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Automation is a critical part of the whole ecosystem behind the wholesale and capacity industry. Pascal Menezes, CTO, MEF spoke to Telecom Review about the organization’s contribution to the growing and more in-demand industry and shared insights on the trends that would influence the capacity growth in the coming years.

How do MEF 3.0's carrier ethernet and optical transport service standards help providers and enterprises with their capacity needs?

Everybody needs lots of bandwidth. It is basically the fuel for how information comes together, especially when you think about cloud-to-cloud, there’s a huge capacity demand.

MEF has been doing carrier ethernet for a very long time, pioneering the movement from ethernet from LAN to global carrier ethernet backbones all over the world. We've interconnected all the operators today in every part of the planet. And what we're seeing is that more providers and vendors are relying on the cloud. Everybody has their own clouds, and a cloud-to-cloud interconnection is starting to happen. As everybody becomes a cloud interconnect, they have to interconnect at massive speeds through very large transports.

With MEF 3.0 carrier ethernet service standard, you can run multiple LANs between the data centers or wavelengths. You could have 400 gigabits per second each wavelength potentially, as the future emerges. Our optical transport work layer is suitable for different levels such as fiber channel, LAN ethernet, SDH, and SONET.

How will MEF continue to contribute to the growing and more in-demand capacity and wholesale industry?   

At MEF, we're looking at the essence of an emerging ecosystem where there are buyers and sellers. In this realm, what we're seeing is there's not one single provider that can supply all the capacities all over the world. There is this need to be able to interconnect and work together, and to do that at real-time speeds. It’s a really big challenge, especially because everything has to be on demand.

The only way to do that is through automation. Most of our members are on an automation journey that is going to create this ecosystem where members — both retailers and providers — can rely on each other depending on what they need. By looking across all partners in the whole ecosystem, they determine what they can offer to the supply chain model of various industries.

As an example, there's no reason why at a retail shop when someone wants something it can't be supplied at almost real-time speed through automation. Bandwidth is certainly one aspect that must be delivered at a very complex speed, so having automation is a very critical part of this whole ecosystem. This technology has the ability to bring everybody together and deliver supply chain provisions.

What would be the key factors to be addressed that will affect the competitiveness of capacity and wholesale players?

I think working alone is not going to be the answer. The competitiveness between players would transform into working together within a supply chain. It's going to make everybody win. Because at the end of the day, the providers come together with the vendors to deliver everything for a frictionless customer experience. What do they want? Cloud-like speeds.

Today, if the ecosystem doesn't deliver on this, hyperscalers can, because they have global massive backbones and tremendous experience. Hence, more MEF members are on this journey of coming together in this ecosystem, responding to an on-demand supply chain model that needs a quick turnaround. The challenge now is to get all of our members on that journey and make them understand that behind this investment, they can benefit in terms of revenues. Not only in existing revenues but new ones, especially for digital transformational use cases.

Being able to harmonize into one ecosystem and work together is MEF’s core messaging: come together, work together and do it through an automation plane. We have been putting out all APIs with our SDK releases in production. It's about automation, not just APIs — full automation of a horizontal plane that interconnects this ecosystem (marketplace) where everybody can thrive and make money.

In your opinion, what trends in the digital era will drive the capacity and wholesale industry's growth further in the next five to ten years?

I think what's going to drive the digital transformation and these use cases are more peering where edge computing will play a very predominant role. At the edge, the needs for capacity and where that shows up is different as traffic does not go to the central cloud or region anymore. Instead, smart factories or warehouses and other Industry 4.0 digital transformation use cases will need an edge compute environment with a deep neural network loaded in for AI/ML inference.

Right there, a lot of that bandwidth is used locally. But sometimes, there's a long tail of data traffic that goes from the network edge to the regional edge. These edge networks are coming in and they'll need to handle what they need to do, changing the dynamics of bandwidth by definition.

While inside the enterprise, you're going to see a big change where wireless will be very predictive and deterministic, making private 5G one of the very critical areas. Fixed wireless access for 5G will be another key area, but it's still emerging. I think that's going to take a little while because we're not there on the fixed wireless access side. But from the mobile aspects right now, we can get some decent bandwidth and travel a very fast local loop with a 5G public scenario.

5G fixed wireless access will solve a lot of lateral issues. If I want really good speeds, the millimeter wave (mmWave) spectrum at the 60-80 GHz band can offer 1-10 gigabits capacity, but only in very short distances. If I'm going to use fiber, I have to do laterals which are very expensive. That's the whole goal of where 5G in the millimeter bands is all about — to be able to turn up those laterals rapidly. The downside is that the beam is narrowly-focused because it’s fixed and the availability becomes limited. 

But in essence, there is expected change because of edge computing and how the bandwidth is going to be needed, and to what capacity, while cloud-to-cloud and data center interconnect will continue to thrive.

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