Infinera: SDN Can Master Optical Layer

The latest demo with ESnet and Brocade uses digital abstraction of analog properties of light management to enable multi-layer control.

October 15, 2013

3 Min Read
Infinera: SDN Can Master Optical Layer

Increased network efficiency and the ability to control both the router and transport layers of the network have long been goals of a telecom industry racing to keep up with the demand for bandwidth.

The most recent demo by Infinera and ESnet has both claiming to show that software defined networking (SDN) capabilities can meet the multi-layer control and efficiency challenges. (See Infinera, Brocade Team on SDN Multi-Layer Provisioning Demo.)

Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) and ESnet , US Department of Energy's Energy Sciences Network, teamed up before, a year ago, in an SDN demo. This time they included Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD) in what they say is a real-world demonstration of multi-layer provisioning and optimization that shows SDN can enable a centralized view of the network that lets traffic be more efficiently provisioned to avoid routers when possible. (See Optical SDN Gets a Test Run.)

The demo showed the ability to automatically provision services based on the optimum route and to dynamically increase or re-route traffic between two datacenters in response to congestion or bandwidth demands, skipping unnecessary routing stops in the process to save time and money. It used Infinera's DTN-X packet-optical gear running its Open Transport Switch software as a virtualized transport network, with Brocade's MLEXe Core Routers representing the datacenters and OpenFlow-enabled layer 2 switches.

ESNet's reservation system and an open-source controller were then used to provision services over both the packet and router layers using OpenFlow. In the demo's second phase, the ESNet system responded to an increase in bandwidth by bypassing a routing point, showing the dynamic ability to respond to network traffic.

This demo is not an indication that SDN is ready to hit the ground running -- far from it, says Mike Capuano, VP of corporate marketing at Infinera. He is still expecting that commercial deployments won't be likely before late 2014 or 2015. What this does show is that SDN can address the long-standing carrier desire to to manage multi-layer networks via an open system that lets traffic be moved more efficiently around the network and to avoid unnecessary routing.

"We know what our customers are looking for is migration tools," he says. "We think the important thing for them right now is to deploy hardware that is SDN-ready so that they are ready to move forward."

Previous efforts to address the multi-layer control issues, including G-MPLS, have fallen short of being able to manage multi-vendor networks. SDN will be different, Capuano says, because there is now access to virtually unlimited compute power, along with Web 2.0 protocols and open standards, to make it more likely SDN will succeed where other approaches have failed.

Why this matters
One of the real challenges of moving to SDN for transport is that today's transport networks depend heavily on vendor-specific ways of managing the optical networks, and there is concern that an SDN controller wouldn't be able to detect the analog issues that impact the performance of fiber networks. By leveraging those existing physical control technologies and creating a digital abstraction of the transport network, Infinera is saying it is possible to create SDN-based multi-layer provisioning and optimization.

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— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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