Q&A: The importance of network surveillance, visualization and automation

network visibility visualization
Image credit: ranjith ravindran / Shutterstock.com

EXFO is a player to watch in the ‘new’ network space. Tony Poulos of Disruptive.Asia sat in on a briefing with Germain Lamonde, founder and executive chairman of EXFO, and Michael Scheppke, VP Sales for APAC. They discussed the opportunities and challenges for EXFO and the Asia Pacific market.

Disruptive.Asia: Firstly, Germain, can we get your perspective on the key network issues and transformations that are happening at the moment?

Germain Lamonde: The simple answer is that fiber is getting into everything – not just traditional fixed networks. We now have fiber-to-the-home as a reality – and we have 50% of this market – and fiber is now deep into data centers. Of course, we are involved in all of this, but fiber is going deep into wireless as well. It is obviously in the first phases of 5G, but also in 4G, right up to fiber to the antennas. In all of this, we aim to deliver productivity and automation to operators to enable them to manage the complexities.

Secondly, operators need visibility into their network more than ever, as well as visibility of their applications and services and we have huge quality of experience. These are the three dimensions we are looking at – network, services and consumer experience. A key question is how to do that. And with recent announcements, we definitely aim to be a world class player in these areas, specifically network surveillance, visualization and automation. This, of course, means both physical and virtualized networks.

Looking specifically at the Asia-Pacific region, can you comment on the progress of 5G and automation, and how it is impacting service providers?

One issue is that APAC is incredibly diverse, not only geographically and culturally but also in technological advancement. Some countries are getting ready to deploy 5G, for instance Japan, Korea and China, where NFV and SDN are well established. Then there are the countries moving less fast such as Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Then there are countries that are still in the last wave of investment, deploying 4G. We can work with all customers across this portfolio.

Do you have a story you can share with an important account and describe how you have helped enable this critical transformation?

So, we can look at Telecom Malaysia. They were trying to get end-to-end visibility into their network, but there are many different vendors involved. There was no easy way to collate the information and analyze the network service impact. So we implemented EXFO Ontology, which provides automated topology across the board, which can integrate various different vendors’ data, and were able to build that end-to-end view for them.

And the IoT? It is becoming huge? Are you involved in this area?

IoT is definitely new – and huge. Here, we are working with China Mobile. They are looking at four major vendors to help them develop offerings. We were able to build a test scenario for them to help in this vendor selection. This involved working out how to handle massive increase in devices and traffic. We built an application server that could simulate the traffic from five million devices. We worked out how to handle that, and do individual device testing as well.

You’ve just announced the deal with Astellia. Could you comment on the reasoning behind that acquisition?

It is our fourth major acquisition, and it allows us a much bigger vision, as well as an extended platform. We have over 95% of stock and that will become 100%. We can now become a new force for visualization and automation. Astellia provides a massive amount of additional, synergistic technologies, a complementary customer base and it is exciting for employees and, particularly, customers.

What specific aspects does this bring for EXFO?

It gives us a major-league capability – and this is only available to few players. We can now do active tests, passive tests, topology and provide an automation platform that links the services and analytics that support and drive it all. These are exciting times for us.

Want to know more? Check out our video interview with Germain Lamonde at Mobile World Congress 2018 right here.

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