Promise made: Spirent uncloaks new strategic business initiative

Spirent is launching a new business project to march in step with its service provider and enterprise customers. (Spirent)

Spirent is moving its testing and assurances capabilities into service provider and enterprise networks with its new business initiative.

With the new project, which is called "Promise. Assured," Spirent is seeking to march in step with its customers by offering testing solutions for 5G, lifecycle service assurance, analytics and cybersecurity. It's also taking a hard look at new business opportunities across virtualization, autonomous vehicles and automotive verticals.

Bill Mortimer, Spirent
Bill Mortimer, Spirent

London-based Spirent has been in existence since 1936, and it was already heavily involved in testing for things like virtual network functions and mobile cores before its latest campaign. But now, Spirent wants to take a more proactive approach within the telecommunications industry.

"'Promise. Assured' is our commitment to our customers who develop devices, networks and applications and operators, including communications service providers, enterprise and governments," said Spirent's Bill Mortimer, vice president of strategic marketing, in an email to FierceTelecom on Friday morning. "Spirent is known best for our test systems working in vendor and operator labs, and we will continue to develop innovative products for these customers. Since we also provide service assurance and analytic systems for the operational network, we accelerate the transition of new products out of the lab into the operational network.

"We can test devices, network equipment and network functions in the lab when they are first developed and when there are subsequent releases we can also test them while they are operating in the network to validate them when they are first installed and provisioned."

Once a service is installed, Spirent can test it at regular intervals to measure service levels, or, when a problem is detected, isolate and diagnose services that need to be fixed, according to Mortimer.

As an example, Mortimer cited Spirent's Landslide system, which emulated network functions, devices and user activity at scale to test mobile core, carrier Wi-Fi, IMS and diameter networks.

"We emulate network functions and control and data plane traffic for millions of subscribers consuming IMS and over-the-top services in 5G, LTE, GSM, UMTS, eHRPD and Wi-Fi networks," he explained. "Landslide qualifies and validates our customers’ product performance. These same capabilities can and are installed in the network to test the network at any time to measure service levels or validate the performance of network functionality in the operational network."

For developer customers, "Promise. Assured" helps them accelerate time to market, reduce the time and cost of developing new products, and then launching the new products with goal of ultimately automating the testing, according to Mortimer.

"For our operator customers, we want to help them reduce operating costs, and improve network performance and customer experiences, with a vision for ultimately automating service assurance," he said.

Cybersecurity, service assurance are key promises

Spirent was the founder of the open source community NetSecOPEN, which brings together security product vendors, test tool vendors and test labs to develop test specifications. Cybersecurity will remain in Spirent's wheelhouse going forward with its new business initiative as it works on testing products and networks for security vulnerabilities. Spirent offers cybersecurity products that simulate a wide range of security scenarios that feature real world traffic mixes.

In addition to NetSecOPEN, Spirent has also worked with MEF and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) on various projects and specifications, including virtual network functions and network virtualization testing and assurance. Spirent is also a member of Linux Foundation Networking Fund.

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Spirent views lifecycle services assurance as "the next competitive background," which means it plans to deliver real-time operational analytics that can identify and address performance and customer experience issues before they become problems. Spirent plans to address those areas through automation, analytics and active testing technologies.

Mortimer said that machine learning algorithms, analytics, automation and active test technologies are required elements that are critical to enabling autonomous service assurance.

"With the complexity of the networks and operating environment, the industry is diligently working towards autonomous networks and we contribute to autonomous service assurance," he said. "An autonomous service assurance system must detect anomalies from a wide variety of information sources across the network, typically analyzing billions of record a day. No human can do that."

Competitive front

Spirent, which has roughly 1,450 employees, competes with various vendors on various levels. In the lab-testing sector, its competitors include Keysight Technologies, Rhode & Schwarz, Anritsu and Exfo.

For the service assurance and analytics business, the key competitors include NetScout, Viavi Technologies and divisions of Ericsson, Nokia and Huawei.

Spirent's service provider customers include AT&T, Verizon, BT and Cox Communications while the equipment manufacturer roster includes Cisco, Nokia, Huawei, Ericsson, and Juniper Networks.

Spirent realizes that its "Promise. Assured" project requires a cultural shift in order to meet its goals. "This business initiative reaches every corner of the company and permeates our culture," Mortimer said. "Everything we do is viewed through the lens of how it helps our customers keep their promises to their customers. The insights and support we provide positively impacts the business initiatives our customers are launching."