France’s TouIX Internet exchange goes SDN with Pica8 white box switches

Pica8, Inc. French Internet exchange TouIX has implemented OpenFlow-based software-defined networking (SDN) for its exchange fabric using Pica8's network operating system and white box switches. The move enables TouIX to avoid network outages and congestion, Pica8 asserts.

Pica8, Inc. French Internet exchange TouIX has implemented OpenFlow-based software-defined networking (SDN) for its exchange fabric using Pica8's network operating system and white box switches. The move enables TouIX to avoid network outages and congestion, Pica8 asserts.

Founded in 2005, the TouIX non-profit neutral Internet exchange provides an interconnected network infrastructure in four PoPs around Toulouse. It also is interconnected with the Paris FranceIX and LyonIX Internet exchange points.

The SDN deployment leverages Ryu, the NTT Labs open-source controller, with parallel development underway for ON.Labs' ONOS controller (see "ONOS offers Cardinal, third release of SDN open operating system"). ToulX also uses Pica8's REST API as a means to communicate with a graphical user interface (GUI) to simplify common operational tasks.

"With traditional MAC-based switches, exchanges have restrictions on how to easily scale and avoid broadcast storms," said Marc Bruyere, researcher at The Laboratory of Analysis and Architecture of Systems (LAAS), a CNRS research unit associated with the founding members of the Universities of Toulouse. "By default, an OpenFlow driven network does not do anything until you tell it. Traditional switches are routers that use lower-performance CPUs compared to servers, which is good enough to scale routed BGP networks, but not high performance enough to handle all of the MAC lookups. By controlling end-to-end paths using OpenFlow, we know the destination explicitly.

"Low-cost, top-of-rack switches are ideal for our needs," Bruyere added, "as the OpenFlow environment is more programmable circuit by circuit, and lack of a broadcast domain reduces what providers call broadcast ARP overhead. TouIX's OpenFlow design provides the optimal Ethernet fabric for IXP members to do BGP peering in a secure and stable manner. SDN OpenFlow is a fantastic opportunity to develop innovative services like a metropolitan neutral marketplace interconnecting all of the data centers and IT services for the city of Toulouse."

"The Internet exchange environment is a great beachhead for OpenFlow/SDN technology," added Paul Parker-Johnson, senior analyst with ACG Research. "These providers essentially interlink adjacent providers in a hub and spoke fashion, creating a convenient means for multiple network providers to interconnect their networks. Exchange networks are typically only switched and therefore are prone to broadcast storms. OpenFlow creates a very controlled means to program point to point connections and thereby eliminates any chance of broadcast storms whatsoever."

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