SDN architectures

Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch

Internet2 is ready to launch its first try at software-defined networking (SDN), a little Layer 2 bonus to go with its new 100Gbit/s backbone.

The SDN platform should be completed sometime this month, Rob Vietzke, Internet2's vice president of network services, told an audience during the recent analysts' day at Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD).

Internet2, a consortium funded by universities and research groups, is also finishing what it says is the first transcontinental 100Gbit/s network. The optical layer, using Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) gear, was recently completed. As of two weeks ago, the Layer 2 gear from Brocade -- the part that would provide SDN support -- was still being installed; Vietzke expected that buildout to be completed by Internet2's next member meeting, next week in Philadelphia.

Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) gear will get installed later in the year, also with 100Gbit/s and SDN support in it, and Internet2 will be open to using other vendors' gear as well.

So, what's it mean that Internet2 is "doing SDN?"

At first, it's going to mean OpenFlow provisioning of switches. That means creating virtual LAN (VLAN) connections across the Internet2 network, and going through Internet exchange points housed by Equinix Inc. (Nasdaq: EQIX).

In January, Internet2 will open up other SDN slices for other people to load their applications, Vietzke tells Light Reading.

"In the early days, I think it's going to be kind of like the app store, where they'll send us the code and we'll test it in the lab before we actually load it up on the infrastructure. But longer-term, the vision absolutely is: Once the rails come up high enough and the slices are protected enough, we'd love for a CS [computer science] class to write applications and try them out."

That could start happening as early as May or June, Vietzke hopes. Partly, the timing will depend on how comfortable Internet2's users are with the idea. The network is associated with research and universities, but it does run production traffic that users wouldn't want to get messed up.

"We're hoping we'll have 100 campuses or so with SDN capabilities going to this infrastructure within a year or so," Vietzke says.

It could also be a vehicle for, say, Silicon Valley companies to try out SDN and OpenFlow ideas on a large scale, he says.

The point of all this, of course, is to find out what happens when users get a more programmable network.

"Our favorite example is the Facebook example, where the basic investment in putting Ethernet and TCP/IP into the dorm room had no immediate ROI [return on investment]. But we thought it was the right thing to do, because it had the characteristic of fundamentally changing communications," Vietzke says. "I think the same thing's true of OpenFlow."

— Craig Matsumoto, Managing Editor, Light Reading

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