As a soup-to-nuts billing and operations support system vendor for broadband service providers, GLDS is quite accustomed to integration challenges, not only for new customers but for its legacy businesses as well.
"We are in a perpetual state of development," admits Garrick Russell, president of GLDS, more formally known as Great Lakes Data Systems Inc. "Our customers bring new technologies to us all the time, in fact, they often will introduce a whole new way of doing something. We have written eight new interfaces over the last 12 months."
The process isn't simple, he says, often starting with bare minimum specs from a new fiber-to-the-home equipment vendor, for example, and winding through a process that can take weeks or months to produce real integration of the new gear so that GLDS can handle the routine processes of turning up customers, generating bills and tracking revenue.
"We have to tell our customers it will be four to six months or longer before we can deliver things to you, assuming everything goes smoothly," Russell says. "It is crazy time-consuming and it can be really frustrating for our customers."
That's one of the reasons he and his company are willing to speak up now on behalf of Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) and its AXOS access platform. According to news released today by the two companies, Calix has successfully leveraged software-defined access to enable integration of new AXOS capabilities in weeks -- four to be exact -- not months.
GLDS and Calix worked together on the initial integration, for the Calix AXOS system, and completed it in four months. Adding the Calix AXOS E9-2 Intelligent Edge System took only four weeks.
"They established a foundational framework that allowed us to integrate once, and they gave us a sandbox so we can test on our own, in addition to everything we need to be able to do the development we need in our time zone, on our timeline, and in our languages," Russell says. "By starting with that foundation, we were quite pleased with the way we need to integrate. It did take four months the first time, but the next interface blew us away -- Calix said once you build this foundation you aren't going to have to worry, and they were right."
The primary reason for the ease of integration is the abstraction Calix has built into AXOS, so that the operating system is the same even if the underlying hardware -- G.fast, GPON or wireless-based access -- changes. The operating system is fully Yang modeled and uses a single method and operating procedure. Service providers can establish service workflows once and use them over again as new AXOS systems are added. Individual modules can be upgraded and restarted independently, and a stateful operation ensures that any changes in a module are recognized and handled.
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The net benefit to Calix and GLDS customers is a faster time to market, which means faster time to revenue, say Russell and Teresa McGaughey, senior director of AXOS marketing at Calix. Russell cites a municipality customer of GLDS building a greenfield broadband network which changed platforms mid-project.
"We got the new integration done in four weeks, and now we are waiting for them," he comments. "It's unheard of."
Speed is also increasingly important to service provider customers because of competitive pressures, McGaughey says. They now have to be able to respond to a competitive upgrade and will more often than in the past be using multiple types of access technologies to do so.
"Almost every one of our service providers will deploy multiple types of E series," she says. "They might pull in G.fast for a specific set of customers and have other places where they use another technology. Having a consistent operations process in the back office saves them a lot of time and trouble."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading