Infinera, ESnet demo Transport SDN via Open Transport Switch

Infinera (NASDAQ: INFN) has unveiled a concept for bringing the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) to optical networks. Called Optical Transport Switch (OTS), the prototype development enables network operators to use an SDN controller via an extension of OpenFlow to manage the optical transport layer. Infinera has demonstrated OTS operation with the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network’s (ESnet’s) Long Island Metropolitan Area Network (LIMAN) control plane testbed.

Nov 30th, 2012

Infinera (NASDAQ: INFN) has unveiled a concept for bringing the benefits of software-defined networking (SDN) to optical networks. Called Optical Transport Switch (OTS), the prototype development enables network operators to use an SDN controller via an extension of OpenFlow to manage the optical transport layer. Infinera has demonstrated OTS operation with the help of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Energy Sciences Network’s (ESnet’s) Long Island Metropolitan Area Network (LIMAN) control plane testbed.

Infinera calls the use of SDN concepts at the optical layer Transport SDN. According to Chris Liou, vice president of network strategy at Infinera, and Mike Capuano, vice president of corporate marketing, the OTS provides a gateway via which an SDN controller can interact either with the GMPLS control plane or Bandwidth Virtualization capabilities of Infinera’s DTN and DTN-X optical transport platforms to create new connections, access additional bandwidth, enable services, and perform other optically related network functions. The OTS and Transport SDN aim to enable at the optical layer the goals of SDN in general: application-driven control of network resources that result in simplified operations, acceleration of new service deployment, and efficient resource use.

To demonstrate the potential of the OTS prototype, Infinera worked with ESnet to apply OTS to DTN platforms ESnet has installed in both its testbed and production network (see “ESnet selects Infinera for network testbed”). With the Brookhaven National Laboratory as the hub of the experiment, the ESnet operators used OTS to perform on-demand Ethernet service creation and bandwidth elasticity on the LIMAN running from Manhattan to Upton, NY.

The demonstration included both implicit and explicit path setups. In the implicit case, the SDN controller established the connection parameters only on either end of the network, and left the DTN platforms to determine the best path through the network elements in between. For explicit instances, the SDN controller set up each connection along the path from one end to the other.

According to ESnet Chief Technologist Inder Monga, the Brookhaven National Laboratory and other ESNet users increasingly require the ability to transmit large data flows on-demand without swamping their network. He described OTS and Transport SDN as “a good first step” in meeting his organization’s needs for efficient connection creation and bandwidth access. Monga says the next steps should involve a full SDN implementation, which would mean bringing other domains – such as the IP layer -- and vendors into the loop.

Liou and Capuano say Infinera shares these goals. The company is working within the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) on the group’s effort to create a virtual transport switch, which is similar in concept to the OTS. Toward this end, the Infinera sources say the next step in the demonstration setup is making it accessible remotely so that others with interest in the ONF’s virtual transport switch effort can see the OTS in action.

Meanwhile, the potential ability to bring both Transport SDN and IP-layer SDN capabilities together under the same umbrella has implications for the trend toward IP/optical convergence. With the creation of an open, standards-based way to get platforms at the IP and optical layers to interact with each other more efficiently an industry desire, Liou and Capuano agreed that SDN may prove a viable path toward that goal. However, additional development of SDN principles will be necessary before the industry can evaluate SDN’s potential in a convergence role, they believe.

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