As software becomes a bigger and bigger piece of the networking world, it is perhaps among the vendors that the biggest changes are looming. Specialized hardware development cycles are giving way to the faster pace of software, and the expectations of network operators are moving even more quickly. One company that is working hard to make the transition into an opportunity is MRV. With us today to talk about where MRV has been and where it is going is Zeev Draer, Vice President of Strategic Marketing.
TR: MRV has gone through a lot of changes over the last few years. Tell us about what the company looks like today and where it is focusing its efforts?
ZD: Change creates opportunity. We’ve gone through organizational and cultural changes to ensure our company stays competitive as new markets emerge. The industry will continue to evolve and we were required to adjust our activity and refocus on our core expertise in the networking business. All companies will need to adapt to new business models and move faster when technological shifts rapidly happen.
With that in mind, MRV conducted a detailed review of our markets, technology and customers’ requirements to finalize our multiyear transformation plan. We focused our team on positioning MRV with the resources and structure required to drive long-term sustainable growth. And we’ve made substantial headway! MRV completed its multi-year development plan to transition our packet and optical metro networking products to a new generation of programmable and high-speed 100G technology, while enhancing our overall end-to-end solution portfolio – which includes our service provisioning and orchestration software that enables simplified operations and streamlined multilayer networking services.
TR: It sounds like R&D is a big part of your plans going forward, what has MRV been working on lately?
ZD: We have three R&D centers of excellence in North America and Israel that capable with packet and optical in-house expertise and drive innovation. These centers allow us to be nimble and provide creative solutions for our customers. MRV will continue to be a market-driven company for new technology and innovation. In fact, we scored multiple industry awards over the last 12 months that praise our highly flexible, next-generation optical transport products for data centers and the industry’s first 100G access device for packet services and multilayer lifecycle service orchestration software.
Recent MRV product releases include substantial milestones with our next-generation optical product portfolio and the best example of that is our OptiDriver family. This product offers extremely low latency (the lowest in our industry), as well as high levels of modularity across the industry’s widest portfolio of seven chassis.
The OptiDriver enables a great spectrum of solutions for data center interconnect and a range of flexible use cases from metro access to the metro core. Our unique and highly flexible chassis design is patented technology and allows MRV customers to simplify operations and streamline new, high-capacity services at all rates over the same product. This state-of-the-art design enables pay-as-capacity growth and delivers outstanding total-cost-of-ownership for our customers. On the packet portfolio enhancements, our OptiPacket (OP-X) is among the industry’s first 100G access products on the market, that is MEF CE 2.0 certified and provides a significant advantage to our customers who are seeking 100G demarcation services in metro networks, as well as wholesale high-speed interconnect and aggregation for regional service providers.
As part of the complete refresh in our packet access product portfolio, our new generation of OptiSwitch V-series Carrier Ethernet access devices will enable us to move into virtualization era and layout our longer-term strategy for open and programmable networking.
TR: How important is the software layer to MRV’s various product lines?
ZD: The value of our software development for complete end to end solution enables us to streamline network operations by our Pro-Vision advanced service orchestration software and our customers receive a full lifecycle service orchestration to reduce operating costs. These product features, combined with our highly scalable and service delivery operations model, provide us with the opportunity for significant value creation as we move forward toward software-driven intelligent networks that will be open, programmable and automated.
TR: How do you think SDN and NFV will reshape the networking world?
ZD: I must admit that the SDN/NFV technologies and architectures might just be the most radical changes I’ve ever witnessed since the beginning of the Internet age. The impact is so radical, that it is influencing and shifting our mindsets. The direct impact is already reflected in applications, software-driven and information-centricity paradigms that tend to adapt IT modeling versus that traditional telecom mindset.
The common terminology of “Network-as-a-Service” is to imply that the cloud-model of "pay-per-use" will start to dominate more among communication providers. Billing per service/application/usage will start to be the new reality that will require more agile and elastic metro networks. Aggressive competition from Over-the-Top content providers is forcing traditional telecom operators - that focused on pre-defined connectivity models - to now shift to more efficient and automated cloud-centric models. Business models will continue to be highly impacted by one simple fact; customers will be loyal to the service and not to a specific provider. Strategic decisions will not just impact businesses they will impact the industry as a whole.
TR: How is MRV approaching the implementation of SDN and NFV?
ZD: MRV’s angle is that this SDN/NFV paradigm shift is moving us towards a more practical maturity. MRV moved from whiteboard to development stages last year. Moving earlier than that was less compelling since the formula that contains technological advances and industry standards simply wasn’t relevant for timing, in terms of making decisions transforming it to concrete research and development. We have a broad packet and optical portfolio for metro networks and we recognize our role to integrate more automation, programmability and virtualization across multiple layers. This layering model is the cornerstone of our power and will allow MRV customers, in the future, to take the abstract view of the underlying physical network and offer network virtualization services to serve even more use cases and applications.
MRV is unique in this long-term exciting evolution that’s aiming to change the entire networking industry. We are following the various aspects of SDN and NFV for multiple layers and concentrating on an open source strategy that will enable us to move faster and gain development from community collaborations. The wisdom of the crowd, and specifically in current market dynamics, is a big value. This is not a new model for MRV as we started the open source strategy back in late 1990’s, transformed in gradual phases during mid 2000’s and into our current operating system that run across MRV’s entire portfolio.
Since the automation aspect is critical, MRV believes that the orchestration and management layer is a highly essential building block to various APIs, and specifically northbound APIs, being standardized. As this gains market acceptance, it will enable the wishful automation architecture that will move us, and the entire industry, to more practical stages of SDN and NFV implementations.
TR: What stage to you think the industry is at with SDN and NFV at present?
ZD: Currently, the entire industry is striving to unify and standardize the various directions, and this is still blocking telecom networks from transforming to this new era. Therefore, we find ourselves in the middle of a big wave that’s still moving towards the shore. Riding this wave (in surfer’s jargon) requires passion and patience. Our metro-optimized SDN/NFV cross product strategy has been a long journey. This is a marathon in a market that has very interesting and evolving dynamics. MRV takes precautions to ensure we are consistently moving with the right efforts toward destinations in our company’s development and, more importantly, toward our goal to serve the right business model for customers.
TR: What do you think the balance is between hardware and software development for vendors? What is the best route to differentiating oneself from the competition?
ZD: This is the billion-dollar question for all vendors. The market is changing and imposing new business models. I call this “software disruptive networking” that emulates cloud on-demand modeling and changes the business and technological architectures. Some parts of the network will be virtualized and will run very centric software services, but we still need the underlying high performance optical and packet layers -- these can’t disappear. The current market direction will merge and serve an integrated layer of highly programmable on-demand infrastructure that will be fueled and controlled with automation from central software intelligence. In this formula, the game plan will be dependent on what value you can sell and how market forces will layout a reasonable business model. The conceptual aspect of selling tangibles like hardware is known and those rules are set. In a world of software, this formula is expanded to hundreds of variants. In the past, there were attempts to sell network usage per capacity, per number of networking nodes or per virtual services - like number of active Ethernet virtual circuits or active software services. Nevertheless, the networking vendors didn’t educate the market and this made the "software sell" a challenge. With the new paradigm of Software-Driven networks or Infrastructure-as-a Service, the emulation of cloud modeling will educate the market. So, my humble assumption is that the changes will be seen in balance sheets of the vendors. The typical ratio of 10% software and 90% hardware will be changed in the long run, but this depends on value creation of software and what customers will be willing to pay.
TR: What do you think the biggest challenge is for vendors to overcome in the near future?
ZD: The biggest challenge for vendors will continue to be the very rapid changes in technology cycles. Shorter and the ongoing market dynamics will tend to disrupt multiyear corporate plans. If the old-school management model was to have 5 years planning, nowadays vendors must challenge themselves on regular basis. This includes analysis on ecosystem in each market and the evolving trends that require reassessments of realities and hypes.
TR: What is the next big thing on the horizon for MRV?
ZD: Our customers have given us positive feedback on our development efforts and MRV prides itself on a nimble and creative nature that has been in our DNA for the last 28 years. We continue the strategy of packet optical convergence and the Lifecycle Service Orchestration that plays significant roles in value creation. Few companies have the expertise to develop all of the key elements that MRV delivers in an end-to-end metro portfolio. This requires focused activity and multilayer expertise, which we luckily have in-house.
The aspect of programmable network means that we have substantial value of software. MRV empowers the software to tell the network what we want it to do, and we configure the pool of resources to setup end-to-end service for customers. The central software intelligence will enable the collection of analytical data from entire physical and virtual networks. This will be a real-time snapshot of capacity usage, SLA performances and highly granular data for applications and user experience - so stay tuned!
With all the capacity demand that keeps pushing our underlying infrastructure, we plan on a high-speed optical technology facelift for our optical product line. 100G and 200G technology continues to shrink and increase density to enormous capacity. With substantial power efficiencies per bit, and smaller size technology, our solution will have one of the leading 100G densities in the market along attractive prices. So without saying more, MRV will continue to be an interesting company that offers creative solutions to the market place. Let’s talk again in 2017 to check the pulse of the market and discuss unbiased views on what a foreseeable future looks like.
TR: Thank you for talking with Telecom Ramblings!