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Ciena Develops an SDN Controller

Ray Le Maistre

SAN FRANCISCO -- OFC 2014 -- Ciena has begun developing an SDN controller based on source code from the OpenDaylight Project and is developing applications that can take advantage of more flexible network resource control.

Talking on the OFC show floor here, Marc Cohn, senior director of market development at Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and the company's SDN figurehead, told us the vendor is building a controller based on the OpenDaylight framework, with the aim of feeding its work back into the open-source project and ensuring that its controller will be open -- and able to manage assets in multivendor networks. (See OpenDaylight Unveils Open-Source SDN Controller and Defining SDN & NFV.)

Cohn said it is important to develop SDN capabilities that can address installed network elements that don't have integrated SDN protocol support, so Ciena is developing plug-ins to the OpenDaylight framework's service abstraction layer that will enable its controller to communicate with network elements managed using the legacy Transaction Language 1 interface.

"Defining Transport SDN" is one of a number of key topics that will feature at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE) June 17-18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

Like every other vendor, Ciena needs a unique selling point for its controller in a market that is awash with approaches to SDN implementation. (See NEC Intros SDN 'Controller of Controllers', Controller Freak, and OpenDaylight: Vendor SDN Aids Open Effort.)

In Ciena's case, this comes from analytics and application development, in addition to the promise of multivendor support. The company is embedding an analytics engine (developed by an unidentified partner) into its controller that will enable supporting applications. One such application is a capacity scheduling tool with dynamic pricing capabillities that Ciena was demonstrating here on the OFC show floor to extract real-time and historical information from the network.

The dynamic network capacity pricing tool was front and center at Ciena's truck-based booth and is an example of how the vendor is working to provide useful, revenue-generating applications to accompany its controller developments. In a nutshell, based on policy settings and information extracted from the embedded analytics system, the tool, run by a network operator, can provide a real-time price for network capacity to the service providers' customers based on the customer's contract, available capacity, and other parameters. End users can also schedule capacity and set a price based on predictive analysis of the network capacity that, based on historical data, should be available at any time.

Ciena says it is analogous to an airline seat booking system.

"This has been developed to help operators optimize their revenues and optimize network use," Cohn said. "They can also use pricing mechanisms to smooth out and influence demand for network capacity in an effort to utilize network resources better. It's all about intelligent scheduling."

Ten Four, Big Buddy
Ciena's main attractions were its truck, its dynamic capacity pricing and allocation presentation (just to the right of the truck door), and a vending machine that dispensed T-shirts. There's never a lack of demand for T-shirts...
Ciena's main attractions were its truck, its dynamic capacity pricing and allocation presentation (just to the right of the truck door), and a vending machine that dispensed T-shirts. There's never a lack of demand for T-shirts...

Ciena, which has long touted its work on making networks more flexible and "programmable," has been much in evidence at OFC this week. CEO Gary Smith opened the conference with a plenary speech that implored the industry to "play nice" and promote the benefits of intelligent networks. (See Ciena CEO: I'm So Excited!, Why Ciena Shuns the SDN Tag, and Ciena Opens Up to Software-Defined Networking.)

The company, which recently announced an intriguing relationship with Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC), recently announced a 17.8% increase in fiscal first quarter revenue from a year earlier to $533.7 million. (See Packet-Optical Drives Ciena's Sales, Ciena, Ericsson Embark on SDN, Optical Love Affair, Ericsson's Ciena Tieup: It's a Migration Thing, and IPoDWDM the Star of Ericsson-Ciena Show.)

Ciena's share price closed down 2% today at $23.39.

Addendum: In a post-interview update, Ciena noted that its SDN controller developments will, from now on, be conducted in collaboration with Ericsson.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

Want to learn more about SDN and the transport network? Check out the agenda for Light Reading's Big Telecom Event (BTE), which will take place on June 17 and 18 at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers. The event combines the educational power of interactive conference sessions devised and hosted by Heavy Reading's experienced industry analysts with multi-vendor interoperability and proof-of-concept networking and application showcases. For more on the event, the topics, and the stellar service provider speaker lineup, see Telecommunication Luminaries to Discuss the Hottest Industry Trends at Light Reading's Big Telecom Event in June.

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User Rank: Blogger
3/17/2014 | 8:18:59 AM
Re: Three of a kind
And just to add to the clarifications....


Ciena had been developing its SDN controller by itself but is now working on its controller develpoments with Ericsson.


A reference was made during my discusion with Marc about how this was a solo effort by Ciena, but that was not in particular reference to the SDN controller, so my apologies for any confusion caused on this message board.

Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/16/2014 | 9:37:08 PM
Re: Three of a kind
I think both companies have adjusted their SDN controller strategies to incorporate the Open Dayllight work and support the 'open' approach. The key to this whole transformation process may be the ability to be flexible and not get locked into a strategy dictated by specific products, even those as significant as an SDN controller.
User Rank: Blogger
3/16/2014 | 9:27:31 PM
Re: Three of a kind
I think that sounds sorta like Ciena was planning to do one on their own, but maybe changed plans when the Ericsson partnership came up...? In any case, and regardless of how many controllers Ciena and Ericsson have between them, there may still be too many controllers across the market from a variety of vendors and probably still more to come.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
3/14/2014 | 4:55:45 PM
Fills a need
While SDN provides benefits, service providers can't reasonably expect to just rip everything out and start with a green field. Ciena's ability to work with existing hardware will be a benefit. 

Kudoes for the 70s CB radio reference. Keep the shiny side up and the greasy side down, good buddy. 
Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/14/2014 | 1:19:43 PM
Re: Three of a kind
Okay, folks, here's a clarification from Ciena on the controller situation:

"We will be doing joint development with Ericsson on an SDN controller. The joint development is initially focused on a SDN controller built on the OpenDaylight framework to provide multi-layer control across layers 0-3."

So, to Ray's point, Ciena isn't "flying solo" on this. 

Further from Ciena: 

"...we will continue to leverage some of the work/development we have already undertaken with SDN on layer 0-2 ....  We have also been involved in a number of lab and trial efforts with customers and partners that leverage some of our earlier SDN development."

So I hope we haven't muddied the waters too much here. 

User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 11:43:50 PM
Re: Three of a kind
Yes, good point Carol.

I neglected to point out that Ciena is flying solo on this -- this is NOT a joint development with new friend Ericsson.

Carol Wilson
Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
3/13/2014 | 9:31:48 PM
Three of a kind
So Ciena and Ericsson, who are working together on SDN, will now have a total of three controllers in play: Ericsson's original controller, being tested by Telstra, the one Ericsson has pledged to built on Hydrogen, the Open Daylight controller, and now Ciena's also built on Hydrogen. 

I have to say it's not clear to me how all these controllers will work together or serve different functions. 
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