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AT&T, Verizon Take Part In $10m Funding Round For Lumina Networks

Led by infusions from heavyweight customers AT&T and Verizon, Lumina Networks announced today it has raised $10 million in series A financing.

The first round of funding, which also included Rahi Systems, will allow Lumina Networks to further productize its OpenDaylight-based offerings as well as expand into new regions, such as Japan and Europe, according to Andrew Coward, founder and CEO of Lumina Networks.

The backing by Verizon and AT&T underscored how much the telcos value Lumina’s OpenDaylight-based SDN controller. Lumina emerged from the breakup of Brocade with the latter’s SDN controller in hand, which Brocade had spent three years developing, according to Coward.

SDN controllers are crucial for service providers that are working toward virtualizing their networks while also keeping the legacy elements in play during that transition. Brocade’s SDN controller emerged as one of the winners of the “controller wars” from a few years back as the telecom industry looked to define which controllers would be adopted.

“So for the likes of AT&T and Verizon, it’s about automation and digitization of their networks and using SDN controllers as a method to do that, which enables them to tie in white boxes and to tie in virtualization technology alongside of that,” Coward said.

Lumina has been able to stand upon the shoulders of AT&T and Verizon’s leadership positions in regards to SDN, NFV and virtualization. By taking a “pure” approach using OpenDaylight for its SDN controller, Lumina has proved its value in the marketplace with the deployments to date and gained valuable experience in the process.

“There have been a lot of products with carriers around the world that have been lab experiments, but they haven’t gotten into the real world yet,” Coward said. “Our value is being able to take projects out of the lab and into the live network to cross that threshold. We can do that because of the experience we’ve built up over the years with AT&T and Verizon.”

Coward said Lumina, which has other product offerings such as Lumina Flow Manager and Lumina Zero Touch Installer, continues to be a good citizen of OpenDaylight by contributing back into the open source community.

“Since the spinoff nine months ago, job number one was continuing to provide this hardened, carrier-grade version of OpenDaylight,” Coward said. “Everything is pure about what we deliver.”

Coward said that while bigger vendors, such as Huawei, Ericsson, Cisco and HPE, have taken part in OpenDaylight, they’re not always true to the core mission of keeping open source pure and “open.”

“The big guys (vendors) can’t seem to help themselves from changing OpenDaylight to make their own quasi-proprietary solutions,” he said. “With the smaller companies, say 10 to 12 employees, it’s not hard to say ‘I’m going to be a distributor of OpenDaylight.’ It’s a completely different matter to support customers through multiple versions, translations, bug fixing and so on. And that’s hard.

“Most of the companies that are looking at this space are kind of guns for hire. We think we’re very unique in the dedication we’ve had to making OpenDaylight successful through large-scale deployments and the upstreaming all of the work we do back into OpenDaylight.”

Coward said Lumina had about 40 employees when it broke away from Brocade. Currently, it has about 60, and that number will likely go up as Lumina gets more boots on the ground in Japan and Europe.

Lumina had a convertible note at the time of its formation that, along with the sales to operators, tided it over until the first round of funding. Lumina’s revenues have more than doubled when compared to the prespinoff Brocade levels.

Lumina has made several announcements around software-defined core (SD-core), which Coward said was basically delivering an alternative to traditional core or MPLS routers in the network. SD-core allows network providers to use white box switches but keep their existing core router vendors.

“That involves making the existing network work with SDN controllers and making the white box network work with the SDN controllers,” Coward said. “It’s bringing those two things together. That’s an important use case.”

In November, Lumina announced the availability of its Lumina Fabric Manager, which is a plug-in for Kubernetes that enables automated control and orchestration of physical Ethernet switches and fabrics using the company’s SDN controller. Lumina said the plug-in was the first commercial OpenDaylight integration with Kubernetes

“It’s a very interesting use case for any of the web-scale companies that are deploying Kubernetes because we basically enable Kubernetes to control the existing network infrastructure, meaning Arista, Juniper and Cisco Ethernet switches,” Coward said. “When a container moves around the network at the request of Kubernetes, the container might move from one service to another, one part of the data center to another. We drive the network to deliver traffic to that container as if it was in the exactly the same place. We dynamically reconfigure the network to track traffic to that container wherever it might live.”

While Coward sees the web-scale companies as the primary early adopters of Fabric Manager, telcos are taking a hard look at the use of containers and microservices. AT&T is in the process of making its telco cloud container-based, according to reporting by SDxCentral.

“Every telco has data centers and every telco is moving to virtualize the central office and put compute out there,” Coward said. “The question is whether telecom is ready for Kubernetes, or the applications are ready for Kubernetes, for where they are going. From our experience those applications have been more traditional OpenStack, more traditional VM (virtual machines) or VMware type things, but Kubernetes is definitely in the plan for those guys.

“One of the things we’ve done with OpenDaylight is make sure we can drive it through a microservices architecture. We’re a consumer of Kubernetes ourselves for our technology that we deploy. That’s why we’ll start with the web-scale guys.” – Fierce Telecom

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