July 9, 2015
France is steeped in the classics, so it's appropriate that a small French Internet exchange is seeing the classic benefits of SDN.
TOUIX serves Toulouse, in the Midi-Pyrénées region in the south of France. It's a small exchange, with about ten interconnected service providers, three PoPs and less than 1 Gbit/s traffic. But it's got the same problems as any exchange of any size, and is looking to SDN for the same benefits, including innovation, stability, manageability, enabling new business models and vendor independence.
TUOIX's small size makes it a good candidate for innovation, Marc Bruyère, co-founder of Tetaneutral, a nonprofit service provider with a seat on the board of TOUIX, told Light Reading. Tetaneutral has 1,000 customers (which it calls members), and provides WiFi and DSL connectivity in areas called "zones blanches" -- white spaces -- without connectivity.
Figure 1: Toulouse
The fourth largest metropolitan region in France, Toulouse is a center of technology and aerospace. (Source: Wikipedia.)
"Because we're small, we're agile. We're able to innovate there," Bruyère says. A larger exchange, with traffic measured in terabytes per second and hundreds of service provider customers, "won't be able to do the innovation like we did. There's too much traffic and bandwidth to turn off."
So when TOUIX received a donation of three Pica8 Inc. 3290 switches from Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) about a month and a half ago, the Internet exchange jumped in, managing network elements using the OpenFlow protocol.
The change mitigated a flooding problem with the Address Resolution Protocol (ARP), which resolves IP addresses to physical MAC addresses of devices. ARP requires sending a broadcast message to all devices, which floods the small processors that routers use. OpenFlow allows the network to be reprogrammed at the edge for finer targeting of broadcast packets, Bruyère says.
SDN also improves stability of the network by allowing it to be managed using a web interface, he says.
Also, SDN's support of APIs will allow service providers to share capacity, including compute and storage, to support customers, Bruyère says.
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And SDN provides vendor independence. "If you increase capacity you just buy a white box from whatever vendor is building it. It just needs to support OpenFlow," Bruyère says.
There you have it: innovation, stability, manageability, enabling new business models and vendor agnosticism. The classic benefits of SDN.
It's odd to speak of classics for technology that's only seven years old. But you hear the same benefits over and over, from small communications providers like TOUIX and behemoths like AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) and Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ): agility, management improvements, new business models, vendor independence. It's turning out to be a winning formula for many service providers. (See AT&T Describes Next Steps for Network Virtualization, SDN Powers AT&T's Rapid On-Demand Expansion, and Verizon Builds Key Vendors Into SDN Strategy.)
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