbit/s wavelengths and a branching unit (BU) on the SEA-US West subsystem linking Indonesia, the Philippines and Guam. It has also contracted NEC to supply a spur cable linking the BU on the SEA-US West subsystem to Palau.

On completion of the project, BSCC will provide open bandwidth access to the international cable system for domestic telcos.

In addition, DTCI has signed an IRU agreement with Telkom Indonesia (Telin) for 5 x 100 Gbit/s wavelengths and a BU on the main trunk of the SEA-US West subsystem, plus a supply contract with NEC to deliver a spur cable linking the BU on the SEA-US West subsystem to Yap, along with a contract extension that includes a cable linking Weno Island Chuuk to the existing spur on to the HANTRU-1 cable system in Pohnpei to Guam.

Ownership and implementation responsibilities for the cable systems will pass from DTCI to the newly established FSM Telecommunications Cable (FSMTCC) which, as owner of the Yap and Chuuk cable systems, will provide open bandwidth access to the international cable systems for domestic telcos.

Ericsson introduces Dynamic Orchestration for physical/virtual networks

Ericsson has launched its Dynamic Orchestration solution, designed to facilitate the introduction and closed-loop automation of services across physical and virtual networks, as part of the company's strategy to enable IT transformation for its customers.

Ericsson Dynamic Orchestration offers a flexible and modular solution for the management of existing technologies, while also enabling the provision and control virtualisation capabilities.

Delivering support for zero-touch automation, rapid provisioning and policy-driven service assurance, Ericson's Dynamic Orchestration, which is being showcased at TM Forum Live! in Nice, can help operators achieve faster time to market and enhance their ability to deliver new and differentiated services.

Ericsson noted that leveraging advances in IT networking and driven by the evolution towards 5G and IoT, services are becoming more cloud-based. This means that service providers need to be able to both deliver services on demand and respond to changing requirements in real time, necessitating faster provisioning and the enforcement and monitoring of SLAs.

A key element within the Ericsson Digital Support Systems portfolio, the new Dynamic Orchestration offering is designed to provide operators with the tools needed to transition to software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualisation (NFV). The solution integrates software with professional services and automates multiple layers to enable the creation, delivery and assurance of digital services such as software defined WAN (SD-WAN), VPN and 5G network slicing.

Dynamic Orchestration is an end-to-end, automated service orchestration solution that supports validation of virtual network functions (VNFs), design and onboarding of new services, inventory, resource and capacity management, service configuration management and service assurance.

Microsemi and Aquantia introduce multi-rate Ethernet switch reference platform

Semiconductor solutions provider Microsemi and Aquantia, a supplier of high-speed Ethernet connectivity solutions for data centres, enterprise infrastructure and client connectivity, introduced a production-ready multi-rate switch reference platform optimised to support 24 x 2.5 Gbit/s and up to an additional four 2.5/5/10 Gbit/s BASE-T ports.

The solution, which is available immediately, combines Microsemi's SparX-IV Layer 2/3 enterprise switch, VSC7448, Linux SMBStaX software, clock management, PD69208M Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) power sourcing equipment (PSE) manager, and Aquantia's second generation multi-rate IEEE 802.3bz PHY, the AQR409.

Designed for applications including 1, 2.5 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet switching and aggregation, the joint reference design from Microsemi and Aquantia is suitable for enterprise infrastructure applications such as switches, access routers and WLAN access point (AP) switches.

Microsemi's VSC7448 SparX-IV-80 device is an 80 Gbit/s SMB/SME industrial Ethernet switch offering up to 52 ports supporting 1, 2.5 and 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. Utilising multi-stage versatile content aware processing (VCAP), the solution delivers VLAN and QoS processing to enable the delivery of differentiated services, security via intelligent frame processing and egress frame manipulation. For industrial applications, VSC7448 integrates VeriTime timing technology.

The device also features a 500 MHz CPU that enables management of a Layer 2/3 Ethernet switch solution, and an API and software development package to aid development for managed Ethernet applications.

In addition, the PD69208M PoE PSE manager is designed to support IEEE 802.3bt for data rates up to 10 Gbit/s, while Microsemi clock management portfolio provides low jitter devices for clock synthesis, frequency conversion, jitter attenuation and fan out buffers.

Aquantia's AQrate AQR409 is an advanced low power, three-speed, quad-port PHY housed in a 19 x 19 mm flip-chip BGA package. AQrate technology is designed to bridge the bandwidth gap between legacy cabling infrastructure designed for 1 Gbit/s data rates and new 802.11ac WLAN technology offering higher bandwidth. The AQR409 can support 2.5/1 Gbit/s and 100 Mbit/s line rate over 100 metres of Cat 5e or Cat 6 cabling.

AQrate PHYs are compatible with the NBASE-T Alliance PHY specification and IEEE 802.3bz standard and perform physical layer functions required for transmission over 100 metres of twisted pair cabling. They also offer support for the IEEE 802.1AE MAC-layer security (MACsec) protocol and IEEE 1588 v2 PTP to synchronise real-time clocks to sub-microsecond accuracy,

Microsemi noted that the collaboration with Aquantia is part of its Accelerate Ecosystem, designed to speed time to market for end customers and development time for ecosystem participants.

Kaiam expands UK manufacturing capacity via acquisition of facilities from CP

Kaiam, a privately-held developer of hybrid photonic integrated circuit (PIC) technology, announced the completion of its acquisition of the manufacturing facilities of Compound Photonics (CP) in Newton Aycliffe, Durham in the UK as part of a transaction that also includes investment by CP into Kaiam to further develop the facility.

The Newton Aycliffe facility will enable Kaiam to significantly increase its manufacturing capacity for silica-on-silicon planar lightwave circuits (PLCs) and 40 and 100 Gbit/s transceivers, and adds both electronic and optoelectronic compound semiconductor devices to the product line. The acquisition also includes tooling and an experienced team that complements and expands Kaiam's existing Livingston, Scotland factory.

Kaiam noted that the new facility will enable it to produce InP photonic integrated circuits (PICs) that will form the basis for advanced transceivers in the future. The transaction continues Kaiam's strategy of achieving vertical integration, building on its acquisition of Gemfire's PLC fab in 2013.

The Newton Aycliffe facility encompasses 300,000 sq feet and includes a fully operational wafer fab with 100,000 sq feet. of cleanroom space for processing, packaging, and testing of III-V devices. The factory is currently shipping GaAs devices and circuits, with the capability to produce InP optoelectronics. Kaiam noted that the facility was originally built as a silicon fab for DRAMs before being converted to III-V materials and currently has 3 and 6 inch lines.
Kaiam announced in March that it planned to acquire the manufacturing facilities of Compound Photonics (CP) in Newton Aycliffe. Kaiam acquired Gemfire, its strategic PLC supplier, in 2013 and currently operates an 8 inch silica-on-silicon line for the fabrication of integrated optical components in Gemfire's Livingston facility in Scotland. It also operates 40 and 100 Gbit/s optical packaging lines at the facility, and noted at the time that these were nearing capacity.

Compound Photonics (CP) is a privately held photonics company with a focus on liquid crystal on silicon display devices and laser technologies for a range of applications in the projection and near to eye display markets.

Commenting on the acquisition, Bardia Pezeshki, Kaiam CEO, said, "… future transceivers that run at higher speed and use complex modulation formats will require integrated photonic elements that are highly differentiated and will not be readily available in the market… this new facility will give Kaiam this essential PIC capability, positioning it to meet customers' needs for improving speed, cost, power, density and manufacturing scale".

SiFive Raises $8.5m for RISC-V based custom chips

SiFive based in San Francisco, the fabless provider of customised, open-source-enabled semiconductors:

a.         Co-founded in 2015 by Krste Asanovic, currently the company's chief architect, Yunsup Lee, currently CTO, and Andrew Waterman, currently chief engineer, the inventors of RISC-V technology.

b.         Established with the aim of providing access to custom silicon chip designs leveraging RISC-V technology.

Announced that it has raised $8.5 million in a Series B round led by Spark Capital, with the participation of Osage University Partners and existing investor Sutter Hill Ventures. The latest funding brings the total investment in SiFive to $13.5 million and comes as the company reports increasing demand for RISC-V IP. In conjunction with the new funding, Todd Dagres, general partner at Spark Capital, is to join the SiFive board of directors.

SiFive is a fabless provider of custom semiconductors based on the free and open RISC-V instruction set architecture. Founded by the inventors of RISC-V, SiFive stated that in the first six months of availability, more than 1,000 HiFive1 software development boards have been purchased and delivered to developers in over 40 countries.

SiFive launched its Freedom Everywhere platform, designed for micro-controller, embedded, IoT and wearable applications, and Freedom Unleashed platform for machine learning, storage and networking applications in July 2016. In November, it announced general availability of the Freedom Everywhere 310 (FE310) SoC and HiFive1 software development board.

The company noted that RISC-V has established an ecosystem of more than 60 companies that includes Google, HPE, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, NVIDIA, Samsung and Microsemi, while member companies and third-party open-source contributors are helping build a suite of software and toolchains that includes GCC and binutils.

Alaska's GCI deploys Aricent ANS

Alaska telco General Communication (GCI) has selected a combination of Aricent Autonomous Network Solution (ANS) and Monolith Software's AssureNow platform to integrate its enterprise infrastructure and enhance communication service quality and establish a dynamic service environment to enable the delivery of new digital services.

The largest telco in Alaska, GCI offers a range of services including voice, video, broadband data services and wireless to businesses and residential customers, and is deploying Aricent ANS with the Monolith AssureNow platform to unify information, automate remediation and expedite issue resolution to help improve quality control and performance management.

The overall solution provides a complete view of infrastructure comprising converged IP and infrastructure from cable, IP LAN/WAN, core, wireless and transport domains, enabling zero-touch policy orchestration, intelligent predictive analysis, automated correlation and application performance management for enhanced digital services improved operational efficiency.

GCI stated that the synergy between its technical expertise, Monolith's AssureNow and Aricent Autonomous Network Solution is intended to strengthen its operational capabilities and accelerate the development of new solutions in Alaska.

Monolith's AssureNow platform enables end-to-end, unified management of services, performance and faults across legacy and dynamic virtualised domains. GCI noted that by implementing AssureNow it will be able to phase out older networking tools while improving and simplifying issue tracking.

The recently launched Aricent ANS is designed to enable rapid network transformation for network equipment vendors and service providers. The solution facilitates the transition toward self-steering networks to support new interactions and platforms that can deliver new customer services.