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Open Source Breaks Optical Barriers

Carolyn Mathas
News Analysis
Carolyn Mathas
3/11/2014
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SAN FRANCISCO -- OFC 2014 -- SDN specialist Vello Systems has initiated a communications industry community for vendors and network operators that, its members believe, will be a game-changer in delivering affordable optical standards-based data center and cloud systems.

What? Does the industry really need another collective?

Vello Systems and the other inaugural members of the Open Source Optical (OSO) Forum believe so. The issue this community is tackling is one that is right at the heart of many large network operators, be they enterprises, data center specialists, Web services firms or communications service providers: While next-generation data centers and cloud service providers need better performance, reliability and connectivity that is best served by optical solutions, up to this point cost, complexity, and vendor interoperability woes have stood firmly in the way.

The OSO Forum, initiated by Vello Systems, plans to promote the use of standards-based, open source software to popularize the use of optical technology in next-generation data centers. It will leverage existing industry standards, such as OpenFlow from the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and standard DWDM technologies, but will not produce standards of its own.

Software interoperability is the key to breaking the vendor-centric barrier to affordable optical data center and cloud optical systems, the group's members surmise. The OSO will provide and maintain community-supported open source software to power merchant-optical systems from OSO members. The open source code will reside on the Forum's website, which is currently under construction.

Open standards are all the rage these days, and companies consistently accelerate innovation via open source. "It's far easier to devote 50 engineers to a joint industry effort than to have 500 engineers working in-house. Open source is now seen in a very positive light economically and there is no reason that optical should not be a full player," said Jeff Paine, Vice President, Marketing, at Vello.

OSO software will include the optical extensions that are part of OpenFlow Version 1.4, which were authored and contributed by Vello in the ONF. These OSO-based systems will be deployed and configured along with OpenFlow-based Ethernet switches from a single screen, a move that should eradicate complex optical system commissioning. Initially, OSO members may decide to port OSO software onto existing optical systems for instant compatibility with OpenFlow or begin in earnest to build next-generation Native OpenFlow, enterprise-friendly 10G/40G/100G 1RU "pizza box" optical systems. Software solutions that support OpenFlow 1.4 can also be used to run OSO-based optical solutions.

"In the past, enterprises stayed away from optical because they felt it needed an optical high priest and at least six full-time acolytes to install and maintain it. Now, with an enterprise-friendly pizza box form-factor switch and the ability to commission OpenFlow optical ports from the exact same interface as a port of a 48-port Ethernet switch, all the barriers have been removed. It creates an entirely new market for optical component vendors that did not exist prior to today," explained Paine.

The mechanics of open source maintenance and the formation of working groups will be early tasks for the Forum. In addition to Vello, charter members include Accelink, CoAdna, CrossFiber, O-Net, PacketLight, and Pacnet, with more optical component, system, software, and end-user members expected to jump on board soon.

Vello also announced its Precision Application Networking (PAN) software that, it claims, will power a new class of open, standards-based optical networking switches. The solution is designed to optimize the packet/optical routing mix to determine the most efficient network paths available. Vello expects that PAN-powered solutions to be commercially available by the end of the second quarter.

— Carolyn Mathas, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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Rush21120
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Rush21120,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/12/2014 | 3:56:58 PM
InterOP
While I welcome anyone taking on the vendor interoperability challenge the likelyhood of successs is nada/zero/zip/zilch  (pun intented).

I can remember having AT&T DDM 2000 interoperating with Alcatel at OC-3 back in the mid 90's.  Yeah it worked but just that and not very well and then the next release one had to re-certified.  No provider will go through that ever again.  All typically segment or seperate vendors products.   It is reasonable to consider opitcal channel sharing but with 100G+ Superchannels one will have to figure out how to block channel space for each vendor and figure out acceptable interference tolerences.   

All the best OSO
dwx
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dwx,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/11/2014 | 6:03:49 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
"Standards" and optical are two words I wouldn't use together very often, let alone open.  A lot of the bigger optical vendors already belong to the ONF including Ciena, Infinera, Adva, and Huawei and some have worked on OpenFlow hooks into their provisioning.  Infinera just did a demo with Telefonica? using OF I believe.   Now whether or not any of them want to interoperate at an optical level not using back to back transponders or alien wavelengths... I'll believe it when I see it.  

The issue has always been the optical enhancements move faster than the standards do, so if I need a 400Gbps flex wavelength superchannel using 64QAM with some proprietary SD-FEC... it just doesn't work with anyone else.   
Ray@LR
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Ray@LR,
User Rank: Blogger
3/11/2014 | 1:07:49 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
Charlie!

Because you think their are nobodies, does this mean the idea is flawed?

Is PacNet a nobody??

Which "somebodies" would need to join/buy in to this idea to make it worthy, in your view?
danielcawrey
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danielcawrey,
User Rank: Light Sabre
3/11/2014 | 1:05:56 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
This makes a lot of sense. I would agree with the assessment that many organizations have stayed awat from optical because for the most part many in IT simply do not understand it.

Open source and optical are not two words I normally hear together but the time for it to come is here. 
CMathas
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CMathas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/11/2014 | 12:52:14 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
Whoa, Charlie, those might be fighting words...
Charles_C
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100%
Charles_C,
User Rank: Lightning
3/11/2014 | 12:49:50 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
Unfortunately for OSO its members are all nobody's in the optical industry ....
CMathas
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0%
CMathas,
User Rank: Blogger
3/11/2014 | 12:12:52 PM
Re: Another tech trade group...
Well, now competitors don't have to say it... Given the Open Computing Project impact on data centers, whether Vello pushed for the OSO or someone else jumped to it, it was only a matter of time.
DOShea
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DOShea,
User Rank: Blogger
3/11/2014 | 11:30:12 AM
Another tech trade group...
...but at least OSO won't be developing standards, which could make thing more complex. I wonder how soon it will be before competitors claim Vello is just try to promote its own OpenFlow contributions.

 
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