OPn got its debut at Ciena's analyst conference in New York, in a presentation that stuck to high-level discussion of how the network ought to be controlled.
Alexander talked about making the network "responsive" to applications -- relocating virtual machines based on requests issued from the virtual machines themselves, for example. He added that a recent Ciena demo showed exactly that capability.
OPn spans Ciena's optical and packet layers and will involve programability at multiple layers of the network, enabled both through application programming interfaces (APIs) and through network-to-network interfaces that are "subtly different," Alexander said -- that difference being the responsiveness he mentioned.
OPn will also involve bypassing certain network functions. Alexander didn't give many specifics, but the idea is that traffic today doesn't need as many network touches as, say VoIP traffic does.
Every major vendor is declaring an SDN plan, it seems, and there might be a fight brewing over who gets to provide the control plane that will reach into multiple layers of the network and orchestrate tasks such as virtual-machine moving.
Cyan Inc. has such a control plane, although it doesn't work with absolutely everybody's equipment. And Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO), which is presumably announcing more about its SDN plans this week, has described programming multiple layers of the network via APIs.
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