ONF Announces ODTN, Open-Source Optical Project

New initiative will disaggregate optical networking gear.

May 2, 2018

5 Min Read

MENLO PARK, Calif. -- Today, the ONF announced a new community effort to bring the benefits of open networking to the optical domain. The ODTN project is an operator-led initiative to build optical transport networks using disaggregated optical equipment, open and common standards, and open source software. Backed by some of the world’s largest network operators, China Unicom, Comcast, NTT Communications, Telefonica and TIM are collaborating to build this first-of-its-kind open source solution to initiate a transformation within optical transport networking.

Each of the five founding operators has committed to performing lab integration and evaluation of the platform for future transport applications. Additional support is coming from leading vendors in the optical equipment space, with NEC, NOKIA, Oplink, ZTE contributing to the software platform and building full solutions, CTTC contributing from academia, and ADVA, Ciena, Coriant, CoAdna, Infinera and Lumentum who are participating in lab and field trials.

ODTN aims to drive innovation by delivering an open source platform for running multi-vendor optical transport networks. ODTN will enable an optical peripherals ecosystem that allows multiple components to be combined and assembled into complete solutions. Just as the SDN movement has disaggregated the data center and operator edge networks, ODTN aims to bring similar benefits to the optical transport network including best-of-breed choice, elimination of vendor lock-in, cost containment and accelerated innovation.

Operators that are experiencing rapid traffic growth can benefit significantly from disaggregation between the terminal equipment and the line system. Disaggregation allows for the rapid adoption of the latest transponder technology, which advances at a much faster pace than the line system. Furthermore, open source and SDN solutions also work to eliminate complex and proprietary Element and Network Management Systems (EMS/NMS), leading to their streamlined integration into production networks.

By facilitating choice, ODTN intends to enable a robust market of disaggregated optical peripherals from many suppliers that can be intermixed to build complete solutions. Suppliers can focus on a specialty components (e.g., a transponder) without having to build a complete solution themselves thus focusing on innovation while lowering overall R&D costs. Operators can also select best-of-breed components and avoid vendor lock-in, enabling innovation and flexibility as their network needs grow.

Historically, long-distance DWDM communications has been known to pose technological challenges due to the analog nature of optics. This complexity has long been the basis of reasoning for requiring vertically integrated solutions, but ODTN is taking an approach designed to bridge this gap. To ease optical distance and transponder compatibility issues, ODTN will assume that every optical link uses a matched pair of transponders from a single vendor. But unlike single vendor solutions, the network can use a different brand of transponder for each link, and these transponders can run over an open line system from yet another supplier.

ODTN, leveraging the ONF’s ONOS SDN Controller, automatically and transparently discovers the disaggregated components and will control the entire transport network as a unified whole, thus enabling multi-vendor choice.

The ODTN project will address increasingly complex network scenarios, starting with relatively simple point-to-point DCI (data center interconnect) solutions and then expanding to include meshed networks with ROADM capabilities.

Relationship to Other Projects ODTN is the only open source solution in the optical transport space, but is leveraging other ongoing work which has focused on standardizing various interfaces and components.

ODTN will leverage and expose TAPI as its northbound interface, leveraging the work coming out of the ONF’s Open Transport Configuration and Control (OTCC) project. Likewise, OpenConfig is the base southbound model and API for communicating to optical equipment.

The OpenROADM MSA defines interoperability specifications and data models for optical devices, networks and services. ODTN benefits from this effort and, over time, it helps the industry achieve transponder compatibility. This will eliminate the need to deploy transponders in matched pairs, further disaggregating the solution and enabling even greater deployment flexibility.

TIP’s Open Optical & Packet Transport project is producing open DWDM architectures, models and APIs, covering transponders, open line systems, and routers. In time, the OTDN project hopes to benefit from the availability of open optical hardware coming from the TIP work.

ODTN will be an Exemplar Platform as defined in the ONF’s recently announced Strategic Plan, pulling together numerous components from across the open source ecosystem to produce an integrated distribution that is easy to consume in lab and field trials. The ONF also intends to undertake a Reference Design for open solutions in the optical domain, and ODTN will evolve to fit the reference design that emerges. Operators and suppliers will be able to use the ODTN platform to rapidly trial and prototype solutions. As the solutions harden, the operators plan to refer back to the Reference Design in their procurement process as solutions are taken to production.

"It is one of the most innovative technical challenges to deploying open SDN / Disaggregation technologies into transport networks. We can highly expect that it will dramatically shorten the service development term and reduce costs," said Dai Kashiwa, Director of NTT Communications and an ONF board member representative of the NTT Group, "The reference design and implementation for the ODTN will accelerate this challenge, and provide common usefulness among many service providers. So, we are so excited that many service providers and vendors have been aligned with the ODTN concept, and started collaboration on specifying common requirements and making test/deployment plans. We aim to build and nurture an ecosystem that allows us to deploy and operate ODTN-based production networks. "

"Disaggregation is an essential requisite for the application of SDN to transport networks," said Juan-Carlos Garcia, Director of Technology and Architecture, GCTIO, Telefonica. "And this SDN application is key to accomplish our goals regarding network virtualization, focused on extending and personalizing user services, and pursue full operational automation. The ODTN project is the natural continuation of the transport SDN activities Telefonica has been participating within the ONF. An open implementation is paramount to demonstrate feasibility and stimulate interoperability."

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