Verizon kicks off Intelligent Edge Network with automation from Infinera

Verizon is leveraging new automation technology from Infinera as one of the first steps toward building out its Intelligent Edge Network (IEN).

Verizon first announced its IEN two years ago as a means to move away from its TDM networking to a more simplified Ethernet-based network. The shift will also give Verizon a single management platform, while also lowering its carbon footprint by using less power and space.

"We're still very early in the implementation of the program," said Steve Owens, director of network infrastructure planning at Verizon. "Most of our efforts have been focused on seeding the new technology in the network, and only up to this point have we been able to do some small level of migration and decommissioning on a very opportunistic level. I think the key point to make is with some of the initial seeding we've been able to trial this technology that the Infinera tool is helping us with to plan and implement. So far, we see the traction that we're going to need to scale the program, and to remove all the legacy equipment that is in our network."

Infinera's Rob Shore, senior vice president of marketing, said network operators, especially large network operators such as Verizon, need to deal with the spider webs of legacy technology that are not only inefficient, but also make it difficult to launch new services. Infinera's software provides Verizon with a modeling tool of its network in order to run multiple migration scenarios. It can be applied to multiple systems and use cases such as TDM, SONET and ultralong haul.

"I think this is part of Verizon's overall automation strategy to streamline, simplify and provide better services, but one of things that we bring to the table is some of our automation capabilities and our Transcend Software Suite," Shore said. "In our software solutions we have some unique capabilities that help model the network to make sure we have a clear understanding of what the network looks like. We can create some modeling migration scenarios of 'How do I roll off of those older devices on to the newer elements,' and then even helping to actually implement it. We need to go execute it to actually help automate that process, too, which not only speeds it up, but also reduces errors."

The migration and automation blueprint also calls for integrating Infinera's API and YANG-driven data model software capabilities with Verizon's base network controller, which will give the telco full lifecycle automation including installation, commission, service provisioning and control.

Verizon's end goal, like that of a lot of other service providers, is to enable a zero-touch, fully automated, extensible, and programmable infrastructure by using open networking principles and capabilities.

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Verizon will also employ SDN control of multivendor elements via open programmable interfaces and model-driven management and operations.

Owens said Infinera's software tool aids Verizon's IEN efforts across three key areas; seeding, interfaces and to help with migration.

"Number one, the tool is allowing us to get the intelligence we need to size the amount of capacity required in a given central office," Owens said. "It's helping us right-size the amount of technology we need to deploy in a central office level. Secondly, it also has got some interface capabilities to tell us where these devices need to sit within the CO terminal based on where clusters of legacy TDM technology reside, which is an enormous benefit to us. Lastly, we're using the tool to help us to develop the initial TDM circuit migration use cases over to our IP packet infrastructure and that's a lot of complex work. The tool is proving itself useful in helping to decompose those use cases and make sense out of them and allow us to build migration plans from them."

After several years of development, Verizon is actively deploying its IEN today after first employing Infinera's software tool earlier this year.

"One of the things that we see in general is that there is kind of an inflection point right now with the types of services in the industry as people go into 5G, DAA (data access arrangements) and fiber-deep type applications, and with all this AR/VR and IoT," Shore said. "I think it's starting to make people really rethink the way they've built the networks. What is the best way to build a network and then how do we get there from here?

"I'm hoping that Verizon ends up being a pioneer that leads the wave of this kind of stuff going forward because I think it will be good for everybody in the industry, as well as for the environment, and better for consumers. We will get better services at the end of the day and it will help us launch cool stuff like autonomous vehicles and things like that. I think it's exciting times."