Solving Transport Complexity

FirstLight is a leading provider of high-speed data, internet, data center, cloud, and voice services to enterprise and carrier customers throughout the Northeast over the company’s own fiber-optic network.

While a complete examination of the advantages of SDN is beyond the scope of this article, it suffices to say that faster service activation, network and hardware optimization, continuous monitoring and predictive analytics to achieve enhanced performance, and reduced capital expenditures are chief among them.

The topline advantage SDN provides, however, as compared to a traditional, non-SDN network, is increased service assurance. By deploying SDN to automatically detect, predict, and resolve network performance issues, service providers could reduce the number of network outages.

Software-Defined Networks
and Transport

In recent years, much of the attention surrounding SDN has been primarily focused on Layer 2 and above functionality, but what about transport? Without the transport network, none of the Layer 2 and above services and applications would work. Hence, the question remains: How will transport circuits be installed, rerouted, or removed in the new SDN networks of today and tomorrow?

To understand how LightRiver and FirstLight leveraged their respective cultures of excellence, market awareness, and technical skill sets to transform these complex challenges into 21st century advantages, let’s first take a brief look at these two companies.

FirstLight is a leading provider of high-speed data, Internet, data center, cloud, and voice services to enterprise and carrier customers throughout the Northeast over the company’s own fiber-optic network. Over the past few years, FirstLight has dramatically transformed through both organic and strategic growth with the acquisitions of segTEL Communications, TelJet, G4 Communications, Oxford Networks, Sovernet Communications, ION Communications, Finger Lakes Technologies Group, and 186 Communications. FirstLight molded them into a single network and company focused on providing high-quality service backed by responsive, locally-based support. The objective was to adopt the latest, highest-capacity, most secure, and most agile transport technologies to bring 21st century connectivity solutions to its customers. Via these acquisitions, FirstLight has integrated the technologies from many vendors into a unified, multi-state, carrier-grade, and high-capacity network that spans from Bangor to Buffalo and Manhattan to Montreal.

A pioneer in the development and support of multi-vendor optical telecommunications network management systems software, LightRiver’s netFLEX® software enables telecom service providers, utilities, global cloud operators, and other enterprises to efficiently manage anything from a few to several hundred thousand network elements, with support across a broad range of vendors and devices.

The SDN Controller in a software-defined network is the brains of the network. It is the application that acts as a strategic control point in the transport network, managing flow control to the optical devices ‘below,’ via southbound application programming interfaces (APIs), and the applications and business logic ‘above,’ via northbound APIs, to deploy intelligent networks. LightRiver’s netFLEX® platform, a complete turnkey solution, is a multi-vendor optical transport domain network controller. It learns the network from the network, via its auto-discovery and auto-inventory processes for DWDM, SONET, MSPP, DCS, and other network devices in real time. This provides the netFLEX® system with the most up-to-date view of the network and its current configuration, a functionality that synchronizes with the ability to provision wavelength and TDM circuits from A to Z across all vendor platforms.

LightRiver's netFLEX® Optical Domain Controller (ODC), once fully implemented, will help FirstLight to further integrate legacy, multi-generation, multi-vendor, multi-domain network elements with current best-in-class technology into a single software platform. By providing FirstLight with real-time discovered inventory, actionable analytics for assurance automation, and performance management across its entire footprint, netFLEX® ODC will enable FirstLight to transform ten discrete networks into one. Moreover, leveraging the netFLEX® ODC, FirstLight’s Network Operations Center, engineering, service delivery, and sales teams will gain access to the real-time information they need to operate more accurately and confidently.

Carrier-grade network operators such as FirstLight are driven to ensure network resiliency, increase customer satisfaction by reducing service outages, predict and avert performance issues proactively, and maximize asset utilization and return on investment. As businesses increase their adoption of cloud computing, however, 5G moves beyond trials to become a reality, and the surge of data traffic expected from the Internet of Things (IoT) works to make every community a smarter place to live, work, and play, the ability to leverage all network and service performance data from the transport network and apply actionable intelligence in advance of customer or network impact will be imperative.


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