Accelerating Network Automation
and Innovation with Middleware

By: Tim Masse

Today's optical transport networks continue to grow in bandwidth, spectral efficiency, and with greater frequency, and are more commonly constructed out of purpose-built disaggregated devices.

Additionally, the disaggregation of functions, from amplification and flexible ROADM to traditional transponding—and more recently, pluggable coherent optics—has accelerated the need for communications service providers to develop automation tools for the operation and maintenance of their networks. The result is a win-win for both network administration as well as the business it serves, creating more efficient operations that also eliminate costly human performance of repetitive functions.

Today’s tools to achieve these outcomes largely rely on vendor-specific point solutions, but these aspirations largely work against each other. For example, in the case where automation tools need to be updated any time a vendor changes their control structure or a CSP introduces a new vendor—it can delay network innovation. This conflict can be resolved, however, by introducing multi-vendor middleware between the tool development process and the physical network elements.

Middleware Defined, Market Outlook

According to TechTarget, middlewareis software that is used to bridge the gap between applications and operating systems. Its use is relatively common, as many organizations and developers draw on middleware to build applications more efficiently. For example, middleware can be used in application integrations to link both applications together.

And, a fun fact: The name middleware stems from it being software that sits between the client-side requests on thefront-end and the back-end resource being requested.

It’s also showing no sign of slowing down; in fact, the global middleware software market will grow from $72.37 billion in 2022 to $75.25 billion in 2023 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.0%.

Benefits of Multi-Vendor Middleware

What are the benefits of using multi-vendor middleware for the ramping up of both network automation and network innovation? Let’s explore together, and review real-life examples of multi-vendor middleware as a mechanism to enable the rapid automation of network operations or network functions. These include:

Faster Tool Development. A key outcome in choosing a multi-vendor middleware solution is its use of a single API across vendors, resulting in developing interfaces to one unchanging data structure, rather than a unique one for every type and every vendor of optical transport available in a network. As a result, tool development is accelerated since it is readily taking advantage of common development as enabled by multi-vendor middleware providers. An added bonus is validation testing on a quarterly basis with new releases when they occur with existing or new vendors.

Better Tool Development. Not surprisingly, rapid tool development coincides with better tool development, from network visibility to passive devices. This extends across inventory fiber type and health as well as visibility by wavelength, wavelength performance across disparate vendors’ equipment, as well as fiber span.

But how is this benefit realized in a real-world situation? A multi-vendor middleware customer that integrates network assets, cloud connectivity, security solutions, and voice and collaboration tools into a single platform—to enable businesses to leverage their data and adopt next generation technologies— shared some of these benefits and we include them here for your consideration.

In their case, they use their middleware solution to provision automation and as a user interface tool for their next gen optical backbone in the US and Europe. It features full through provisioning for wavelengths and client services on two different vendor


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