Ciena, NRENs to test OpenFlow SDN WAN

Ciena, NRENs to test OpenFlow SDN WAN

Ciena this week said it is partnering with a handful of research networks to test a multilayer, software-defined WAN.

The intention of the OpenFlow-enabled SDN is to cultivate an ecosystem of developers to write applications that enable and enhance a programmable, nationwide service delivery network. Ciena partners in this endeavor include the CANARIE, Internet2 and StarLight research networks.

[THEY'RE BUILDING WHAT?What is software defined networking?]

The WAN is designed to integrate the packet, optical transport and software layers of the network with analytics to automate and orchestrate operations between them, and optimize each asset. It is intended to allow operators to trial new technologies on an operational network without having to build a unique infrastructure for every use case, and to help monetize assets in dynamic service environments.

The WAN is a multi-path infrastructure that currently spans 2,500 km, with expectations of growth next year. It initially connects Ciena's corporate headquarters in Hanover, Md., with the company's largest R&D center in Ottawa.

International connectivity is through Internet2 via the StarLight International/National Communications Exchange in Chicago and CANARIE, Canada's national research and education fiber network. The network has the potential to cross connect data flows from Ciena R&D labs to any National Research Network (NREN) or university research facility worldwide, Ciena says.

The WAN is an OpenFlow-enabled SDN at both the optical transport layer as well as the packet networking layer, Ciena says. Its controller is based on OpenFlow-specific software from Ciena that leverages open source components and is designed for geographically dispersed control.

In most of the test scenarios, Ciena's controller will be the core component of the operating environment, the company said. In the future, the testbed will trial other controllers with Ciena's hardware.

That hardware includes OpenFlow v1.3-enabled 4Tbps core switches with 400Gbps packet blades, Ciena says. It also includes Layer 0 and Layer 1 Ciena series 6500 and 5400 converged packet-optical transport systems.

Ciena's controller will be coupled with proxy/mediation software to facilitate Layer 0 and 1 programmability until the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) completes standardization of these layers as components of OpenFlow and OpenFlow agents, Ciena said. The mediation software will "take our best approximation" of what the ONF is likely to standardize as OpenFlow for Layer 0/1 and translate it into TL1, and vice versa, the company said.

Ciena is also contributing the real-time analytics software it developed with a third-party. The software is designed to enable multi-layer resource optimization and dynamic network service pricing, the company said.

The northbound API between the controller and the analytics/orchestration/provisioning layers is a Ciena-developed RESTful API.  It has both a service request component for service applications to  request connectivity; and a model component for management applications that allows access to the full topology and service database.

Ciena said it expects to evolve its northbound API to whatever the industry standardizes on.

SDN start-up ConteXtream claims to have the largest commercial SDN deployed with a Tier 1 U.S. wireless operator that serves 40 million subscribers.

Jim Duffy has been covering technology for over 25 years, 21 at Network World. He also writes The Cisco Connection blog and can be reached on Twitter @Jim_Duffy.

Read more about lan and wan in Network World's LAN & WAN section.

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Tags managementNetworkingwan optimizationCienaTraffic managementLAN & WAN

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