Packet Design today launches what it calls a missing link in the SDN chain -- a layer of intelligence between the controllers and the applications similar to what the MANO layer is providing on the NFV side. Packet Design's SDN Management and Orchestration (MANO) Platform is intended to provide that layer, delivering the real-time routing information and policy management needed to provision services in a much more complex network environment.
With the new platform, Packet Design Inc. is also rolling out its first application, SDN Traffic Engineering. At the heart of the new system is the Packet Design Explorer, which records all routing events in real-time. What the company is doing now is giving its customers the tools to act on that information, also in real-time, in order to provision services most efficiently, keep track of network resources and also detect and respond to problems within the network.
In a whitepaper commissioned by Packet Design, Heavy Reading Principal Analyst Caroline Chappell notes that the industry is moving to a three-layer architecture which builds on SDN controllers but "inserts a controller-independent management layer between the SDN controller and third-party applications."
By providing "end-to-end, real-time visibility of the IP/MPLS network," she notes, that intelligent network layer can leverage the multi-vendor, programmable network capabilities of SDN controllers and give communications services providers "a powerful means of adapting the network to service demand in the hyperfast timescales their enterprise customers are demanding.”
Packet Design's SDN MANO platform offers real-time telemetry, analytics, optimization and policy, notes Steve Harriman, senior VP of marketing. "There is a loss of management visibility in the network as it becomes more dynamic," he tells Light Reading in an interview. "We are providing routing information, traffic and performance analytics in real-time -- not polling routers but instrumented in the network, acting like a router, which becomes increasingly important as we talk about SDN. On top of that we layer traffic flows so we can say definitively what path a particular service's traffic takes across the network."
That real-time view can track latency, jitter and traffic loss end-to-end or between any two hops in the path to determine congestion or bad link issues, and provide operational visibility to a network operations center for monitoring service delivery. It can also enable a network operator to detect intermittent problems through troubleshooting using the stored data for forensic analysis, and enable modeling for predictive analytics to determine network behavior.
"Our customers want to do SDN apps and build them from a lot of piece parts, including ours and our competitors' and their own," Harriman says. By serving as a layer of intelligence in between the apps and the SDN controllers -- which will also vary but are likely to have APIs, many of which will be built to open-source standards -- PacketDesign hopes to be one of the key building blocks in the process, to enable the intelligent orchestration of network services.
"We can answer some of their key questions about services in an SDN architecture, such as how to balance link utilization to relieve congestion so they use the capacity they have, and how to reserve bandwidth for specific apps at specific times," he says. The predictive tools will allow network operators to determine the impact on existing services of adding new customer requests and selecting the best place on the network for a given workload.
Packet Design's first app, its SDN Traffic Engineering app, uses the SDN MANO platform to optimize and provision IP tunnels based on available bandwidth and the user-specified policies, balancing link utilization to prevent congestion by shifting traffic from crowded to less-used links. Although it is intended to be controller-agnostic, its first implementation is integrated with the open source OpenDaylight controllers.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading