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Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch

Craig Matsumoto
9/25/2012

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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jimtheo0
jimtheo0
12/5/2012 | 5:20:31 PM
re: Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch




I think Internet2 is doing the right thing here. Creating a “sandbox” for networking apps is a great way of spawning innovation. I think it is great when respected thought leaders admit basically, to paraphrase, "we don’t know where the next big thing is coming from, so we will just create the conditions to support it."

Could a networking app store be just around the corner?




Pete Baldwin
Pete Baldwin
12/5/2012 | 5:20:28 PM
re: Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch


I'd agree, Jim. It seems like the right place, especially considering SDN is so vaguely defined, and use cases are still being dreamed up.


It's also a nice extension of the internet2 mission.

tmmarvel
tmmarvel
12/5/2012 | 5:20:21 PM
re: Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch


"they'll send us the code and we'll test it in the lab before we actually load it up on the infrastructure ... The network is associated with research and universities, but it does run production traffic that users wouldn't want to get messed up."


If the VLANs or equals where L1 slices, one wouldn't have to ever worry about the inter-VLAN interferences. So why did Internet2 do their user VLANs at L2, with number of VLANs sharing same L1 capacity pools so that every user group affects every other user group within each given L1 capacity pool?


With adaptive bandwidth L1, mixing unrelated traffic streams at packet layers (L2 and up) brings no benefits, only operational, QoS and security problems, while increasing costs (equipment capacity and complexity, power consumption, OAM staff costs etc).

rvietzke
rvietzke
12/5/2012 | 5:20:20 PM
re: Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch


The idea here isn't necessarily just about efficiency at this stage. While the first SDN application we roll out will be a layer 2 provisioning tool, the SDN environment will be much broader than that... The Slices expose the ability to directly program a slice of the flowspace across the whole network. What that means is that innovators/users with enough programming capability can begin to program the Brocade and Juniper boxes through OpenFlow... They might write a new forwarding paradigm, come up with a better way to provision bandwidth between storage and compute, a better way to integrate WAN network virtualization with data center virtualization, do a tighter integration of TCP/BGP/Flow, do a source-side security paradigm, etc.


Absolutely there are interesting things that may emerge for SDN at Layer 1 too. Layer 2 up seemed like a sweet spot to get started, however.


 


Rob

tmmarvel
tmmarvel
12/5/2012 | 5:20:18 PM
re: Internet2 Readies Its SDN Launch


Rob - regarding your remark "innovators/users with enough programming capability can begin to program the Brocade and Juniper boxes through OpenFlow... They might write a new forwarding paradigm, come up with a better way to provision bandwidth between storage and compute..":


These matters are no longer in the software domain for high performance networking or computing. To innovate and achieve better performance, security, efficiency and new functional capabilities, one needs to be able customize the hardware logic and data plane (and hardware implemented control plane) architectures.


Even the high frequency trading users have realized that, and use FPGA based customizable computing and networking hardware (where the physical hardware units themselves often are acquired from 3rd party vendors providing such units for the users to download their hardware+software designs).


The point being, there is plenty of need and opportunity for radical modernization and innovation in networking, which can be explored when not being limited to commercial equipment (whether or not OpenFlow programmable), but when allowing the users to trial with innovation that by-passes the legacy implementation practices and protocols, e.g. software OS e.g. for TCP/UDP, IP, Ethernet etc.

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