Orchestration, automation and the Blue Planet approach

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Two big problems that telcos have at the moment, according to Kailem Anderson, VP of Engineering at Blue Planet, are visibility and people. I had the pleasure of interviewing him recently and he offered some interesting solutions to some common problems facing operators.

If a telco is trying to automate its network, it has to know what assets it actually has. For many years now, this apparently simplistic problem has caused many headaches. You simply cannot automate processes, when there assets you do not know about because the consequences could be very significant.

The first step to solving this, says Anderson, is discovery. The company does this via its acquisition of Don River, which provides the federation capability that can tell you exactly what assets are on the network, which should be made redundant and which can be automated.

This in itself is a very useful exercise but only the first step.

Ciena bought Blue Planet as the focus changed from hardware to software and the company realised that orchestration and automation was where the focus now lay, where the control point was moving to.

To address this the company built an end-to-end automation suite, which is not out of the ordinary. What is, perhaps, out of the ordinary is their approach. Instead of taking the suite to customers and either selling the end-to-end approach or asking what problem they can solve, Blue Planet’s offering is loosely integrated so they can address the processes that are priorities. They can, in effect, take a step by step approach. They can tackle network automation issues, bandwidth on demand issues and SDN automation issues.

This approach makes sense to a telco, confronted by the trend that says ‘automate everything’ and ‘transform or die’. Add to this a growing frustration amongst telcos over System Integrator ‘lock in’ and the approach seems refreshing.

What telcos really want, says Anderson, is a DevOps environment which they can take over and run themselves. This also allows them to pick and choose what to address and in what order, which is a huge benefit when there are 100 processes that could potentially be automated.

While this makes sense now, the future, according to Anderson, is about stitching together Networks, IT and Ops and this is fundamentally a trust issue, a people issue.

That said, Anderson is somewhat frustrated by the ‘closed loop’ buzzword because of the people issue. The network guys simply do not want to close the loop because they still do not completely trust the IT or Ops guys not to press the wrong button and blow up a network asset.

In the future, though, the silos will inevitably come tumbling down and as they do the future looks bright for Blue Planet.

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