EXFO – Powering Innovations with Real-Time 3D Analytics

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Yvon Rouault, EXFO’s Technology Advisor, CTO Office speaks with Zia Askari from TelecomDrive.com about the company’s innovative solutions and how it is looking forward to 5G as an opportunity.

At a time telecom operators are having a scenario where 3G, 4G and 4.5G are coexisting…What are the priorities for EXFO?

EXFO’s deep understanding of how the transport, service and application network layers work together and how issues with one influences the other, translates into expertise and solutions addressing each level, phase and challenge facing the network lifecycle. As legacy mobile standards continue to evolve, including more optical fibers in the backhaul and fronthaul, we too are evolving, adding expertise and solutions.

EXFO will continue to offer solutions across the entire network lifecycle, including solution for hybrid networks and coexisting technologies (3G, 4G, 5G etc.), and across multiple layers (physical, transport and application layers). Our solutions range from simulators in lab environments, to deployment, maintenance and trouble-shooting in the field, as well as service assurance solutions.

How do you look at the future opportunities? How do you want to target these opportunities?

At EXFO, our solutions are addressing specific challenges related to the exponential increase of bit rates (to 400 Gbit/s) and the migration of radio access networks to a centralized RAN architecture, all the while being fully compliant with requirements surrounding the virtualization of the transport (SDN) and services (NFV) layers.

Operators look forward to injecting simplicity into their complex multi layered networks… In such a scenario how can your solutions help them?

EXFO proposes a unique approach that provides, what we call, real-time 3D analytics. Real-time 3D analytics means capturing and crunching data from multiple sources, across all network elements, layers and domains, to obtain a unified view of performance from three dimensions: network, service and subscriber. The recent acquisition of Ontology Systems furthers that strategy, by providing a real-time mapping of the paths for each service and each end-to-end connection across the constantly changing SDN network.

The root cause of performance issues can be anywhere in those layers, so closely tracking errors and successfully solving problems requires a multilayered approach. Only EXFO can provide such a unified view across all those layers in one application—EXFO Xtract, our real-time performance analytics solution.

As we move ahead towards more and more operators embracing evolution towards 5G… How do you look at this trend? What innovations can we expect from your end in this direction?

5G is not just another 3GPP standard with new frequencies and more data throughput. It is an entirely new approach to networking, as the virtualization of infrastructure will have an impact on every type of network service. In addition, 5G is the unification of several market segments including massive broadband, industrial IoT, real-time remote operations and others.

EXFO’s 30 years of experience in optical networks and recognized expertise in transport network QoS analysis, are critical enablers for the deployment of 5G networks, high-speed data center interconnections, SDN/NFV network assurance, and new fronthaul and backhaul (e.g, 5G XHaul) architectures.

What are the key geographies for you as a brand and please share your go to market strategy?

EXFO was built to be a global company for a global industry. We work with Tier-1 MNOs worldwide as a trusted advisor for test, monitoring and analytics solutions. We develop our solutions by collaborating with those MNOs for specific trials, where we learn from each other, ensure our team understands the roots of MNO challenges and can further translate that knowledge into compelling solutions.

We also develop strategic partnership alliances with other vendors (such as Rhode & Schwartz) to complement our offerings and develop specific joint initiatives. Actively engaging with international standards bodies and forums to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and best practices is also important, an example being our recent contribution to a TM Forum Catalyst project.

Specifically, EXFO’s approach to NFV/SDN involves a three-phased path. This approach involves specific solutions addressing virtualization, automation of operations, and a complete integration of service assurance into DevOps. The goal is to understand our customers’ requirements and help them navigate the path to 5G—their existing infrastructure being at the foundation of future 5G deployments and therefore of critical importance.

The space of network testing holds special significance as it is often creating the basis for future network rollout and roadmap. What are the technology trends that are happening in this space especially in the backdrop of NFV and SDN adoption??

Key requirements for 5G include ultra-low latency (under 1 ms), and enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB) that delivers multi-Gbit/s rates achieved through two innovations: mobile edge computing (MEC) and a distributed hierarchy of data centers. The massive amount of data exchanged between these new elements will require a significant leap in optical networking requirements.

In addition, the disconnect between the service layer (SDN) and network infrastructure (NFV) will require new applications to track the mapping of services across the network. This mapping function is the strength of a solution like EXFO Ontology’s real-time active topology platform.

What kind of growth are you looking at and from where will this growth be coming from?

We anticipate that our traditional areas of expertise will fuel EXFO’s future growth. Optical networking, Ethernet testing, and service & network analytics—and new requirements related to the enablement of the closed loop automation in NFV—will be our main drivers.