By Kevin Casey for Channel Partners
ADTRAN CONNECT — If you want to sum up Adtran Connect 2017 in a word, try: “software.” As in: software-defined access and the future of the network.
There were plenty of related keywords, too: open, programmable, platform. And, of course, more than enough networking acronyms and terms, including the likes of: NG-PON2, G.fast, FTTH and the two-character giant that seems to loom ever larger over the network universe these days, 5G.
No matter the acronym or lingo, no matter your point of view on SDN, fiber or the coming 5G era, here’s one thing just about everyone at Adtran seemed to agree on: The demand for high-quality broadband continues to skyrocket and shows no sign of ebbing anytime soon. Just as the broader IT industry continues to undergo transformative change as a result of tectonic technological changes, the networking business is in an evolutionary stage as it adapts to best serve a seemingly insatiable appetite for high-speed broadband access and other market demands.
“We believe we’re at a pivotal point in our industry,” said Tom Stanton, Adtran’s chairman and CEO, welcoming Tuesday morning’s audience, which included 129 network operators. “We’re in an industry that is significantly different than what we grew up with.”
Obviously, every network will not become software-defined overnight, perhaps especially when it comes to large, longstanding operators with considerable investments in legacy networks. And there will continue to be a range of specific use cases and needs operators must serve across varying markets, such as in rural areas or multiple dwelling units, or the demands of a business versus a homeowner. But software is playing an increasing role in the industry as a whole, and operators themselves, just like the businesses and consumers they serve, are in the midst of a considerable digital transformation.
Take CenturyLink: The third-largest telecom company is itself evolving for a platform-centric, software-defined future driven in large part by that unquenchable thirst for faster and faster network speeds. In his keynote address, CenturyLink EVP and CTO Aamir Hussain shared a pair of priorities for the company: “First, get as much speed out there as possible. Second, transform the network to a software-defined, virtual experience that really provides digitization to our customer base.”
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A mix of current and coming factors, from AR/VR to OTT services to IoT and sensors to 5G, are helping turbocharge that demand for faster and faster broadband speeds. And customer expectations of network operators have never been higher, Hussain noted.
He even shared an anecdote from the uber-connected, resource-intensive world of gamers: “We have customers who …