Demo highlights OpenFlow-based virtualized optical transmission

ADVA Optical Networking, IBM, and Marist College last week demonstrated a virtualized optical transmission network based on OpenFlow. While others have touted the pairing of software-defined networking (SDN) with optical transport, the trio say their demonstration is the first to extend virtualization to optical data center interconnect via open source SDN applications.

Sep 16th, 2013

ADVA Optical Networking, IBM, and Marist College last week demonstrated a virtualized optical transmission network based on OpenFlow. While others have touted the pairing of software-defined networking (SDN) with optical transport (see, for example, “Cyan offers Blue Planet OpenFlow-based SDN capabilities” and “Infinera, ESnet demo Transport SDN via Open Transport Switch”), including ADVA (see “ADVA extends OpenFlow to optical layer”), the trio say their demonstration is the first to extend virtualization to optical data center interconnect via open source SDN applications.

The demonstration, conducted in Marist College’s lab facilities September 12, saw three data center nodes connected with 50-km of fiber between each location. The fiber network leveraged ADVA’s FSP 3000 optical transport platforms and IBM’s G8264 switches, controlled via a Floodlight SDN controller.

However, the Floodlight SDN controller lacks an easy-to-use graphical interface application adequate to the demonstration, according to Robert Cannistra, senior professional lecturer, Computer Science and Information Technology at Marist. The demonstration team, including Marist students, therefore created one. Called Avior, the application enabled network provisioning and monitoring, including downloading pre-defined traffic profiles to reconfigure optical traffic patterns.

With the aid of the OpenFlow SDN capabilities of the IBM switches, the team demonstrated network virtualization across Layers 1 and 2. On the optical side, the students wrote an application, which they dubbed “ADVAlanche,” through which they could direct the Floodlight controller to interact with the optical communications systems via an ADVA OpenFlow agent. Thus, the network could dynamically provision optical circuits and monitor, manage, and manipulate end-to-end flows across all layers automatically.

The demonstration centered on video transmission and showed the network handling faults and traffic overloads. For example, one of the IBM servers might be forced into overload. An open source monitoring package called Ganglia, which had access to statistics from VMware’s vCenter Server management program, would detect the overload and direct the appropriate ADVA FSP 3000 to open a pair of 10-Gbps wavelengths between data centers to move the virtual machine running the live video. Once the crisis passed, the 10-Gbps wavelengths could be returned to the “bandwidth pool.”

The demonstration also highlighted the network’s ability to move virtual machines among data center nodes. The SDN system is capable of turning up and taking down circuits and capacity on a scheduled basis as well – to support data center mirroring, for example. In essence, the team demonstrated the foundations of application-aware SDN, Cannistra asserts.

In addition to the automatic aspects of the setup, the team also demonstrated the ability to use Avior and ADVAlanche to provision the network from a tablet computer. “Drag your finger across the screen and it will automatically provision new links in less than 40 seconds,“ wrote Todd Bundy, business development director, ADVA Optical Networking, in an email to Lightwave.

Bundy asserts the demonstration highlighted the capabilities of SDN-control for instantaneous and dynamic disaster restoration, Big Data manipulation, and scheduled-based applications. These capabilities also would obviate the need to over-provision optical networks to accommodate occasional capacity demand peaks or for restoration purposes. Because the main applications used were open source (with the exception of the VMware server management suite, which is nevertheless readily available), the capabilities theoretically could be implemented in networks quickly, he points out.

In the meantime, aspects of the demonstration will be repeated next month at the SDN & OpenFlow World Congress in Frankfurt, October 15-18.

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