Carrier equipment market driven by innovation

Chen Yongzhou/FiberHome
11 Jan 2017

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Innovation – driven by the change of industrial ecosystem

In the past ten years, the carrier market has been greatly changed by a lot of new requirements and technologies, such as IoT, 4G/5G, Big Data, SDN/NFV, etc. And such changes are occurring at a higher and higher rate: the explosive demand of higher bandwidth, the more dedicate end-to-end traffic management, the more complex but more accurate security policy, the cheaper and easier network maintenance, and more flexible but more efficient upgrade ability. It is a consensus today that operators need to provide more traffic and services to earn the same profit.

From all these elements, it proves that innovation is essential and will bring the most important competitiveness to an equipment provider to meet the requirements of its capricious and picky customers. Nonetheless, it seems paradoxical that innovation has also become a more and more demanding challenge to all equipment providers.

In this market, to innovate at a high rate, the innovation work requires cross-domain capabilities between disciplines such as ASIC, hardware, and software design. Successful innovative organizations usually must integrate these abilities; And furthermore, fed the innovation process by customer feedback from the strong marketing team. And another aspect is that the innovation and product development work is often highly iterative making outsourcing to individual verticals virtually impossible.

At the meantime, more dangerous changes occurred within the whole ecosystem. With the more and more critical demand to reduce the cost, a lot of upstream suppliers disappeared, either quitted or was acquired, from the market. No matter for the IC designers or the manufactories, the market has never been so monopolized by a few providers as today. It essentially reduces the vitality of this industry and makes any new technologies or innovations very expensive.

Then it is understandable that more and more equipment providers begin to take a “following” strategy in the market. Although innovation is still, or always, the core of the competence, it becomes more and more only for those leading companies. From some aspects, such a “following” strategy seems a “safer” decision, but from long term perspective, the innovation has become the license of the Tier-1 Providers Club.

FiberHome –a challenger and an innovator

FiberHome is a Chinese state-owned telecommunication equipment company. In its nearly 20 years’ history, FiberHome always focuses on providing leading optical network solutions and has won great credits in either China domestic market or overseas market. According to Ovum statistics, in 2015, FiberHome has grown into the world's fifth largest provider in optical network transmission market.

FiberHome always considers innovation as the spirit of their products and the approach to fit market requirements. To face all above challenges, FiberHome has built a strong R&D team to cover cross-domains including IC design, HW manufacturing, and application development. They are also trying to build firm partnership with global strategic suppliers and customers. Both such partnership and the strong R&D ability made FiberHome successfully resolve a lot of technical problems which have perplexed the optical transmission market for years.

To keep continuous growth in the future, from 2012 FiberHome also began to access the Datacom market. With the benefits of their excellent ability of innovation, they gained fast growth in this new battlefield. By the end of 2016, FiberHome has already become the world’s 7th biggest Datacom provider in the market. It has already been in FiberHome’s plan to improve the innovation ability by integrate more technologies into their future products.

From IC design level, FiberHome is going to make or lead innovation in several areas. Either in Router or Backhaul, the large-scale flow table is always a big challenge. FiberHome plans to optimize the solution from chip level by two ways: to increase the scale of internal and external TCAM, or to upgrade and optimize the algorithm of search engines. The former method can provide a high speed and low latency solution for high-end products, while the latter can provide a cost-down and low power solution for cost-sensitive market. Another consideration is to improve the programmability of the packet processor. FiberHome always considers the programmable packet processor the most efficient solution for a powerful, flexible and cost-saving solution, especially to answer the fast-growing challenge from next generation optical network, e.g. 5G. As known to all, there will be new protocols in 5G network. Therefore, for those deployed equipment, programmability will be very attractive for the operators to save cost for the system upgrade. For this reason, FiberHome plans to keep on delivering programmable telecommunication products to help customers to reduce the cost of upgrade and management, and to well serve the target to smoothly merge to 5G network platform.

From software and application level, FiberHome is going to optimize the platform for SDN. SDN targets to the centralized network control, the separate of the data plane and the control plane, and the open programming interface. In logic, the structure of SDN is layered by the infrastructure layer, control layer, and application layer. This kind of layered structure drives innovation from each layer easily. The SDN architecture is shown in the following figure.

In infrastructure layer, FiberHome is developing the unified software platform of different IC vendors. With the standard Southbound interface, it will simplify the forwarding plane and make the application uncoupled from hardware. With the centralized controller, the control layer can separate the control plane from the forwarding plane. And it will also bring innovation to the application layer to provide better network maintenance tools to manage the network. These network maintenance tools can such rich functionalities like global resource deployment and optimization, complex traffic engineering, and load balance, etc. At the same time, these tools will be logically independent from the infrastructure, which will greatly reduce the cost and increase the efficiency of the network maintenance.

As one of the pioneers of SDN technologies, FiberHome owns series of solutions in SDON, SPTN, and SIPRAN to provide products covering all SDNs for Transmission, Datacom, and Access market. It’s also one of a few providers which have already been successful experiences to deploy SDN in field. And with the continuous improvement of the innovation ability, this ambitious Chinese company is going to bring more competitive solutions to the market in the following years.

Chen Yongzhou is Technical Director of Fiberhome

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