ADTRAN 's Multi-front Evolution -- and Gaps

By Doug Mohney March 21, 2014

At Enterprise Connect, ADTRAN announced it was expanding its services portfolio with a Wi-Fi help desk, pushing its session border controller (SBC) up to 1,000 sessions for enterprise use, and adding on a low-end Ethernet switch to keep small business customers happy. However, the network equipment/servers company has a communications gap to fill when it comes to fitting into the worlds of software defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV).

ADTRAN's ProCare Help Desk is designed for resellers and service providers offering ADTRAN's ProCloud wireless LAN managed services. Managed service providers can bundle ProCare Help Desk into their offering, which includes a 24x7 first level response of Wi-Fi issues for end-users and guests accessing the wireless network. "Guests" is a key word here, as the offering is billed for vertical markets including education, hospitality, retail, and restaurants.

Features of ProCar Help Desk include resolution of wireless network user connecitivity issues, such as Wi-Fi configuration assistance, password resets as needed; problem escalation to determine issues within the LAN or outside of it; and communicating status on fixing problems.

The new NetVanta 6410 SBC is ADTRAN's offering for the large enterprise. It will support up to 1,000 sessions, and includes SIP header manipulation rules to solve interoperability issues, media anchoring for ensuring traffic flows from a trusted network element, packet capture user defined routing of packet information for troubleshooting, and a firewall to identify and protect voice networks against common denial of service (DoS) attacks.

In comparison to a help desk service and a large SBC, throwing in a 12 port Gigabit switch for small businesses in the same week almost seems like a throw-away. The NetVanta 1531 and 1531P (for Power over Ethernet) 12 ports switches are "purpose built" for a smaller office environment and gives resellers a smaller option than trying to sell a more expensive 24 port switch. Both switches are VoIP ready with support for LLDP/LLDP-MED and voice LANs.

Services and more capable SBCs are all well and good, but ADTRAN needs to start a larger discussion on how its products are going to play in a the brave new world of SDN and NFV. In media briefings in past years, the company has made statements that software is more important than hardware moving into the future and one of the keys is being able to run multiple network functions on a single platform.

However, all the Google-able news regarding ADTRAN and SDN links into a couple of BlueSocket WLAN pieces. That's all well and nice, but it doesn't compare with couple of years of run time being clocked by GENBAND and Metaswitch Networks running virtualized SBCs. Both companies are able to able to run a SBC software instance on anything from a dedicated piece of hardware all the way up to a virtualization partition in a cloud environment. Back in 2012, Metaswitch boasted it put its Permeta SBC on Amazon's cloud and has gone so far as to release an open-source IMS core back in 2013.

Today, ADTRAN's SBC software is only able to run on ADTRAN hardware, either on a dedicated appliance or as software feature pack upgrade on select hardware. That's all well and good, but I don't think I'm talking crazy if I suggest that ADTRAN SBC software -- and potentially other pieces of software -- should ultimately end up available as a virtualized instance on common standalone and cloud environments.

At risk of being burned in effigy in Huntsville, I'd also suggest that ADTRAN might do some good in thinking about how it could bring its design quality in building reliable hardware for a telco-grade open server platform. It might be interesting to see future ADTRAN high-availability cloud hardware running Metaswitch's open source IMS code.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

Contributing Editor

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