Extensive European research and education network GÉANT has found a way to benefit from SDN capabilities by deploying packet-optical network technology from long-time supplier Infinera and developing its own SDN controller based on ONOS (Open Network Operating System) code. (See Infinera Helps GÉANT Deploy SDN.)
The move should attract the attention of network operators that are trying to find a suitable and efficient way to make their networks more flexible and efficient using SDN capabilities as GÉANT , like its US peer Internet2 , is often at the forefront of new ways to build more efficient networks. In addition, the potential of SDN is now well understood but real-world examples of programmable wide area networks are still rare.
GÉANT, which runs a pan-European network that (via local education and research partners) helps to connect 10,000 institutions, has conducted a number of tests that combined Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN)'s Open Transport Switch (OTS) software and Packet Switching Module (PXM) with an ONOS-based SDN controller that has been developing in collaboration with ON.Lab . (See Eurobites: GÉANT Builds SDN Testbed.)
The Packet Switching Module enables Ethernet and MPLS switching to be added to Infinera's DTN-X system, which GÉANT has already deployed across its network, while the OTS software, a form of middleware that sits between Infinera's boxes and SDN controllers, enables the network to be programmed by an SDN controller at Layer 1 (optical) and Layer 2 (packet). (See Dante Deploys Infinera in Europe.)
The key positive outcome for GÉANT is that, using this combination of capabilities, it is able to manage its network capacity in a much more flexible way to account for the needs of different users and to offer "bandwidth-on-demand" capabilities that can cope with short-term bursts in data traffic. Without such capabilities, GÉANT would need to invest in additional optical and packet network capacity to meet user needs: In a joint statement, GÉANT and Infinera noted that an SDN approach should enable cost savings of about 50% in the parts of the network where the SDN capabilities will be initially deployed.
This isn't the first time a customer has developed its own SDN controllers to manage Infinera network elements, notes Jay Gill, principal manager of cloud and SDN marketing at Infinera: Pacnet, now part of Telstra Corp. Ltd. (ASX: TLS; NZK: TLS), has also deployed the Open Transport Switch along with a home-grown SDN controller, though that has been for managing Layer 1 capacity only. GÉANT is "the same model" but importantly it is managing Layer 1 and Layer 2, "a real step towards multilayer SDN," says the Infinera man. (See Telstra Brings PEN SDN to Optical Layer and Telstra Goes Global With Pacnet's NaaS Offer.)
Gill adds that other operators are in various stages of testing or deploying the Open Transport Switch. "The whole world is doing something with SDN, but at very different paces. We are helping operators to figure out the business cases," he adds.
— Ray Le Maistre, , Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading