Monday, May 8, 2017

Dell Offers Flexible Models to Counter Public Cloud

Dell Technologies will offer flexible consumption models for its products company-wide. The idea is to let enterprise customers pay for IT products on an as-needed basis similar to public cloud services. The flexible payment model, which is arranged through Dell Financial Services, enable customers to reduce the large up-front costs of on-premises hardware.
tal costs.

The flex pricing is initially available for all Dell EMC storage solutions. Customers pay only for the storage capacity needed, which reduces costs associated with overprovisioning. Importantly, Flex on Demand provides instant access to additional buffer capacity during spikes driven by the business, with payments adjusting to match usage. DFS offers a low capacity commitment and a flexible payment period so customers may pay only for what is consumed, freeing up budgets for other projects.

“Many IT leaders worry about unforeseen costs and risks when adopting new or different technologies, but organizations that do not invest in IT Transformation initiatives risk falling behind their competitors,” said Howard Elias, President, Dell EMC Services and IT. “With flexible, simple and predictable payment solutions, we help organizations adopt the technology—from the desktop to the datacenter—that best suits their business needs today and allows a more pay-as-go model for modernizing and transforming IT.”

Dell Readies its 14G Poweredge Servers

Dell EMC will launch the 14th generation of its Poweredge servers as soon as Intel releases its new Xeon processors.

The new 14G PowerEdge servers will be embedded in storage and data center appliances, hyper-converged appliances and racks, ready nodes, bundles and other Dell EMC solutions. Key enhancements include:

  • Increasde application performance and response time – with 19X more Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe) low latency storage than the prior generation.
  • One-click BIOS tuning enables quick-and-easy deployment of many processing-intensive workloads
  • Enhanced storage capacity and flexibility lets customers tailor their storage configurations to their application needs especially in a software-defined-storage (SDS) environment
  • Newly enhanced systems management features embedded in the Dell EMC PowerEdge portfolio uniquely automate productivity and simplify lifecycle management from server deployment to retirement.

Monthly update on the Indian telecommunications market - Part 3

Full article: Part 1Part 2 , Part 3Part 4


Part 2 covered the rapid process of vendor consolidation into four main groups that is taking place in the Indian telecoms market and looked in detail at the activities of the two market leaders, Bharti Airtel's merger with Telenor India and the even larger conjunction of Vodafone India with Idea Cellular, together with related minor acquisitions. Those two companies alone once all proposals have fully closed will, based on December 2016 data and financial sources, account for almost 65% of India's mobile subscribers and in the range 73 to 78% of total communications market revenue. Despite the seemingly very strong position on paper of the new Vodafone-Idea company, which would nominally take over as leader of the Indian telecoms market, there are legitimate doubts about the viability of the union, as covered in Part 2.

The other two groups likely to make up the Top 4 are Reliance Communications (RCOM), run by Anil Ambani, (Mukesh Ambani's younger and very competitive brother) and also Mukesh's own massive $20 billion-funded RJIO, which although still a minnow in revenue terms is eventually likely to dominate the Indian broadband market. There are also issues with both of them.

Despite its dramatic first few months apparent success after its launch in September, which has resulted in it already signing on more than 100 million customers, RJIO still remains something of an unknown quantity commercially, since early customers have been drawn to use its services by attractive initial offers of free voice and free or very cheap data services. How many customers it will retain once it starts to charge market-level prices is still rather uncertain. While due to the constantly extended RJIO launch date, both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone have had time to adjust their pricing, products and marketing approach and are likely to stand firm in competition.

The second uncertainty is what will eventually be the settled relationship between RJIO and RCOM, which have been  drawing steadily closer together via a number of deals involving the sharing of spectrum and networks, but whose ultimate intentions are unclear. At one extreme the deals that have been done may have just been normal commercial deals beneficial to both parties and merely been able to be implemented faster than usual and more economically because of trust within the family. At the other extreme, it is a deliberate long term plan to dominate the market, which will eventually result in a full merger whereby Anil perhaps would become the manager of the combined company within the framework of the RIL conglomerate, managed by Mukesh (who has plenty of other opportunities to take in a fast growing country whose economy is likely to double in the next ten years). What view the TRAI regulator would take on such a proposal remains to be seen.

Group 3 – RCOM, Sistema, Aircel and Tata, plus network sharing with RJIO

Since at least mid-2015 RCOM, at one time a contender on its own account for a Top 3 position in terms of mobile subscriptions, has been in restructuring mode and has also for most of that time been steadily losing organic market share, resulting in a drop in its ranking amongst all 12 mobile operators of two places from No 4 to No 6.

In November 2015 it was announced that in a deal with a headline value of $690 million RCOM would, in exchange for a 10% stake in the merged association, acquire smaller rival Sistema Shyam Teleservices (SSTL), as a result of which it would get an additional 9 million customers and INR 15 billion ($229 million) in annual revenue. Also, RCOM claimed, it would be the largest holder of 800/850 MHz spectrum for 4G. Despite the agreement this deal does not yet seem to have fully closed. In fact, Russia's giant 70,000-employee Sistema Group and RCom only submitted documents for final approval of the transaction by India's DoT in November 2016. In early February 2017 the board chairman of Sistema, Vladimir Evtushenkov, told TASS that he expected the deal to close in March. Because of the long delay some circumstances may have changed. As of December 2016, TRAI only reported 5.9 million customers for Sistema compared to 9 million at the time the deal was first agreed (it is possible that some Sistema customers, by agreement, may already have been transferred to the RCOM network).

In December 2015 RCOM, then India's fourth largest operator in terms of mobile subscribers with around 110.4 million subscribers as of September 2015, announced that it was holding non-binding talks with Aircel’s majority owner Maxis Communications of Malaysia and shareholder Sindya Securities and Investments to merge its mobile business with Aircel, which served just under 84 million. At the time the two companies claimed synergies for the merger would amount to INR 20,000 crore. In September 2016 final details of the agreement were confirmed whereby RCom and Maxis Communications would hold 50% each in a newly created venture with equal representation on the board. Following the merger, the company would have an asset base of more than INR 65,000 crore and net worth of INR 35,000 crore. RCOM's overall debt, including the deferred spectrum payment liability, would be reduced by INR 20,000 crore and Aircel's debt would reduce by INR 4,000 crore upon completion of the transaction. According to their announcement the merged entity would have the second-largest spectrum holding amongst all operators, totalling 448 MHz across 850 MHz, 900 MHz, 1800 MHz and 2100 MHz bands.

As with the SSTL acquisition, this is a complicated agreement and India is a very bureaucratic country where many different approvals have to be obtained for such a deal. In fact the agreement has only just been approved (on April 22nd) by Aircel shareholders and on April 24th 2017 by the shareholders of RCOM.

The company has already received approval from the Securities and Exchange Board of India, BSE, National Stock Exchange of India and Competition Commission of India for the proposed scheme of arrangement but several other approvals are still required.

RCOM itself has, for a variety of reasons, including loss of licences, heavy debt and possibly a management distracted by all its many restructuring arrangements, not being doing that well. In January 2016 RCOM reported for the October to December quarter of 2015, a year on year decline of 2.9% in revenue to INR 5,277 crore and a 15% decline in net profit to INR 171 crore, which it said was mainly due to the expiry of 2G licences in five circles including Bihar, West Bengal and Assam.

As of December 2016, TRAI reported that RCOM now ranked only the sixth largest supplier served 86.5 million mobile subscriptions, a drop of almost 24 million from the 110.4 million at the end of September 2015.

Apart from the other deals, RCOM has concluded several extremely important network and spectrum-sharing agreements with RJIO. RJIO entered into a INR12,000 crore pact with RCOM in June 2013 to utilise the latter's telecom towers for providing broadband digital services. In 2014, RJIO signed a deal with RCOM to share the latter’s optic fibre infrastructure in some 300 cities and towns. In early January 2016, RCOM announced that it would, subject to regulatory approvals, sell its spectrum in the 800 MHz band across 9 circles, to RJIO and both companies would also share their spectrum in 800 MHz band across 17 circles with the eventual aim of sharing that spectrum across all 22 circles.

In late September 2016 speaking to investors Anil Ambani confirmed that RCOM and RJIO had 'all but' merged, saying specifically: 1As far as our 100 million customers are concerned, as far as our 1 million retailers are concerned, as far as our employees are concerned, and as far as our vendors and partners are concerned, there has already been a virtual merger of the two organisations (RCom and Jio)'.

Further comment

Apart from the two state-owned operators BSNL and  MTNL which together own almost 9% of the mobile market and have a dominant share of India's fixed-line market, there is only one other unconsolidated operator left of any significance, Tata Teleservices, which as of December 2016 served just under 53 million mobile subscriptions for a 4.70% market share. In early February 2017, India's Economic Times reported that persons familiar with the matter had told them that Anil Ambani had initiated talks with newly appointed Tata Sons chairman N. Chandrasekharan to explore a possible union. There are, however, two major problems that Tata Teleservices still has to deal with. The first is a massive debt of INR 30,000 crore and the second is an unresolved dispute between Tata and NTT DOCOMO related to their partnership in Tata Tele with a headline value of $1.17 billion. However, at least one source reported on March 14th that following what was described as a 'truce' between Tata and NTT due diligence talks had been started between RCOM and Tata on the possibility of a deal regarding Tata Teleservices.

Full article: Part 1Part 2 , Part 3Part 4

ADVA partners with Brocade on 32G Fibre Channel over 100 km

ADVA Optical Networking announced that it has demonstrated transmission of 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel over 100 km, which is claimed as an industry first, during a joint field trial that utilised Brocade X6 directors and the ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform.

The trial was designed to illustrate the ability of ADVA's data centre interconnect (DCI) technology to interoperate seamlessly with Brocade Gen 6 Fibre Channel products. The joint solution will enable enterprise customers to address the demand for higher speed transmission in the data centre, as well as support the transition to flash-based storage solutions.

The combination of Brocade's newly introduced Gen 6 Fibre Channel technology and the ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect platform is designed to offer customers increased performance, availability and scalability.

ADVA noted that transmission of 32 Gbit/s Fibre Channel over 100 km represents a key capability for business continuity and disaster recovery planning. As companies move towards a low-cost, high-performance storage model, they require networks that can deliver low-latency and high-capacity bandwidth together with high reliability. This demonstration of 32Gbit/s Fibre Channel connectivity shows that networks can now maximize the performance of flash array technology.

Brocade announced in March the launch of its G610 storage switch as part of the Gen 6 Fibre Channel portfolio that support 32 Gbit/s performance and designed to provide always-on connectivity to the all-flash data centre. The company noted that the transition to flash storage and the emergence of non-volatile memory express (NVMe) requires infrastructure that can optimise application performance and adapt to evolving data centre needs.

The Brocade G610 is an entry-level switch designed for applications ranging from small shared storage fabrics to network edge deployments in data centres. The switch is scalable, offering support for from eight ports up to 24 ports, and features Fabric Vision technology with newly introduced VM Insight functionality providing visibility into VM-level application performance.

Regarding the joint demonstration, Scott Shimomura, senior director, product marketing, Storage Networking at Brocade, said, "A seismic shift is taking place as organisations move from legacy storage to all-flash arrays… but a lack of fast, responsive and reliable connectivity can be a roadblock… the Brocade Gen 6 Fibre Channel portfolio and ADVA FSP 3000 CloudConnect enable the reliable, low-latency Fibre Channel storage networks that data centres need to (support) flash storage".

Equinix provides direct access to Oracle Cloud at Washington DC IBX facility

Equinix, the global interconnection and data centre company and member of Oracle PartnerNetwork, announced the availability of dedicated, private access to the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure IaaS offering via the Equinix Cloud Exchange.

Direct access via Equinix enables enterprise customers to migrate applications and data to Oracle Cloud and gain low latency connectivity for an enhanced user experience. The latest agreement builds on previous collaborations between Equinix and Oracle to enable direct access to Oracle's suite of cloud services, including PaaS and SaaS solutions, in markets worldwide.

Under the new agreement, access to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure will initially be available via the Oracle Cloud Network Service FastConnect in the Equinix Washington, DC International Business Exchange (IBX) data centre; additional markets scheduled to be added during the year.

Equinix noted that leveraging Cloud Exchange and API integration with Oracle's FastConnect, customers are able to establish direct connectivity between on-premises infrastructure and Oracle Cloud environments. This allows customers to adopt a hybrid cloud model, with the ability to reliably and efficiently move application, middleware and database workloads between on-premises systems and the Oracle Cloud.

Equinix cited examples of hybrid deployments enabled by the collaboration including:

1.         Customers wishing to migrate and host complex, multi-tier solutions in the cloud while minimising production downtime.
2.         Customers with the need to perform analytics on large data sets residing in Oracle databases, which can host Oracle solutions on-premises inside Equinix and, via FastConnect on Equinix Cloud Exchange, extend their network into the Oracle Cloud, so removing data size limits, increasing throughput and reducing latency.

3.         Customers wishing to consolidate databases into Oracle Exadata Cloud Service but with limited capacity in their existing data centre, who can place Oracle Exadata racks inside Equinix and connect to Oracle Cloud for high availability.

Oracle FastConnect, offering private access to Oracle Cloud on Equinix Cloud Exchange, is scheduled to be available in six markets, including Washington DC, Chicago, Amsterdam, London and Sydney, by the end of 2017. Equinix Cloud Exchange is currently available in 21 markets worldwide across North America, Europe and Asia.

Zayo Buys Kio data centres in San Diego

Zayo Group announced that it has completed the acquisition for $12 million of Kio Networks' San Diego data centres, specifically two facilities located at 12270 World Trade Drive and 9606 Aero Drive.

Zayo stated that it has experienced increasing demand for data centre and interconnection services in San Diego, driven by customers in the IT, healthcare and professional services sectors. The acquisition of Kio's data centres not only provides capacity to meet this demand, but also an embedded revenue base that supports the financial profile of the deal.

The San Diego facilities will provide extensive interconnection and access to Zayo’s fiber backbone in California, which now encompasses more than 8,000 route miles. Zayo’s high-count fibre also connects to multiple landing stations providing subsea cable access up the California coast and to the Asia Pacific (APAC) region.

Zayo noted that the acquisition builds on its continuing expansion on the West Coast, which includes network assets acquired with Electric Lightwave and recently announced data centres in Santa Clara and Los Angeles. Zayo announced in April that it would significantly expand its Los Angeles data centre presence with a new location at One Wilshire Building, 624 S Grand Ave., marking its fifth facility in California, to meet customer demand.

  • Zayo recently announced it had achieved Carrier Ethernet 2.0 certification from the Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF). It noted that the certification strengthens its ability to deliver standards-based local, national and global Ethernet services with the same interoperability and performance to any location.
  • The MEF CE 2.0 certification also validates Zayo's ability to provide Ethernet solutions that meet operator-to-operator requirements. Zayo services include E-Line, point-to-point, multipoint and E-LAN configurations. Zayo also offers Ethernet Private Dedicated Network (E-PDN), offering customers dedicated fibre and equipment and FlexConnect.

NeoPhotonics reports Q1 revenue of $71.69m, net loss of $11.52m

NeoPhotonics, a designer and manufacturer of optoelectronic solutions for the communications networks for telecom and data centres applications, announced financial results for its first quarter ended March 31, 2017, as follows:

1.         Revenue for the first quarter of 2017 of $71.69 million, down 34.7% versus $109.84 million in the fourth quarter and down 27.7% from $99.14 million in the first quarter of 2016.

2.         Gross income for the first quarter of $18.50 million, down 40.3% versus $31.03 million in the fourth quarter and down 40.5% from $31.12 million in the first quarter of 2016.

3.         R&D expenditure for the first quarter of $15.54 million, up 2.4% versus $15.17 million in the fourth quarter and up 20.0% from $12.95 million in the first quarter of 2016.

4.         SG&A expenditure for the first quarter of $16.36 million, up 30.0% versus $12.58 million in the fourth quarter and up 25.8% from $13.01 million in the first quarter of 2016.

5.         Total operating expenditure for the first quarter of $30.38 million, up 4.1% versus $29.19 million in the fourth quarter and up 15.0% from $26.42 million in the first quarter of 2016.

6.         On a GAAP basis, a net loss for the first quarter of $11.52, versus net income of $2.00 in the fourth quarter and net income of $2.31 million in the first quarter of 2016.

On a non-GAAP basis, a net loss for the first quarter of $10.74 million, versus net income of $6.29 million in the fourth quarter and net income of $6.95 million in the first quarter of 2016.

7.         Cash, cash equivalents and short-term investments as of March 31, 2017 of $87.75 million, compared with $101.51 million as at December 31, 2016.

Additional results and notes

For the first quarter of 2017, NeoPhotonics reported that sales of high speed products were $58.7 million (82% of the total), with network products and solutions representing $13.0 million (18% of total revenue). Revenue excluding low speed transceiver products for the quarter was $70.2 million.

On a geographic basis by shipment destination, in the first quarter Americas revenue was 17% of total sales, compared to 18% in the fourth quarter, China accounted for 54% of the total, compared to 65% in the prior quarter, Japan revenue was 5%, compared to 4% in the prior quarter, with rest of the world sales 24% of the total, compared to 13% in the prior quarter.

For the first quarter, NeoPhotonic's stated it had two 10%-or-greater customers, with Ciena representing approximately 14% of total revenue, flat with the fourth quarter, and Huawei Technologies and affiliate Hi-Silicon Technologies accounting for 41% of total revenue, compared to 53% in fourth quarter, or 50% of total revenue excluding low speed products for that period.


For the first quarter ending June 30, 2017, NeoPhotonics expects revenue of between $68 and $74 million, representing a sequential decline of 1.0% at the midpoint.

CEO comment

Regarding the results, Tim Jenks, chairman and CEO of NeoPhotonics, said, "As expected, softness in the overall China market affected sales in the first quarter… I see the China market as being in a transition as it moves from primarily national backbone to provincial and metro 100 Gbit/s deployments, while worldwide the metro and data centre interconnect markets continue to grow at a rapid pace".

Sonus Virtual SBC validated with Wind River Titanium Cloud

Sonus Networks, a provider of solutions that enable secure and intelligent cloud communications, announced that its cloud native session border controller (SBC) Software edition (SBC SWe) has completed the testing and validation process under the Wind River Titanium Cloud ecosystem program.

Following the validation, in collaboration with Wind River Sonus can offer a proven, carrier-grade virtual SBC that is designed to meet service provider requirements in terms of performance, reliability and availability. The partnership expands Sonus' NFVI partner network to simplify onboarding in Wind River environments.

The Wind River Titanium Cloud ecosystem enables the delivery of interoperable standard products optimised for NFV deployment with Titanium Cloud and is intended to speed time-to-market. The combination of Wind River's Titanium Cloud and the Sonus cloud native SBC, is designed to enable service providers to reliably deliver carrier-class, real-time communications in the cloud.

The Sonus SBC SWe offers an advanced software-based, cloud native SBC designed to enable and secure real-time communications. The SBC SWe is designed to provide security, transcoding and signalling and media interworking with the same reliability as Sonus' hardware-based SBC appliances. Sonus noted that validation with Titanium Cloud further enhances its cloud native SBC VNF and expands its strategy of enabling a multi-vendor cloud ecosystem.

Wind River Titanium Cloud is an integrated, high reliability and deployment-ready portfolio of virtualisation software products. Titanium Cloud technologies are designed to allow organisations including service providers to deploy reliable virtualised services faster at lower cost. Titanium Cloud is based on open software standards including Linux, KVM, carrier-grade plugins for OpenStack, Data Plane Development Kit (DPDK) and accelerated virtual switching, optimised for Intel architecture platforms.

CityFibre appoints Jatinder Sispal as head of carrier and national providers

CityFibre, the UK’s largest alternative provider of wholesale fibre network infrastructure, announced the appointment of Jatinder Sispal as Head of Carrier and National Providers.

In his new role with CityFibre, Jatinder Sispal will focus on selling the company's independent, full-fibre infrastructure to the carrier and national provider sector, including content providers and data centre operators, in the UK.

Mr. Sispal joins CityFibre from BT where he was head of the BT Local Business, with responsibility for the enterprise division that serves around 700,000 customers each year.

Jatinder Sispal has extensive experience in the technology and telecommunications sectors, including in senior leadership roles with Telstra, where he was responsible for building up the wholesale division, and Colt, where he led the UK wholesale and Northern European indirect sales and marketing divisions.

London-based CityFibre is deploying fibre infrastructure designed to enable Gigabit Cities across the UK, with a major metro duct and fibre footprint serving 42 cities and a national long distance network that connects to key UK data centres across and peering points in London.

CityFibre offers a range of active and dark fibre services to customers including service integrators, enterprise and consumer service providers and mobile operators leveraging a network that connects around 28,000 public sites, 7,800 mobile masts, 280,000 businesses and 4 million homes.

  • The company states it has launched Gigabit City projects in 41 cities, including in the following cities: Aberdeen; Bracknell; Bradford; Bristol; Coventry; Doncaster; Edinburgh; Glasgow; Huddersfield; Hull; Leeds; Maidenhead; Milton Keynes; Northampton; Peterborough; Reading; Rotherham; Sheffield; Slough; Southend-on-Sea; and York.

Exceda of Brazil expands XCDN content delivery network worldwide via partners

Exceda based in Sao Paolo, announced that XCDN, a major eCommerce-based CDN, that is currently available only to customers in the Americas region, is to be expanded via collaborations with multiple CDN partners to enable the delivery of website content to and from locations worldwide.

Established in 2002 in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Exceda is a major Akamai channel partner providing CDN, DDoS, WAF, data analysis and professional services designed to help customers accelerate web performance while reducing their infrastructure costs.

Exceda XCDN works by caching customer website content in hundreds of thousands of servers located in networks and data centres worldwide. This allows content to be served from the location nearest to the end user, based on both the distance and network conditions, to reduce latency. The service is designed to protect users from site outages and slowdowns due to heavy visitor traffic, Internet outages and malicious traffic, as well as help reduce expenditure on physical or cloud web infrastructure.

XCDN, which is delivered via a partnership with Akamai, is currently available to customers across the Americas region and is due to be available for sales outside of the Americas from July 2017.

Describing the service, Exceda's CTO, Terry Drozdowski, said, "Simplicity is at the heart of XCDN, customers pay a flat rate for traffic delivered anywhere in the world… I believe that XCDN will be extremely attractive to small businesses throughout Europe, Asia, and Africa who will be able deliver their sites via XCDN starting in July".

Friday, May 5, 2017

Facebook's march to augmented reality

The big theme coming out of Facebook's recent F8 Developer Conference in San Jose, California was augmented reality (AR). Mark Zuckerberg told the audience that the human desire for community has been weakened over time and believes that social media could play a role in strengthening these ties.

Augmented reality begins as an add-on to Facebook Stories, its answer to Snapchat. Users simply take a photo and then use the app to place an overlay on top of the image, such as a silly hat, fake moustache, while funky filters keep the users engaged and help them create a unique image. Over time, the filter suggestions become increasingly smart, adapting to the content in the photo - think of a perfect frame if the photo is of the Eiffel Tower. The idea is to make the messaging more fun. In addition, geo-location data might be carried to the FB data centre to enhance the intelligence of the application, but most of the processing can happen on the device.

Many observers saw Facebook's demos as simply a needed response to Snapchat. However, Facebook is serious about pushing this concept far beyond cute visual effects for photos and video. AR and VR are key principles for what Facebook believes is the future of communications and community building.

As a thought experiment, one can consider some of the networking implications of real-time AR. In the Facebook demonstration, a user turns on the video chat application on their smartphone. While the application parameters of this demonstration are not known, the latest smartphones can record in 4K at 30 frames per second, and will soon be even sharper and faster. Apple's Facetime requires about 1 Mbit/s for HD resolution and this has been common for several years (video at 720p and 30 fps). AR certainly will benefit from high resolution, so one can estimate the video stream leaves the smart phone on a 4 Mbit/s link (this guestimate is on the low end). The website calculates a minimum of 5 Mbit/s upstream bandwidth for launching a video stream with high to medium resolution. LTE-Advanced networks are capable of delivering 4 Mbit/s upstream, with plenty of headroom, and WiFi networks are even better.

To identify people, places and things in the video, Facebook will have to perform sophisticated graphical processing with machine learning. Currently this cannot be done locally by the app on the smartphone and so will need to be done at a Facebook data centre. So the 4 Mbit/s stream will have to leave the carrier network and be routed to the nearest Facebook data centre.

It is known from previous Open Compute Project (OCP) announcements that Facebook is building its own AI-ready compute clusters. The first design, called Big Sur, is an Open Rack-compatible chassis that incorporates eight high-performance GPUs of up to 300 watts each, with the flexibility to configure between multiple PCI-e topologies. It uses NVIDIA's Tesla accelerated computing platform. This design was announced in late 2015 and subsequently deployed in Facebook data centres to support its early work in AI. In March, Facebook unveiled Big Basin, its next-gen GPU server capable of machine learning models that are 30% bigger than those handled on Big Sur using greater arithmetic throughput and a memory increase from 12 to 16 Gbytes. The new chassis also allows for disaggregation of CPU compute from the GPUs, something that Facebook calls JBOG (just a bunch of GPUs), which should bring the benefits of virtualisation when many streams need to be processed simultaneously. The engineering has anticipated that increased PCIe bandwidth will be needed between the GPUs and the CPU head nodes, hence a new Tioga Pass server platform was also necessitated.

The Tioga Pass server features a dual-socket motherboard, with DIMMs on both PCB sides for maximum memory configuration. The PCIe slot has been upgraded from x24 to x32, which allows for two x16 slots, or one x16 slot and two x8 slots, to make the server more flexible as the head node for the Big Basin JBOG. This new hardware will need to be deployed at scale in Facebook data centres. Therefore, one can envision that the video stream originates at 4 Mbit/s and travels from the user's smartphone and is routed via the mobile operator to the nearest Facebook data centre.

Machine learning processes running on the GPU servers perform what Facebook terms Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (SLAM). The AI essentially identifies the three-dimensional space of the video and the objects or people within it. The demo showed a number of 3D effects being applied to video stream, such as lighting/shading, placement of other objects or text. Once this processing has been completed, the output stream must continue to its destination, the other participants on the video call. Maybe further encoding has compressed the stream, but still Facebook will have to be burning some amount of outbound bandwidth to hand the video stream over to another mobile operator for delivery via IP to the app on the recipient's smartphone. Most likely, the recipient(s) of the call will have their video cameras turned on and these streams will also need the same AR processing in the reverse direction. Therefore, we can foresee see a two-way AR video call burning tens of mgeabits of WAN capacity to/from the Facebook data centre.

The question of scalability

Facebook does not charge users for accessing any of its services, which generally roll out across the entire platform at one go or in a rapid series of upgrade steps. Furthermore, Facebook often reminds us that it is now serving a billion users worldwide. So clearly, it must be thinking about AR on a massive scale. When Facebook first began serving videos from its own servers, the scalability question was also raised, but this test was passed successfully thanks to the power of caching and CDNs. When Facebook Live began rolling, it also seemed like a stretch that it could work at global scale. Yet now there are very successful Facebook video services.

Mobile operators should be able to handle large numbers of Facebook users engaging in 4 Mbit/s upstream connections, but each of those 4 Mbit/s streams will have to make a visit to the FB data centre for processing. Fifty users will burn 200 Mbit/s of inbound capacity to the data centre, 500 users will eat up 2 Gbit/s of bandwidth, 5,000 20 Gbit/s and 50,000 200 Gbit/s. For mobile operators, if AR chats prove to be popular lots of traffic will be moving in and out of Facebook data centres, and one could easily envision a big carrier like Verizon or Sprint having more than 500,000 simultaneous users on Facebook AR. So this would present a challenge if 10 million users decide to try this out on a Sunday evening. That would demand a lot of bandwidth that network engineers would have to find a way to support. Another point is that, from experience with other chat applications, people are no longer accustomed to economising in terms of length of the call or number of participants. One can expect many users to kick-off a Facebook AR call with friends on another continent and keep the stream opened for hours.

Of course, there could be clever compression algorithms in play so that the 4 Mbit/s at each end of the connection could be reduced, while if the participants do not move from where they are calling and nothing changes in the background, perhaps the AR can snooze, reducing the amount of processing needed and the bandwidth load. In addition, perhaps some of the AR processing can be done on next gen smartphones. However, the opposite could also be true, where AR performance is enhanced by using 4K, multiple cameras per user are used on the handset for better depth perception, and the video runs at 60 fps or faster.

Augmented reality is so new that it is not yet known whether it will take off quickly or be dismissed as a fad. Maybe it will only make sense in narrow applications. In addition, by the time AR calling is ready for mass deployment, Facebook will have more data centres in operation with a lot more DWDM to provide its massive optical transport – for example the MAREA submarine cable across the Atlantic Ocean between Virginia and Spain, which Facebook announced last year in partnership with Microsoft. The MAREA cable, which will be managed by Telxius, Telefónica’s new infrastructure company, will feature eight fibre pairs and an initial estimated design capacity of 160 Tbit/s. So what will fill all that bandwidth? Perhaps AR video calls, but the question then is, will metro and regional networks be ready?

Big shifts in the U.S. mobile market – Part 1

It has been a very eventful start to the year for U.S. mobile operators. As the first quarter financials reports have rolled in over the past two weeks, it is clear the two top tier players, AT&T and Verizon, are increasingly under pressure from the No.3 and No.4 contenders, Sprint and T-Mobile US. All four operators offer virtually the same set of services, delivered to same handsets with roughly equivalent levels of performance in most places. So it is no wonder the battle is now primarily about price.

After years of rather stagnant market positions and services, suddenly a lot is happening in the U.S. mobile market. While there have not yet been any moves this year to consolidate four players to three, nor a full commitment from a cloud company (such as AWS, Google or Microsoft) to enter and lead in wireless, the 2017 battlefield differs from 2016 in the following respects:

·         The move to 'unlimited' data plans.

·         A new regulatory climate and the pending super merger of AT&T and Time Warner.

·         A quickly shifting spectrum map.

·         The FirstNet emergency responder network project finally ready to move ahead.

·         5G trials, setting the stage for the first commercial rollouts starts to take shape.

·         Carriers actively deploying virtualised network architectures, setting the stage for new services.

One could also add the rollout LTE-M to support the first significant wave of connected things to the list, but that is a topic on its own.

The move to unlimited data plans

With reports of mounting subscriber losses to T-Mobile and Sprint, on February 12th Verizon unveiled an Unlimited mobile data plan for smartphones and tablets on its LTE network (the plan also covers HD video streaming, Mobile Hotspot, calling and texting to Mexico and Canada and up to 500 Mbytes/day of 4G LTE roaming in Mexico and Canada, but subscribers may encounter throttling after 22 Gbytes of data usage on a line during any billing cycle). A day after Verizon announced its re-entry into unlimited mobile data plans, T-Mobile responded the addition of HD video and 10 Gbytes high-speed Mobile Hotspot data to its T-Mobile ONE unlimited plan. T-Mobile also introduced a new offer of two lines on T-Mobile ONE for $100.

In turn, this was quickly followed by AT&T, which begin offering a post-paid, unlimited mobile plan to consumers and business customers without requiring a DirecTV subscription. Under pressure from Steve Jobs, AT&T famously offered an unlimited data plan for the original iPhone, but in later years moved to tiered service. On the same day, Sprint fired back with a price cut that it says makes its service 50% cheaper than AT&T or Verizon. Sprint has been advertising heavily that its network quality/performance is 'within 1%' of the industry leader. The Sprint unlimited plan offers four lines for $22.50 each, with HD-quality video, 10 Gbytes mobile hotspot per line and an iPhone 7 lease included.

While the 'unlimited' data plans do not make sense for all customers, they do point to a future market that is quite familiar. Over time, telecom carriers have been forced to drop per-minute charges for voice calling, then for long-distance voice calling, and then for SMS. Some of this can be attributed to over-the-top services like Skype and Messenger, but there is also the case that the overall carrying capacity of the network has increased so much that this is really no incremental burden for carrying an additional text message. There is plenty of bandwidth available for these applications and the cost of billing for each transaction may not be worth while - retaining customers is a higher priority than high granularity billing. So it seems we are moving toward a market where mobile bandwidth consumption for the majority of subscribers will be 'unlimited', even if throttling occurs on some applications during peak hours or busy locations.

New regulatory climate puts media partnerships in play

The arrival of the Trump administration was certain to bring changes to the FCC. This came quickly with the nomination and subsequent confirmation of Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC. Within 2 weeks, the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau ended its investigation into wireless carriers' free data offerings. The special video bundles, which Pai noted to be popular with consumers, enable smartphone customers to view select content without consuming data allowances on their mobile plans. Net neutrality was concerned that such offerings meant that the preferential treatment of some content would place other content providers at a competitive disadvantage. Mobile operators need not worry about FCC oversight here anymore.

With the move to 'unlimited' data plans, mobile operators will be incentivised to cache preferred content as close to the subscriber as possible. AT&T’s DirecTV content partnerships could prove valuable here, while its pending acquisition of Time Warner, announced in October 2016 at a whopping transaction value of $108 billion, could be a game changer. Time Warner, formed in 1990 through the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications, encompasses several premium media properties including HBO, New Line Cinema, Turner Broadcasting System, The CW Television Network, Warner Bros., CNN, Cartoon Network, Boomerang, Adult Swim, DC Comics, Warner Bros. Animation, Castle Rock Entertainment, Cartoon Network Studios, Esporte Interativo, Hanna-Barbera Productions and Interactive Entertainment. It also owns 10% of Hulu.

Two other big regulatory events in Q1 made this the most Significant quarter at the FCC in years: the FCC’s Broadcast Incentive Auction (see below) and Ajit Pai’s decision to reverse the Title II Net Neutrality rules adopted in 2015. Pai described the Title II rules as a 'regulatory mistake' that slowed down telecom infrastructure spending in the U.S. by 5.6% percent, or $3.6 billion, between 2014 and 2016 for just the top 12 Internet service providers.

One of the key Net Neutrality principles was 'no paid prioritisation' for favoured content. With this out of the way, the regulatory environment would also tend to favour operators with media partnerships. No wonder Verizon's CEO Lowell McAdams was quoted in April as saying the company was open to the possibility of transformative transactions. Perhaps there will be other Time Warner-scale deals coming to the fore. However, one should not take it for granted that these mega mergers will clear all regulatory environments even under the Trump administration. The issue could easily get ensnared in Trump's personal war against the media and 'fake news' companies.

There is a counter argument to the idea that paid prioritisation will rule the market. The impact of the cloud company has not yet been fully felt. Clearly, content and applications are consolidating to the big clouds, each of which is highly motivated to ensure the best possible performance. AWS, for instance, runs its CloudFront content delivery network (CDN), which accelerates websites and video content. CloudFront currently has 85 locations, including 74 PoPs, and a long list of top-tier customers and brands. Even if a carrier such as AT&T develops a special set of HBO videos for its customers under a zero-rating plan, it would still have the business motivation to ensure excellent connections with the AWS PoPs.

Part 2 of this article will look at additional forces reshaping the U.S. mobile industry, including the $10 billion broadcast spectrum auction, the big FirstNet project, early moves in 5G, the shift to network virtualisation, and other trends.

IDC reports China smarphone sales up 1%

According to market research firm IDC in its latest Quarterly Mobile Phone Tracker, 104.1 million smartphones were shipped to China in the first quarter of 2017, up 1% year on year, with the low growth in part due to the high inventory levels from the previous quarter.

IDC notes that the first quarter was also relatively quiet in terms of new products, with few launches aside from Huawei's new P10, P10 Plus and Honor V9, which combined with strong momentum for its Honor brand meant that Huawei reclaimed the top position by market share from OPPO.

The research firm finds that the top five smartphone companies have a dominant 70% share of the market, and predicts that this overall share will continue to increase, together with consolidation amongst the smaller companies, during the year. IDC does not expect any new smartphone companies to have a significant effect on the Chinese market.

In terms of vendor market share, for the first quarter IDC reports that Huawei led the China market with unit sales of 20.8 million and a share of 20.0%, up from 16.8% in the prior fourth quarter. OPPO was the second ranked supplier with sales of 18.9 million units and a share of 18.2%, up from 18.1% in the fourth quarter. The third placed vendor was vivo, with sales of 14.6 million units and a 14.1% share, down from 16.0% in the prior quarter.

The fifth ranked vendor was Apple with sales of 9.6 million units and a share of 9.2%, versus 11.0% in the fourth quarter, and Xiaomi was sixth with sales of 9.3 million units and a market share of 9.0%, compared with 7.4% in the prior quarter.

IDC notes that Android ASPs (average selling price) continued to increase, both sequentially and year on year, mainly due to the top Chinese smartphone companies Huawei, OPPO and vivo increasing their ASPs as consumers purchase flagship models. In addition, these key flagship models from Chinese suppliers offer upgraded specifications leading to higher prices. IDC cites Huawei's Honor 8, the OPPO R9s and vivo X9 as the most popular models from these companies in the quarter.

Commenting on the data, Tay Xiaohan, senior market analyst with the IDC Asia Pacific client devices team, said, "Despite a soft first quarter in China, the second quarter should pick up sequentially given not only's June promotions, but also activity around a number of new products such as vivo with its Y53, Xiaomi with its Mi 6, Meizu with its E2 and Gionee with its M6S Plus".

Nokia selected for digital city project in Chengdu

Nokia has announced a strategic Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with China's Tianfu New Area Chengdu Administrative Committee under which the parties will collaborate on establishing a new digital city that will include the construction of data centre and related telecom infrastructure.

The new digital city project in the Chengdu prefecture of Sichuan province will also involve the deployment of a trial network for internet of things (IoT), the incubation of IoT applications and devices, big data and the deployment of an optical network to serve the Tianfu New Area.

Nokia noted that in December 2015 it announced plans to establish a global R&D centre in Chengdu that would focus on developing technology for areas including next generation telecom networks, IoT, big data and the cloud. The centre is now operational and houses several hundred of R&D staff.

Nokia added that the digital city agreement for Tianfu New Area is the latest smart city engagement for the company worldwide, and highlights the company's strategy to expand its customer base beyond the traditional telecommunications market. In late 2016, Nokia released its Smart City Playbook, which is intended to define best practices for smart city projects.

Tianfu New Area, established in December 2011, is intended to create a modern urban area for residents, industry and commerce, with a focus on developing modern manufacturing and high-end service clusters. Tianfu New Area encompasses parts of Chengdu High-tech Zone, Longquanyi District, Shuangliu County, Xinjin County, Jianyang City, Pengshan County of Meishan City and Renshou County. The plans include the construction of the New Century Global Centre and Chengdu Tianfu International Airport.

Cisco develops analytics for Mexico's Conectado

Cisco Mexico announced that it has developed the Country Digitization Analytics Platform (CDAP) designed to support the implementation of Mexico Conectado, a program of the Mexican government's Secretariat of Communications and Transportation (SCT).

The Cisco CDAP platform is designed to provide the SCT with analytics information for usage of the initiative, in addition to raw data relating to the usage of the network.

Mexico Conectado is a program initiated by Mexico's federal government that is intended to guarantee citizens constitutional right to access to broadband Internet service by addressing the digital divide in the country. The program was developed by the Mexican SCT and is being implemented through the department Coordination of the Information and Knowledge Society (CSIC, or Coordinación de la Sociedad de la Información y el Conocimiento).

The key objective of Mexico Conectado is to extend broadband Internet access, free of charge, to low income populations via the deployment of more than 100,000 sites nationwide. The system is being implemented across Mexico, primarily in public locations such as schools, health centres, libraries, community centres, public parks and government buildings.

The Country Digitization Analytics Platform is designed to offer an open government analytics and intelligence platform and was developed by Cisco engineers leveraging the cloud-based functionality of Cisco Meraki technology in a multi-carrier and multi-service provider environment.

The CDAP works by collecting data from Mexico Conectado sites and converting it into relevant information that can facilitate measurement of the impact the country digitisation initiative is having. Specifically, the CDAP is designed to provide intelligence relating to the sustainability, social impact and support future fine-tuning of the initiative.

The CDAP enables consolidation and/or correlation of data from a number of different management and use domains and transforms the data into analytics that can be used to measure key usability indicators for the country digitisation program. Analytics data provided includes the number of citizens using public Internet access, external/internal hotspot access distribution, bandwidth consumption and usage of government sites via public Internet.

China Mobile, ARM, Cavium and Enea Validate NFV test cases

China Mobile, the largest mobile carrier in China with over 850 million subscribers, ARM, Cavium and Enea announced an agreement covering collaboration in the China Mobile Open NFV Testlab leveraging Enea's OPNFV-based commercial NFV Core platform and Cavium's ARM-based ThunderX workload-optimised data centre server processors.

Through the agreement, China Mobile's Open NFV Testlab will host the platform as part of the operator's Telecom Integrated Cloud (TIC) initiative. The work will specifically encompass validation of a range of NFV tests cases, including virtualised CPE (vCPE), vBRAS, vEPC and vIMS, while also supporting development and integration within the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) project.

Enea NFV Core is a carrier-grade virtualisation software platform based on OPNFV and OpenStack. It is designed to enable the deployment and management of vCPE network functions in central offices and data centres utilising generic hardware platforms. The NFV Core is optimised for the vCPE use case and central office deployments and is designed to offer the performance, reliability and flexibility required in next generation telecom networks.
Commenting on the agreement, Raj Singh VP and GM, network and communication group at Cavium, said, "(The) collaboration with China Mobile will enable key NFV functionality and drive NFV towards large scale deployment… telco applications with compute, I/O and real time processing requirements demand scalable and optimised processing solutions… advanced COTS hardware such as Cavium's ThunderX server processors… provide scalable NFV solutions using standard software and ecosystems".

While Noel Hurley, VP and GM, networking and servers, business segments group at ARM, noted, "ARM and its ecosystem of partners (are) committed to enabling OPNFV to bring efficient and cost-effective compute power for data networks… the network pipeline must be expanded at scale to support new computing across all markets in the most efficient way... the ecosystem delivers efficiency through integrated solutions that demonstrate the performance-per-watt, density and TCO provided by ARM technology".

Transition Networks showcases fibre-to-the-desk

Minneapolis-based Transition Networks, a provider of data network integration solutions and a company of Communications Systems, announced it is showcasing fibre-to-the-desk connectivity solutions designed for enterprise and government network applications during Dell EMC World 2017 in Las Vegas.

At the event, Transition Networks will introduce a range of new products for implementing fibre into Ethernet networks, including a fibre network interface card (NIC) with PoE+ port, plus fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet fibre NICs that have been certified by Dell EMC, specifically the Scorpion-USB 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet fibre adapter and an 18-slot mini media converter chassis for consolidating copper-to-fibre media conversion equipment.

Transition Networks will showcase its family of Gigabit Ethernet fibre-to-the-desk NICs that feature both fibre connectivity for linking to a PC, as well as PoE+ to connect to copper-based powered devices such as IP phones. The company will also demonstrate a government use case of a national deployment of a PoE security solution with an intelligence agency.

During Dell EMC World, Transition Networks is participating in the session 'Fiber-to-the-Desk Connectivity Solutions for Dell PCs and Wyse Thin Clients', which will cover its Gigabit Ethernet fibre-to-the-desk NICs. The discussion will also cover its mini stand-alone media converter and chassis options, designed to simplify physical layer applications, and ION platform, which is designed for more complex fibre integration needs.

Transition Networks' ION platform integrates copper and different types of fibre and is designed to enable customers to extend networks, optimise existing infrastructure. The solution also supports navigation of connected network interfaces for network management. Designed for enterprise data centres and core network applications, the ION platform offers flexibility via modular or stand-alone units with 1-, 2-, 6- or 19-slot chassis options.

In addition, the platform offers a range of slide-in interface devices and converter modules enabling support for Layer 1 and Layer 2 Ethernet networks (100Base, 10/100, 1000Base, 10/100/1,000 Mbit/s and 10 Gigabit Ethernet) and TDM networks (T1/E1/J1 and DS3-T3/E3 ).

Viavi enhances CellAdvisor base station analyser with NB-IoT testing capability

Viavi Solutions, a supplier of network and service enablement solutions and optical security and performance products, has announced its CellAdvisor Base Station Analyzer provides support for the signal analysis required for narrowband Internet of Things (NB-IoT) connectivity.

The new test capability is designed to address the needs of service providers seeking to test the overlay IoT infrastructure that must co-exist with the traditional mobile communications network. Viavi is introducing the upgrade to the CellAdvisor following trials with Tier 1 global service providers and collaborations with network equipment manufacturers.

Viavi noted that the IoT will enable billions of smart devices to maintain low-speed and low-latency connectivity to mobile communications networks via narrowband signals. These networks will need to simultaneously support high-bandwidth applications such as video streaming using wideband signals, creating an inherent conflict between the two usage requirements. As a result network operators require solutions to help manage these disparate connection types.

To meet this need, Viavi has developed software-based NB-IoT testing that can be licensed on existing CellAdvisor handheld instruments, which are in use with major carriers worldwide. The new software feature enhances CellAdvisor solution, which supports RF over CPRI and BBU emulation, in addition to LTE testing and automated interference hunting to help improve operational efficiency.

With the new NB-IoT support, CellAdvisor measures the potential interference and performance impact the NB-IoT signal may have on the LTE wideband signal. It also verifies whether the signal has the reach and coverage required to serve the number of devices in the assigned geographic area, including accounting for criteria such as building penetration.

The capabilities of the CellAdvisor with NB-IoT support include analysis of signal power levels, digital demodulation and interference down to the single PRB (physical resource block) for the signal being measured. The measurements provide customers with in-depth data on how the network is operating in terms of performance, coverage and data traffic capacity, also identifying potential issues related to interference or intermodulation.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

AT&T to Move its Databases and App Workloads to the Oracle Cloud

AT&T will move thousands of its large scale internal databases to Oracle’s Cloud Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) and Platform as a Service (PaaS).

Under the agreement, AT&T will migrate thousands of existing Oracle databases containing petabytes of data plus their associated applications workloads to Oracle Cloud. AT&T will have global access to Oracle’s cloud portfolio offerings both in the public cloud and on AT&T’s Integrated Cloud. This includes Oracle’s IaaS, PaaS, Database-as-a-Service (DBaaS), and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS).

“This is an historic agreement,” said Mark Hurd, CEO, Oracle. “The Oracle Cloud will enable AT&T to use Oracle technology more efficiently across every layer of the technology stack. This includes AT&T’s massive redeployment of Oracle Databases, which will be provisioned entirely from the Oracle Cloud Platform including our highly cost effective Exadata as a Service.”

The companies noted that AT&T has led the industry when it comes to virtualizing and software-controlling the wide area network. The company’s goal is to virtualize 75% of its core network functions by 2020, hitting 55% by the end of 2017.

“We believe that the future of the network is to be data-powered, to be software-centric, and to be fast and responsive,” said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations. “We call this three-pronged approach AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo, and it’s all about enabling a seamless and intuitive network experience for our customers. This collaboration with Oracle accelerates our network transformation and migration to the cloud to expand efficiency, performance, and reduce cost while improving overall customer service.”

Thailand’s AIS expands roll-out of Metaswitch Perimeta for VoLTE

Cloud native communications software company Metaswitch announced that AIS, Thailand’s largest mobile carrier, has extended its deployment of Metaswitch Perimeta session border controllers from its 3G to its 4G network to enable the delivery of voice over LTE (VoLTE) services and to support VoLTE peering between AIS and other network operators.

Serving over 40 million subscribers and with a network covering around 98% of the country, AIS and its subsidiaries operate a high-speed mobile network and offer a range of voice and data services. In addition to the Perimeta SBC, as part of the latest upgrade AIS has deployed the Metaview Service Assurance Server (SAS), designed to facilitate troubleshooting and problem resolution and help ensure SLAs are met, including in a virtualised environment.

Previously, in early 2016 Metaswitch announced that mobile carrier AIS of Thailand has selected its Perimeta SBC to form the basis for a system-wide service modernisation. The project was intended to enable AIS to securely and reliably connect to other operators in Thailand using IP interconnect, as well as allow the adoption of network functions virtualisation (NFV) in the future.

Metaswitch noted that as part of a project designed to cost-effectively address increasing demand for services, AIS had deployed both its Perimeta vSBC and MetaView SAS solutions.

Metaswitch's Perimeta solution supports functions including security, traffic management, protocol interworking and SIP header manipulation, and is designed to scale without affecting network performance or resiliency.