Company Strategy

Steve Alexander, Ciena Q&A: Growth in the Gulf

Steve Alexander, SVP and CTO at Ciena, talks to Capacity about how operators in the Middle East are advancing their networks further than ever before, in a bid to address the expected surge in data demand from the region during the next decade.

Do you expect cloud services to be a key growth area in the Middle East this year?

Yes, we expect the cloud market to become more ubiquitous this year. The predominant cloud services have been SaaS, PaaS and IaaS, which enable enterprise IT and consumer applications and content to be virtualised and delivered from cloud provider data centres. For cloud to meet its full potential, the right underlying network infrastructure needs to be in place. The network needs to provide foolproof security and service reliability, and be as elastic, programmable and virtualised as servers are today. This year will see the telco cloud emerge, enabling the virtualisation of telecoms service delivery and processing functions, alongside existing XaaS (anything-as-a-service). We are talking to our customers about ways that they can implement the telco cloud using NFV and SDN.

What other areas of technology do you expect to emerge in the region this year?

We are seeing that our service provider customers are changing their focus from purely customer acquisition and retention to innovative techniques that will unlock the value in their networks. To do this, they need to modernise their legacy infrastructure and fully leverage new network capabilities to offer additional services, while differentiating on service performance and time to market. By modernising their network, operators can help enterprise customers provide high-quality, high-bandwidth connectivity and programmability to facilitate cloud-based IT services.

How would you explain the enormous demand for data in the Middle East?

Growing demand for cloud services, the explosion in mobile connectivity and the proliferation of big data and HD video for business workflows are driving an increased demand for bandwidth in all regions, including the Middle East. Demand is also going to come from the fact that more global events will be hosted in the region. The World Cup 2022 in Qatar and the recent win by Dubai for Expo2020 are only the beginning of the additional bandwidth demands we expect to see on networks in the Middle East. Also, more industrial and economical cities are being developed; every single Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) state is experiencing an increase in infrastructure budgets, driving faster technology spending. The relatively young population in the GCC area will also stress the existing IT and service provider network with a high consumption of mobile data and video services. Finally, service providers and mobile operators will continue to innovate and differentiate to ensure strong customer loyalty.

Are operators in the region equipped to answer this demand?

Ciena is helping service providers to prepare their networks to meet the rising demand, with solutions that increase capacity and add flexibility, intelligent management and low latency to existing and future networks. Ciena and Mobily recently launched Mobily’s Advanced Connectivity Services (ACS), designed to provide Mobily’s enterprise and government customers access to a range of high-bandwidth services. Aimed at organisations that generate or process huge volumes of data, ACS provides a high degree of operational flexibility, allowing data to be transferred between data centre or main sites at ultra-high speeds, with secure and reliable low-latency connectivity.

Who are the main drivers of innovation in the Middle East: vendors or operators?

We see innovation from both camps. For example, we recently completed a live field trial with Mobily of a 1Tb optical transmission across key metro sites in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. The trial leveraged Ciena’s 6500 packet optical solution, powered by our WaveLogic coherent optical processors. It took place across Mobily’s existing metro fibre infrastructure in Riyadh and carried its public sector and enterprise customers’ traffic over 40G and 100G wavelengths. The Terabit super-channel traversed an existing NDSF fibre in Mobily’s metro network, demonstrating that Mobily will be able to seamlessly upgrade its existing metro network to support 400Gbps and 1Tbps channels without any modifications to its existing network. With that capacity, Mobily – which already owns more than 40% of Saudi Arabia’s mobile market – will be able to quickly adapt to meet surging bandwidth requirements, support faster internet speeds and enable new cloud-based applications.

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