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Moving from strength to strength in India

Ciena recently organized Innovation Day, an intimate customer-focused event to showcase its innovative solutions and latest capabilities. With close to 3000 employees and 275,000 square feet of office space, the company has come a long way since it started operating in the country 19 years ago, in 2005.

Over the years, Ciena has significantly contributed to developing the country’s digital ecosystem and has emerged as a trusted partner for Indian service providers, government agencies, and several enterprises’ network needs.

As part of Innovation Day, Ciena presented the capabilities of its R&D Center in Gurugram to the media. The Center is divided into several parts, including a Customer Experience Center, an Optical Innovation Lab, a Next-Gen Metro and Edge Engineering Lab, a Network Automation Lab, and a Hardware Lab, which houses several thermal chambers to pressure test network equipment.

The Customer Experience Center was particularly impressive with its ability to enable customers in the region to do product demonstrations, both onsite and remote, product trials and proof of concepts, easily replicating customers’ environment to simulate their concerns.

Communications Today spoke with Amit Malik, Vice President, and Sales Leader, Ciena India, and Vineet Vohra, Ciena India’s Vice President of Engineering, on the company’s journey in India so far, Ciena’s R&D prowess, and its plans over the next couple of years.

Extracts from the dialogue

On the state-of-the-art research and development center.
Amit Malik. “Gurugram is the company’s second-largest R&D establishment, which has significantly contributed to the development of many of its products and solutions. These are being used by several Tier-I service providers and cloud infrastructure providers, among others, across the world. Ciena also has its supply chain in India to manufacture select routing and switching products.

We are committed to the Make in India vision of the Indian government. Our differentiating factor is that while most R&D centers are focused on software in India, we are building products from the ground up in India, including select routing and switch products. A lot of hardware engineering is also happening in India. The fundamentals of our products are their simplicity and automation. The India team at Gurugram is working on all our active products.”

Vineet Vohra. “The Gurugram lab is used to service Ciena’s customers in India and across the Asia-Pacific region. Our R&D workforce makes up around 60 percent of our Gurugram headcount, underscoring our commitment to continued innovation and technological advancement. Our facility focuses on both software and hardware development, product verification, and advanced field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs). These represent areas of growth for the Indian technology industry.”

Four pillars of adaptive networks
There has been a fundamental change in the way networks are built and managed now. The growing data consumption, coupled with the ever-increasing popularity of high-bandwidth-consuming applications, like video streaming and online gaming, means that networks need to be transformed to address the evolving requirements. In addition, now, with the sudden surge in artificial intelligence (AI)-based applications and use cases, there is going to be a greater demand on the networks. Ciena believes its adaptive networks vision is best suited to help service providers modify networks in line with evolving requirements.

Amit Malik. “Our vision of adaptive networks is based on four key pillars. The first pillar is about actually building a programmable infrastructure. The second pillar is insights and analytics, which is extremely important since everything is in real time now. The third pillar is the software and automation component. In today’s context, it means it must be multi-domain, multi-vendor, and multi-layer. The fourth layer is the services component.

Adaptive networks are designed based on the principles of openness, scalability, security, and sustainability. The company believes in developing simple products and solutions, designed to bring down the growing network complexity. While the future becomes more and more complex, products and solutions need to be simplified and need to be automated. This is the underlying layer on the products and solutions that we are developing for both India and the international market.”

Vineet Vohra. “Of relevance is our focus on sustainability. At Ciena, we are committed to sustainability at all levels. For instance, we have developed a dynamic automation system for our Gurugram lab that allows us to power on only the equipment that is required at any given point in time. In addition, we are working significantly on renewable energy as far as possible. That is our first choice in whatever we do. Every product and solution that we develop now consumes a lot less power and space than the previous generation. In some cases, new products can offer as much as 50-percent savings in terms of power consumption as compared to previous generations.

Ciena WaveLogic 6, which is set to ship soon, offers a significant reduction in terms of power consumption. The concept of adaptive networks also allows service providers to use AI to better manage the networks.”

Amit Malik. “Nobody foresaw the impact of AI. We must build networks for AI, and we have to use AI for networks because you cannot manage the growing network complexity without AI.”

Navigating network complexity
Increasingly, service providers need to manage network operations efficiently for better cost economics. They are also looking to improve sustainability to accelerate their journey to net zero. By the new network challenges, Ciena recently added new capabilities and renamed its Manage, Control, and Plan (MCP) domain controller as Navigator Network Control Suite (NCS).

Ciena’s Navigator NCS allows service providers complete control of multi-vendor, multi-layer networks with just a single-software system. It also leverages AI to simplify network management and gain key insights from historical as well as real-time data.

Vineet Vohra. “Navigator NCS is a one-stop solution to effectively manage different network layers, multi-vendor system as well as third-party devices. In addition, we also give a lot of open APIs. It is a very open system that helps service providers to automate their workflows and quickly address network issues, for instance, a fiber cut.”

Apart from Navigator NCS, Ciena is also focusing on its routing and switching portfolio as the trend of optical/IP convergence kicks in.

Vineet Vohra. “We are moving into a world where we are seeing convergence between IP networks and optical networks. WaveRouter is a cutting-edge solution from Ciena that allows service providers to converge both IP and optical layers. It is based on the feedback from our customers, and it is very easy to configure and operate.”

Designing solutions for India
A key reason why Ciena has moved from strength to strength in the Indian market is that it has tried to understand the unique requirements of Indian customers and used this knowledge to design and build products to solve India-specific problems.

Vineet Vohra. “A differentiating factor for us is that our products are designed keeping in mind the unique problems faced by our Indian customers. For instance, India faces a high number of fiber cuts, compared with other regions. To address this, we have designed our products that keep functioning even in case of multiple fiber cuts, thus offering a significant advantage to our customers.”

The company plans to maintain its razor-sharp focus on the Indian subcontinent as the Indian telecommunications and technology market and economy continue to boom.

The road ahead is full of opportunities for Ciena as it focuses on developing new products and solutions for both Indian and global service providers. The growing data consumption, the maturing telecom industry, as well as the focus of the Indian government on building robust digital infrastructure and promoting a digital way of life, offer new growth areas for the company.

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