SDN architectures

Ciena Rallies Research Nets for SDN Demo

In another vendor move aimed at accelerating the pace of development of software-defined networking (SDN), Ciena Corp. announced Wednesday it is collaborating with three North American partners to build a research network that operators can use to show how SDN can work and be monetized in the wide area network (WAN).

The three collaborators are: Canarie Inc., which is Canada's advanced research network; StarLight, a 1GigE and 10GigE switch/router facility used as a proving ground by both the academic and commercial communities; and Internet2, a university consortium that develops advanced networking applications. With the help of that trio, Ciena believes it can build the most comprehensive software-defined optical transport and packet network.

Ciena's announcement follows efforts by other vendors, including Alcatel-Lucent and Cyan Inc., as well as initiatives such as CloudNFV, to build ecosystems and prove virtualization concepts. (See Cyan Builds an SDN Club and New Group Ties NFV to the Cloud).

But Ciena's Chris Janz, VP of Market Development, says this effort is different because it involves a complete network with all the elements needed for a software-defined network, and not a service framework.

"We think that what we are bringing together and the completeness of components, etc. is rather first in the industry," Janz says. "It will enable us with our partners and our customers to establish and trial and show" the benefits of a complete SDN solution at the optical and packet layers.

Specifically, Ciena intends to offer a completely OpenFlow-driven multi-layer network in a realistic WAN configuration that leverages OpenFlow to control the infrastructure across the Layer 1 Optical Transport Network (OTN) and the Layer 0 optical layer. The infrastructure will be carrier-grade, Janz says, which means it will be multi-layer and geographically distributed, and have the built-in high availability and redundancy carriers need.

The network prototype will connect Ciena's corporate headquarters in Hanover, Md., with: its Ottawa, Ontario, R&D center; the StarLight International/National Communications Exchange in Chicago; and Canarie's national optical fiber-based advanced R&E (research and education) network in Canada. Connections will be possible to the National Research Network (NREN) and university research facilities internationally. The research network will use a multi-layer Path Computational Element (PCE) to most efficiently route traffic.

Janz says the prototype network will be designed to demonstrate real-time analytics applications deliberately focused on two separate benefits of SDN: optimizing the network so that it can do more at a lower operating cost; exploring how SDN could enable mass customization of services to generate more revenue.

"We think this is a collection of things will enable us to show the kinds of use cases people are after," he says.

This kind of effort is necessary because of the major change represented by SDN, and the need to both push forward in demonstrating its benefits while tackling operational challenges that otherwise could slow its deployment, Janz adds.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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