Monday, July 17, 2017

Healthy growth continues for public cloud data centre infrastructure

The global market for IT infrastructure products continues to be reshaped by rapid buildouts of hyperscale data centres for public clouds. Ahead of a busy mid-summer week for data centre server announcements, several analyst studies have been released that shed light on how the market for server, storage and Ethernet switch products continues to evolve. Overall, this market grew 14.9% year over year in the first quarter of 2017 (1Q17), reaching $8 billion, according to IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker. This two-digit annual growth figure compares quite favourably to the global market for telecom equipment, which has been trapped in the doldrums of low single digits for some time to the detriment of the big vendors focused on this segment.

In the case of Ericsson, the company has attempted to pivot toward the enterprise and data centre segments through a strategic partnership with Cisco. With the new management team at Ericsson, this push appears to be taking a backseat as the company focuses on its core mobile infrastructure market.

Here are the vendor market share highlights from IDC’s study:

Top 3 Vendor Group, Worldwide Cloud IT Infrastructure Vendor Revenue, Q1 2017 
(Revenues are in Millions, Excludes double counting of storage and servers)
Vendor Group
1Q17 Revenue (US$M)
1Q17 Market Share
1Q16 Revenue (US$M)
1Q16 Market Share
1Q17/1Q16 Revenue Growth
1. Dell Inc*
1. HPE/New H3C Group* **
3. Cisco
ODM Direct
IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Cloud IT Infrastructure Tracker, June 2017

* IDC declares a statistical tie in the worldwide cloud IT infrastructure market when there is a difference of one percent or less in the vendor revenue shares among two or more vendors.
** Due to the existing joint venture between HPE and the New H3C Group, IDC will be reporting external market share on a global level for HPE as "HPE/New H3C Group" starting from Q2 2016 and going forward.

In its study, IDC found that cloud IT infrastructure sales as a share of overall worldwide IT spending climbed to 39% in 1Q17, a significant increase from 33.9% a year ago. IDC also found that revenue from infrastructure sales to private cloud grew by 6.0% to $3.1 billion, and to public cloud by 21.7% to $4.8 billion.

What is interesting here is that the hyperscale cloud providers, including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure and Alibaba Cloud, have each reported much higher growth rates, approaching or exceeding the triple digit threshold. This would be a healthy situation for the cloud operators, indicating that they are getting greater efficiency from their infrastructure.

The IDC study also confirms that enterprise spending continues to move to clouds, both public and private. IDC found that revenue in the traditional (non-cloud) IT infrastructure segment decreased 8.0% year over year in the first quarter of the year, but that spending for private cloud infrastructure is growing, especially Ethernet switching (up 15.5% year-over-year), storage (excluding double counting with servers at 10.0%) and server (up 2.1% year-over-year. Public cloud growth was led by storage, which after heavy declines in 1Q16 grew 49.5% year over year in 1Q17, followed by Ethernet switch at 22.7% and server at 8.7%. IDC further notes that for traditional IT deployments, sales of servers declined the most (9.3% year over year), with Ethernet switch and storage declining 4.4% and 6.1%, respectively.

Gartner finds standalone worldwide server market is declining, except hyperscale
A Gartner study that focused only on the sale of servers found that Q1 2017 revenue worldwide declined 4.5% year over year, while shipments fell 4.2% from the first quarter of 2016. Jeffrey Hewitt, research VP at Gartner, noted, "Although purchases in the hyperscale data centre segment have been increasing, the enterprise and SMB segments remain constrained as end users in these segments accommodate their increased application requirements through virtualisation and consider cloud alternatives".

Below are highlights of the Gartner study that were published in June 2017:

Worldwide Server Vendor Revenue Estimates -  1Q17 (US Dollars)
1Q17 Market Share (%)
1Q16 Market Share (%)
1Q17-1Q6 Growth (%)
Dell EMC
Source: Gartner (June 2017).

Nutanix, which offers a hyperscale solution integrating compute/storage/networking, recently reported that its quarterly revenue jumped 67% to reach $191.8 million for the quarter ended April 30, 2017. Its customers fit into the enterprise category. Cited examples include Caterpillar, KYOCERA Communication Systems, MobileIron, SAIC Volkswagen and Société Générale. From this one can conclude that market is shifting rapidly from stand-alone or departmental clusters of servers to an enterprise cloud architecture, whether public, private or hybrid. The distinctions between servers, switches and storage are also blurring.

Dell’Oro tracks white box server shipments

White box server shipments continued to grow at a rapid pace in 1Q17, increasing 41% year on year, according to a recently published report from Dell’Oro Group.  This research agency attributes the surge in spending to mainly Google and Amazon, with Facebook and Microsoft expected to pick up the pace of their white box server deployments too. Dell'Oro noted that nearly all the major U.S.-based branded vendors, led by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise and Dell Technologies, suffered quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year shipment declines for a number of different reasons, including: server migration from the Enterprise/on premise to the Cloud; typical Q1 softness; and a pause in server purchases in anticipation of the Intel Purley server refresh cycle, which is expected in the second half of the year.

These trends are probably best recorded in the sales data for Intel's Xeon products, which continue to dominate all segments of the market. More details on Intel’s plans for the data centre are expected later this week.

CityFibre Agrees to acquire Entanet, raises funding

CityFibre Infrastructure Holdings, designer, builder, owner and operator of optical infrastructure in UK towns and cities, announced that it aims to raise minimum gross proceeds of GBP 185 million via a placement of shares at 55 pence per share in an offering that is fully underwritten by banks Citigroup, finnCap, Liberum and Macquarie,

CityFibre also intends to raise further proceeds through an accelerated bookbuilding process that will be launched immediately following this placing, and to raise further gross proceeds of up to GBP 15 million through a non-underwritten offer for subscription.

The company stated that the transactions are supported by new and existing shareholders including Woodford Investment Management, which has agreed to subscribe for 65,454,545 shares in the firm placing for a total consideration of GBP 36.0 million.

CityFibre stated that the net proceeds of the placing and the offer for subscription will be used to fund the expansion of its fibre network in the UK, including:

1.         The expansion of its fibre metro networks from the current 42 towns and cities to at least 50 towns and cities by 2020;

2.         The start of construction of FTTH networks for the residential market in five to ten UK towns and cities in 2018.

3.         To support the company's strategy for wholesale fibre services and accelerate the commercialisation of its fibre assets, the acquisition of Entanet International, a provider of wholesale communications services, for approximately GBP 29 million in cash.

CityFibre noted that the fully underwritten firm placing involves 336,363,636 shares, representing approximately 126.6% of its existing issued ordinary share capital, to both existing and new institutional investors for gross proceeds of at least GBP 185 million. The placing may be increased through an accelerated bookbuilding process. The placing is to be made at 55 pence per placing share, representing a 9.09% discount to the closing price of 60.50 pence per ordinary share on July 4, 2017.

The non underwritten offer for subscription is expected to raise up to GBP 15 million, comprising up to 27,272,727 offer for subscription shares priced at 55 pence per share, and will be open to certain qualifying shareholders.

CityFibre has applied to the London Stock Exchange for the new ordinary shares to be admitted to AIM, and it is expected that admission will become effective and dealings in the new ordinary shares will commence on or around July 28, 2017.

The acquisition of Entanet, which has approximately 1,500 channel partners, will expand CityFibre's wholesale capabilities and its relationships with service providers. By combining its fibre infrastructure with Entanet's wholesale products, systems and relationships with channel partners, CityFibre anticipates synergies of over GBP 3 million per annum within three years.

FirstLight to acquire 186 Communications, operator of New England fibre network

Albany-based FirstLight, a fibre bandwidth infrastructure services provider operating in U.S. northeast and a company of Oak Hill Capital Partners, announced that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire 186 Communications, operator of a high-capacity fibre network in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont.

The transaction will combine 186 Communications' network infrastructure with FirstLight's expansive fibre network and portfolio of data, Internet, data centre, cloud and voice services.

Upon completion of the transaction, together with FirstLight's pending acquisition of Finger Lakes Technologies Group, the company will operate approximately 14,000 route miles of high-capacity optical network connecting nearly 8,000 locations and twelve data centres across the northeast region. The transaction is expected to close at the end of 2017.

FirstLight announced in March that it intended to acquire Finger Lakes Technologies Group (FLTG), a subsidiary of Trumansburg Telephone Company (TTC) that provides data, Internet and voice solutions to business customers across New York and Pennsylvania. The transaction was designed to strengthen FirstLight's position as a major fibre communications provider in the northeast region.

The transaction was to combine FLTG's privately owned fibre network, spanning nearly 2,500 route miles in New York state and Pennsylvania, with FirstLight's 9,500-plus route mile fibre network and data, Internet, data centre, cloud and voice services.

Previously, in January 2017 FirstLight completed similar transactions with Oxford Networks and Sovernet Communications. Under the agreement, Oak Hill Capital acquired Oxford Networks and combined the operations with FirstLight, with Novacap, Bank Street Capital Partners and Riverside Partners continuing as minority investors in the combined company. The Sovernet transaction closed in May 2017.

FirstLight provides fibre-based data, Internet, data centre, cloud and voice services to enterprise and carrier customers in the Northeast, connecting more than 5,500 locations in service and over 20,000 locations serviceable via its 10,000 route mile network. FirstLight offers a portfolio of high bandwidth connectivity solutions including Ethernet, wavelength and dark fibre services.

Headquartered in Nashua, New Hampshire, 186 Communications operates a network with 1,900 route miles of fibre and serves local, national and global broadband providers and enterprise customers. 186 is a member of the Joint Trench Partnership (JTP) in Boston and has a fibre ring in each of the A, B, and E loops, interconnected with fibre routes from points in New Hampshire to Boston. It also manages three colocation facilities, including at its Nashua facility.

Edgewise exits stealth - Trusted Application Networking

Massachusetts-based Edgewise Networks, a provider of Trusted Application Networking designed to secure data centres and the cloud, has emerged from stealth having reportedly raised $7 million in funding.

Founded by Peter Smith, a cybersecurity entrepreneur, and Harry Sverdlove, former CTO of Carbon Black (formerly Bit9), Edgewise Networks offers a new approach to security designed to prevent compromise and attack progression of network-borne threats by allowing only trusted applications to communicate over approved network paths. Edgewise secures business applications running in the cloud and data centre by eliminating 98% of the network attack surface and protecting the remainder.

Edgewise's Trusted Application Networking is designed to enable network communications based on the trustworthiness of communicating application software. The new technology is claimed to be the first of its kind to leverage the zero-trust networking model and operates by going beyond network addresses to validate the secure identity of applications, users and hosts controlling the addresses.

With Edgewise Networks, security teams are able to protect mission-critical cloud and data centre applications by extending the zero-trust networking model and ensuring that only trusted applications communicate, building policies automatically leveraging machine learning, simplify policy enforcement, identify risks and recommend corrective actions.

The company stated that in addition to investments from New England venture capital firms .406 Ventures, Accomplice and Pillar, Edgewise Networks is backed by key cybersecurity CEOs including Patrick Morley, CEO of Carbon Black, Omar Hussain, former CEO of Imprivata, Brian Ahern, CEO of Threat Stack and Bob Brennan, CEO of Veracode.

Korea's SK Telecom achieves 1 Gbit/s with Ericsson LAA

Ericsson announced that SK Telecom, a major mobile operator in South Korea, has tested mobile broadband using Ericsson's Licensed Assisted Access solution, during which it achieved data speeds of up to 1 Gbit/s to smartphones in an indoor environment.

Ericsson noted that Licensed Assisted Access (LAA) technology utilises licensed LTE spectrum and unlicensed spectrum, and in the testing SK Telecom used one LTE 20 MHz band and three WiFi 20 MHz bands, also applying Ericsson's 4 x 4 MIMO functionality in the LTE frequency band. Additionally, Listen-Before-Talk technology was applied to both the WiFi and LTE networks to optimise the utilisation of available spectrum and reduce resource contention.
Using Ericsson's LAA solution, broadband users are able to connect via WiFi automatically to leverage the benefits of LTE. This enables users to access the network more quickly and, when terminating a session, network resources are released more quickly. This helps improve the utilisation of the unlicensed spectrum and service quality.

* Recently, SK Telecom announced that in collaboration with Samsung Electronics and Nokia it had demonstrated 5G communications using the 3.5 GHz band for the first time in Korea. SK Telecom teamed with Samsung Electronics to develop a 3.5 GHz 5G end-to-end network with 5G virtualised core, virtualised RAN, distributed unit (baseband and radio unit) and test device based on 3GPP 5G New Radio (NR) standards elements.

* SK Telecom also worked with Nokia to co-develop 5G base station equipment and test device for the 3.5 GHz spectrum and achieved Gbit/s-level throughput during a field trial held near its Bundang office building through the application of carrier aggregation to increase bandwidth. The two companies also measured link quality (BLER) depending on the distance between a moving vehicle and base station.

* SK Telecom stated that with the successful trials of 3.5 GHz 5G networks, it has secured the essential technologies to deploy 5G networks using above-6 GHz and below-6 GHz frequencies. The company expects that 28 GHz, a potential above-6 GHz frequency in Korea, will support tens of Gbit/s through the use of a wide bandwidth of hundreds of MHz, while the 3.5 GHz band can be used to provide wide area coverage.

AT&T launches high-speed wireless network in Indianapolis

AT&T, which in April announced that as part of its 5G Evolution program it planned to offer higher speed services for wireless customers in 20 metro areas by the end of the year, has launched 5G Evolution in parts of Indianapolis, providing faster wireless speeds and enhanced services for customers.

The new wireless capability is now available in select areas of Austin, where AT&T wireless customers with a Samsung Galaxy S8 or S8+ smartphone are able to access faster 5G Evolution Internet speeds. The new service is due to be expanded to Indianapolis in the summer, with launches in additional markets expected to be announced over the coming months, including in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Nashville and San Francisco.

In Indianapolis, and in select areas of Austin, 5G Evolution allows customers to experience advanced entertainment and connectivity on compatible devices, with the deployment of multiple network upgrades enabling wireless download speeds twice as fast as on AT&T's 4G LTE network.

AT&T stated that it is currently deploying equipment, investing in spectrum and technology, and laying the foundation for the evolution to 5G while 5G standards are being finalised. The company is working with multiple global technology companies to prepare 5G for commercial deployment.

The company noted that it has worked with the city of Indianapolis to ensure that its network and infrastructure is ready to support 5G technology. AT&T stated that in addition to adding next generation technologies to the wireless network in Indianapolis it has invested more than $350 million in the Indianapolis wireless and wired networks from 2014 to 2016.

In 5G Evolution metro areas AT&T has upgraded cell towers with LTE Advanced technologies such as 256QAM, 4 x 4 MIMO and 3-way carrier aggregation (CA). Combined with other upgrades, these upgrades enable faster speeds and an improved customer experience.

By the end of 2017, AT&T expects to deploy LTE-License Assisted Access (LAA) and 4-way CA in certain parts of 5G Evolution metros. The company recently tested LTE-LAA technology in San Francisco, where it achieved peak speeds of more than 750 Mbit/s, and plans to expand LTE-LAA testing to additional areas of San Francisco and Indianapolis locations.

AT&T is also installing small cells in Indianapolis and plans to add more in the future. The small cells use a centralised RAN (C-RAN) architecture, designed to allow capacity to be added across hundreds of cell sites quickly and efficiently.

SK Telecom commercialises T-MANO NFV

Korea's SK Telecom announced that it has commercialised T-MANO, an NFV MANO (network functions virtualisation management and orchestration) platform that performs integrated management and orchestration of virtualised network equipment and software.

SK Telecom noted that NFV MANO, also termed MANO, provides an architectural framework for managing and orchestrating virtualised network functions (VNFs) and other software components. The new T-MANO solution has been optimised to SK Telecom's network environment, and is based on the ETSI specifications that define the MANO architecture to facilitate the deployment and connection of services as they are decoupled from dedicated physical devices and moved on to virtual machines (VMs).

Prior to the development of T-MANO, SK Telecom stated that it was necessary to develop, build and operate a separate NFV management platform for each network equipment provider due to the fact that each piece of NFV equipment was based on different specifications, depending on the manufacturer.

Leveraging T-MANO, SK Telecom is able to more efficiently utilise its virtualised network equipment by managing service quality and data traffic in an integrated manner, regardless of equipment manufacturer, while improving the overall service quality through responding flexibly to service failures and errors.

The solution also enables the company to significantly reduce the time required to set up new equipment and provide a new service as it can upgrade the whole system at once, as opposed to upgrading each system separately as was necessary previously.

SK Telecom intends to leverage T-MANO to expand the telecommunications infrastructure ecosystem by opening up the APIs of T-MANO so that the industry can use it to build virtualised network equipment or software.

The company will first apply T-MANO to its virtualised VoLTE (HD Voice) routers, and then plans to expand its application to the virtualised LTE evolved packet core (EPC) and additional equipment including MMS Servers. SK Telecom stated that in 2017, virtualised EPC will account for around 80% of newly-deployed EPC equipment, while from 2019 it intends to deploy only virtualised EPC solutions.

In the field of NFV, SK Telecom has also commercialised an international standards-based NFV system orchestrator, named T OVEN, that was unveiled in 2015, and applied NFV technology to its base station equipment in September 2016.

Idaho state R&E network IRON deploys ADVA FSP 3000

ADVA Optical Networking announced that the Idaho Regional Optical Network (IRON) has deployed its 100 Gbit/s core technology to address increasing bandwidth demand from research and education (R&E) institutions in the state.

The upgraded backbone network in Idaho delivers secure high-capacity services across the state, including in remote rural areas. The new network features ADVA's flexible transport technology, designed to enable IRON to provide universities, laboratories and health care centres with 10 Gbit/s services.

Based on the ADVA FSP 3000 platform, the upgraded network is designed to enable ease of use along with high scalability to help IRON's infrastructure to meet both current and future requirements of the R&E community. ADVA noted that IRON has also subscribed to its hardware and software maintenance package covering the provision of technical support and extended repair services.
Through deploying ADVA's FSP 3000 in its backbone network, IRON aims to reduce its costs and improve efficiency across its transport infrastructure. The new backbone is now able to support 100 Gbit/s transport, and thereby ensure that higher education institutions and research centres state-wide, including in rural areas, have access to ultra-fast broadband services.

ADVA's compact, modular solution is designed to provide flexibility and cost-and power-efficiency as it transmits, multiplexes and protects high-speed data.

ADVA recently announced that the University Corporation for Atmosphere Research (UCAR), based in Boulder, Colorado, has deployed its FSP 3000 CloudConnect data centre interconnect (DCI) solution to support high capacity connectivity to the Cheyenne supercomputer.

UCAR deployed the ADVA DCI technology to enable the transport of scientific data over two 200 Gbit/s 16QAM connections between the NCAR-Wyoming Supercomputing Center in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the Front Range GigaPop in Denver, Colorado.

Regarding the project, Michael Guryan, general manager at IRON, noted, "A key benefit is the ADVA FSP 3000’s plug-and-play simplicity… integrating the new equipment into the IRON network was straightforward and it was immediately able to deliver upgraded services… future-proofing was also a vital requirement".

Verizon validates NG-PON2 interoperability based on OpenOMCI spec

Verizon announced it has validated interoperability of NG-PON2 at its Technology Center in Waltham, Massachusetts during a trial focused on ONT management and provisioning that used Verizon's OpenOMCI specification, which defines the OLT-to-ONT interface and is aligned with the ITU-T Recommendation G.989.3.

Verizon noted that it worked with ADTRAN, Broadcom, Cortina Access, Ericsson/Calix and Intel, which have expertise with OMCI and interoperability experience with previous generations of PON systems, to develop the OpenOMCI specification that formed the basis for the successful trial. Since the initial NG-PON2 trial in December 2016, the companies have made their hardware and software compliant and are contributing to the OpenOMCI specification.

By defining the tools required to model a multi-wavelength PON, the Verizon OpenOMCI specification optimises the number of managed entities and methods that can be used to implement a particular service function, while disallowing vendor-proprietary objects and features that have previously presented an obstacle to interoperability. The OpenOMCI also features specific managed entities designed to improve the stability of PON systems.

Along with ONT management and provisioning, the trial emphasized transmission convergence layer features that allow support of not only business and residential traffic but wireless transport services. These features are unique to NG-PON2 compared to other PON systems.

Verizon stated that representatives from a number of international communications operators that are interested in NG-PON2 technology, including Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom and Vodafone, attended the trial as virtual observers and gained access to the specification, test plans and results.

Following completion of the trial, Verizon has shared its OpenOMCI specification with the industry for possible inclusion within the appropriate standards.

* Verizon announced it was to begin testing NG-PON2 equipment at its lab in Waltham in July 2016. It noted the testing would focus on features including tuning performance, the ability to carry residential and business services on the same platform and interoperability and conformance with ONT specifications.

Huawei and BT Openreach test 25/100G symmetric PON

Huawei and BT unit Openreach announced they have tested a 25/100 Gbit/s symmetric PON prototype as part of preparations to support future 5G speeds, as well as manage network demands from ultra-HD (UHD) video consumption and enterprise leased lines.

The Huawei technology trialled is designed to enable operators to increase speeds and bandwidth on their existing network infrastructure, and so help to future-proof their networks.

The PON prototype from Huawei supports a single channel of 25 Gbit/s and is designed to address bandwidth requirements arising from both FTTx services and provide two or four channels to support business and mobile backhaul services. During testing in Openreach labs, the prototype was able to support four channels to deliver an overall maximum symmetric bandwidth of up to 100 Gbit/s.

Huawei has developed the 25/100 Gbit/s symmetric PON prototype based on the MA5800 platform, a commercially-deployed distributed optical line terminal (OLT). When deployed, the PON prototype is designed to allow reuse of existing optical distribution network (ODN) infrastructures to help protect providers' investments and facilitate network evolution.

Huawei noted that its new-generation distributed smart OLT MA5800 and 10 Gbit/s PON ONT are currently in use by 50 operators worldwide. The company recently released the CloudFAN solution that supports slicing functionality for multi-service bearing over a single network to help enable an efficient access network.

* Recently, Openreach launched what it claimed was the first live demonstration of a 100 Gbit/s, 'hyperfast' broadband service at the BT R&D centre at Adastral Park in the UK working with Huawei.

The demonstration involved a standard residential FTTP connection with advanced transmission technology designed to enhance the broadband signal and enable increased capacity. Developed jointly with research partner Huawei, BT believes that the new broadband technology could be used to 'super-charge' speeds for business and consumer customers in the future.

Ericsson enhances performance of HDS 8000 using Intel

Ericsson announced that the Intel Rack Scale Design featuring the new Intel Xeon Scalable processor is being introduced in the Ericsson Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 to enable expanded capacity and capabilities for data centres and improve the performance of applications running on the platform.

Specifically, Ericsson is introducing the new Intel Xeon Scalable processor within the Compute Sled Unit 02 within its Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000.

The introduction of Intel Rack Scale Design with the Xeon Scalable processor into the Ericsson Hyperscale Datacenter System 8000 is designed to deliver a significant expansion in terms of capacity and capabilities for data centre infrastructure. It also helps to improve the performance of Ericsson's applications running on the platform and allow operators to provide services requiring very high processing capacity, such as media distribution, AI, and IoT, more efficiently,

Ericsson noted that it previously partnered with Intel to launch the Intel Rack Scale Design, an architecture that enables hardware disaggregation and software-defined infrastructure. The technology is designed to improve utilisation of resources for computing, storage and networking. Now, by combining the Intel Xeon Scalable processor with software-defined infrastructure and optical interconnect, it is aiming to offer service providers the performance, capacity and flexibility required for the migration to 5G infrastructure.

One of the solutions that will benefit from the new Intel technology is the Ericsson virtual evolved packet core (EPC), which operators use to provide mobile broadband, voice over LTE (VoLTE), WiFi calling and IoT services. The virtual Evolved Packet Gateway is a key element of the solution and has been optimised for cloud operation.

Leveraging the new technology, Ericsson's virtual Evolved Packet Gateway is able to process data at a significantly higher rate of 40 Gbit/s per central processing unit. This means that operators will be able to utilise the same solution to provide massive-scale mobile broadband with high bandwidth, as well as fixed wireless access, more efficiently with reduced cost and using less core network infrastructure.

Rise expands fixed wireless broadband

Rise Broadband, a major fixed wireless broadband service provider, announced it has finalised its agreement with the city of Blair, Nebraska, and has activated transmission equipment on three city structures to expand its Internet and phone service coverage, speed and capacity for homes and businesses in the area.

Rise specialises in delivering broadband service and support to rural and suburban regions that are unserved or underserved by wireline and cable providers. Rise Broadband's coverage is available in parts of Nebraska as well as 15 other states, providing access to broadband service for residential and business customers,

Rise Broadband, based in Englewood, Colorado, claims to be the largest fixed wireless Internet service provider in the U.S., offering high-speed broadband services in 16 states. Rise currently serves nearly 200,000 residential and business accounts in rural and suburban areas throughout the Midwest, Rocky Mountain and southwest regions.

Regarding the agreement for Blair, John Krause, Rise Broadband's area supervisor, commented, "With the lease for three city facilities, Rise now provides Blair and surrounding Washington County communities with significantly improved Internet and phone service… the city generates additional revenue while customers can receive quality, affordable and reliable high-speed service".

* Earlier this year, Rise Broadband announced it had expanded its network in 10 markets in conjunction with the FCC Connect America Fund (CAF) program. The Rise expansion was supported in part by funding received through the rural broadband experiment (RBE) program within the CAF program. Rise was awarded $16.9 million under the RBE program for broadband expansion in Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Texas to deploy its broadband wireless service based on LTE technology.

* Rise announced it had begun upgrading its markets to LTE, enabling speeds of up to 50 Mbit/s, in 2015. As of January 2017, it stated it had enhanced services in more than 40 markets, with additional markets due to be upgraded over the next 15 months.

Vodafone teams with Lime Microsystems to develop software-defined radio

UK-based Lime Microsystems, a designer and manufacturer of field programmable RF transceivers, announced a collaboration with Vodafone Group to develop software-defined cellular radio platforms that will support Vodafone's OPEN RAN vision.

The app-enabled LimeNET platform is designed to bring together a large community of developers to help create advanced and tailored cellular applications more quickly and more cost effectively. The applications are intended to encompass all aspects of RAN functionalities and the services on top, ranging from 4G to NB-IoT and enterprise-specific applications.

Lime noted that to date wireless innovation has been limited by access to affordable, maintainable and upgradeable hardware. However, by making the radio network software configurable, LimeNET is aiming to change this and aligns with Vodafone's Open RAN initiative, which aims to virtualise RAN functionality and enable decoupling of hardware, software and third party applications using general purpose platforms.

* In 2016 Lime Micro launched a crowd funding campaign to support the development of its LimeSDR open source software defined radio. The funding had a target of $500,000 but had raised over $1 million as of mid-2017.

As part of this initiative, Lime was working with EE, now part of BT, including setting up projects based on the LimeSDR technology for the provision of high-speed access in remote areas of the Highlands and Islands of Scotland. In addition, BT supported the LimeNET and the LimeSDR campaigns.

* In June 2017, the company announced it had launched a second campaign via Crowd Supply and that it had shipped most of the LimeSDR boards.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Cisco – fog computing power combined with IoT management

by James E. Carroll

This week brings the 28th occurrence of Cisco Live!, the company's big technology and customer showcase (previously known as Networkers) that brings thousands of attendees to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. The big news was unveiled at a press conference last week in San Francisco, with Cisco seeking to 'reinvent networking' by applying machine learning to new network platforms powered by custom ASICs and secured via the Cisco Talos threat management platform. With this big news already out the door, the Cisco Live! event can focus on other topics including the company’s budding partnerships with Apple and Ericsson, as well as the theme of edge computing, which is gaining momentum across the industry.

Bringing compute power to the edge

As the number of connected devices grows, the flow of data from the edge of the network to the core increases. In his Cisco Live! key note, company CEO Chuck Robbins observed that we are already in a multi-cloud world. In the IoT context, this is good because data will flow from the edge to multiple cores, thus avoiding the problem of single point for concentration. Another increasingly popular term for this is fog computing. The recently published Cisco Visual Networking Index (VNI) predicts that M2M connections will represent 46% of connected devices by 2020.

There is the possibility to distribute general purpose computing resources at the edge of the network. By processing data at the edge, we can determine which data needs to be transported to a core data centre and which data can be acted on locally. Once it has been determined which data should be sent to the core, there is a need to transport it securely. Devices need to be managed and traffic analysed to understand the impact on network performance. Cisco already provides these capabilities through its edge devices and with its Cisco Jasper platform. The idea is to expand the Jasper franchise, thus building a business with predictable and recurring revenue in a market segment with extremely fast growth.

The Jasper connection and Edge processing

In February 2016, Cisco acquired Jasper Technologies for $1.4 billion in cash and assumed equity awards. The deal was finalised the following month. The Santa Clara, California-based start-up, headed by Jahangir Mohammed, a serial entrepreneur known for his previous company Kineto Wireless, developed a cloud-based Software as a Service (SaaS) platform to manage connected devices. At the time the Cisco acquisition was announced, Jasper claimed to have 3,500 enterprise customers and 27 service provider customers. Jasper had been working with AT&T on connected device management since at least 2009.

Currently, Cisco Jasper claims over 11,000 enterprises and 43 million devices using its IoT management platform. One notable customer is Amazon which manages Kindle devices using Cisco Jasper. Listed service provider customers include AT&T, Telefonica, Singtel, KT, China Unicom, NTT Docomo, VimpleCom, Vivo, Bell, Telus, Rogers, Comcast, Optus, Telstra, Etisalat, TIM, O2, and many others. In the automotive sector, Cisco Jasper is used by a number of manufacturers, including Ford, GM, Subaru, and VW. Several of these players, notably GM, are now including connected car service as a basic feature for many models, which means tens of thousands of new connections every month for a single customer. At Cisco Live!, Chuck Robbins said the 1.7 million new devices are being managed by Cisco Jasper every month. In fact, Cisco now claims this to be the world’s largest IoT connectivity management platform.

The idea of actionable intelligence at the network edge is a powerful one. One example cited at Cisco Live is Chevron, the multinational energy company based in San Ramon, California. As one of the largest oil companies worldwide, Chevron has drilling operations in locations across the west coast of North America, the U.S. gulf coast, Australia, Nigeria, Angola, Kazakhstan, and other locations. In the U.S., Chevron operates approximately 11,000 oil and natural gas wells. Its $43 billion Gorgon Gas Project in rural Western Australia is the largest liquified natural gas (LNG) initiative in the world. Drilling is extremely data intensive activity, and rigs and wells are being equipped with every possible type of automated sensors, resulting in a tremendous flow of data. Previously, achieving actionable intelligence from a rig out in the field typically took 2 weeks. With its IoT edge processing, Cisco said it is able cut actionable intelligence response time to under 2 seconds.

Chevron is an interesting example of edge computing which could be quite powerful in many vertical applications. For service providers, although edge processing might reduce the total volume of data traversing the network, it makes the flow of sensor data more predictable. It also makes the network more intelligent and therefore of higher value to the end customer. Service providers working on IoT will probably look to follow this model. Cisco says that by transforming IoT sensor data, fog applications like this can also benefit its ecosystem partners. The distributed IoT network can function as the compute environment for fog applications. Other examples of deployed fog applications include site asset management, energy monitoring, and smart parking.

The first evolution of Cisco Jasper

Fifteen months after completing the Jasper acquisition, Cisco is announcing the first upgrade to the platform under its ownership. Cisco Jasper Control Center 7.0 focuses on lifecycle automation, analytics, security, cost management and back-end integration. Enhancements in this release include better tools for traffic segmentation to allow deeper revenue and service models, as well tools to prevent attacks at the DNS layer. It also offers:

·         Advanced capabilities via a new tier of the platform – Control Center Advanced – which caters to customers with more sophisticated deployments that need greater capabilities, including advanced security solutions, automation and analytics.

·         Premium services, a threat protection and smart security (TPSS) service that provides an IoT-specific solution to protect against malware and other cybersecurity threats built on Cisco Umbrella; traffic segmentation provides a new solution to support different types of revenue generation models, with Cisco Jasper service providers can customize premium services to meet their customers’ specific needs.

·         LPWAN Support: Control Center 7. extends the platform's capabilities, including the platform's global reach and scale via support for cellular networks to low power devices via support for multiple LPWAN technologies including NB-IoT and LTE-M.

Swisscom to trial NB-IoT and Cat-M1 as part of 5G development

Swisscom has detailed efforts in the development of 5G technology, specifically stating that it plans to launch two new access technologies for the Internet of Things (IoT) next year: Narrow Band-IoT and LTE Cat-M1.

The access technologies are based on mobile supplements to the existing low power network (LPN), and Swisscom claims it will be the first provider in Switzerland to conduct field trials of network slicing in 2018. This technology is designed to enable individual 5G and 4G applications to be allocated guaranteed network resources in future.

Swisscom is also testing 5G speeds in a test environment in Zurich. Based on technology from Ericsson, the trials have achieved transmission capacity of over 20 Gbit/s capacity in a radio cell.

Swisscom noted that IoT is a key element in digitisation and will result in increasing mobile data volumes, therefore it is implementing a national expansion for IoT. In 2017, the low power network (LPN) will be made available to 90% of the Swiss population. Swisscom is also expanding its IoT portfolio via two access technologies based on 3GPP mobile communications - Narrow Band-IoT (NB-IoT) and LTE Cat-M1.

Swisscom plans to begin initial tests of NB-IoT and LTE Cat-M1 with pilot customers before the end of 2017, with a commercial launch scheduled for 2018.

To leverage the benefits of 5G, Swisscom is also implementing network function virtualisation (NFV) technology. In May, Swisscom launched an NFV service for companies. NFV allows the network load to be configured to ensure that applications have the required resources. To achieve this, network slicing ensures applications used in industrial communications are guaranteed network resources. Swisscom will test a prototype with partner Ypsomed and carry out the first field trials in 2018.

As part of 5G development, Swisscom is trialling a mobile base station with antenna and two terminal devices at Ericsson’s 5G development centre in Sweden. The 5G prototype enables speeds of up to 10 Gbit/s to be achieved in parallel on the mobile network.

Swisscom is also expanding its 4G network and will phase out its 2G network by the end of 2020. Swisscom currently offers 4G+ to 40% of the Swiss population with speeds of up to 300 Mbit/s. This is due to rise to 67% by the end of 2017. Swisscom also covers 15% of the population with speeds of up to 450 Mbit/s.

Vitalpointz Targets the Edge

We have seen the tremendous potential for innovation, cost saving, and flexibility being unleashed by the public clouds.  The hyperscale data centers of the top three public cloud providers are marvels to behold. Private cloud data centers and hybrid cloud architectures are also on the rise as Fortune 500 companies shift their IT spending to take advantage of this trend.

We are also now witnessing the long-predicted rise in the Internet of Things.  IDC’s recent Worldwide Semiannual Internet of Things Spending Guide predicts spending on IoT will reach $800 billion this year, up 16.7% year over year, and rising to nearly $1.4 trillion in 2021.  IDC breaks down 2017 investments in IoT as follows: manufacturing operations ($105 billion), freight monitoring ($50 billion), and production asset management ($45 billion), smart grid technologies for electricity, gas and water and smart building technologies ($56 billion and $40 billion, respectively). Looking to 2021, IDC expects these use cases will remain the largest areas of IoT spending. The use cases that will see the fastest spending growth are airport facilities automation (33.4% CAGR), electric vehicle charging (21.1% CAGR), and in-store contextual marketing (20.2% CAGR).

The Need for Edge Computing

At the intersection of these two trends is a new opportunity that is just beginning to catch the interest of Silicon Valley – edge computing, sometimes also called fog computing. The primary idea here is that Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) applications will benefit from both cloud infrastructure and local compute/storage resources. Centralized controllers in the cloud could be used for provisioning, performance monitoring, billing, and big data analytics. Real-time control of the application and its associated physical devices would be retained by an “edge” processing/storage unit.

This will drive the development of small server farms, or “cloudlets”, located in-building, on-campus, or in a metro area data center.  Google recently disclosed plans for more data centers in city centers rather than solely hyperscale campuses in remote locations. AWS is promoting its “Greengrass” project, software for running local compute, messaging, data caching, and sync capabilities for connected device. Greengrass runs locally and the AWS cloud provides management, analytics, and durable storage.

The communication service providers have their own variation for this general concept - Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD).  Under the Linux Foundation, CORD is now an independent open source project aimed at leveraging the elasticity of commodity clouds and merchant silicon for a new generation of smaller and more efficient central offices. Backers include Google, Radisys, Samsung Electronics, AT&T, China Unicom, Google, NTT Communications, SK Telecom, and Verizon, vendors Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Intel, NEC, Nokia, etc.

The Vitalpointz Application Forking Engine

Vitalpointz ( is a Silicon Valley-based start-up with R&D operations in Bangalore, that has just announced its entrance into this market. The company is led by veteran successful entrepreneur Ravi Medikonda, who previously headed Vistapointe, a start-up that specialized in cloud-based and real-time network monitoring solutions for mobile operators. Vistapointe developed data extraction, analysis and insight generation technologies that enabled mobile operators to gain visibility into their mobile networks. The solution leveraged Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) architecture, enabling it to run in a telco cloud.  Brocade acquired Vistapointe in 2014. The Vistapointe team went on to become Brocade’s Network Visibility and Analytics business unit, establishing accounts with major North American and Japanese mobile operators.  With Broadcom’s $5.9 billion acquisition of Brocade and subsequent divestitures of many business units, the time seemed right to pursue the new edge opportunity.

“We see a distinct opportunity for a better edge computing paradigm,” says Vitalpointz’ Ravi Medikonda. “Application developers really should not have to know specifically what hardware resources are available locally versus in the cloud.  Our forking engine will automatically direct traffic to where it can be best processed. In many cases, that might be a nearby CORD or on-prem server, but it might be the public or private cloud.”

Applications are driven by multiple functional modules, also known as micro-services, which can exist in different locations (VMs, container, across racks, across data centers, etc.). We also know that application deployment has changed to a SAAS multi-tenant model.  The same deployment of "Office 365" can serve multiple companies and customers.  So, the ability to specifically manage an application by host or an IP-address is not possible.

The patent pending Vitalpointz Application Fork Engine (VAFE) technology will enable applications to run “as is” across the cloud and cloudlet without any configuration change. The company says its VAFE technology will benefit several use cases that require quick responsiveness, low latency and near real-time operation. VAFE can be embedded in x.86 platforms, VMs, processor boards in Layer-2 DC switches or IIOT gateways.

Examples could include context-aware services and location-aware services, asset tracking, video surveillance, connected cars, augmented and virtual reality, etc.  Think of a hotel that is installing NFC-enabled door locks on its customer rooms.  When a new reservation is booked online, a room suite is automatically assigned and a unique room access code is generated and emailed to the guest. This part of the booking is handled by the hotel management application in the cloud. When the guest arrives at the hotel on the day of the booking, he or she may proceed directly to the reserved room, which opens when their NFC-enabled phone is touched to the door lock. The authenticated door opening transaction is processed locally rather than in the cloud data center which could be thousands of miles away.

The Vitalpointz founding team has played the Silicon Valley & Bangalore start-up game before with a successful outcome. A promising market opportunity has been identified and key intellectual property is under development. As is often the case, it is the focused engineering teams who have worked together in the past that gain a first-to-market advantage over the large vendors.