Monday, November 12, 2012

Big Switch Ships its Open SDN

Big Switch, a start-up based in Palo Alto, California, announced the full commercial release of its Open Software-Defined Networking (SDN) product suite, encompassing a Big Network Controller (BNC), the Open SDN platform for network applications which scales to more than a thousand switches and 250,000 new host connections per second; Big Tap, a unified network monitoring application which provides cost-effective enterprise-wide network visibility; and Big Virtual Switch (BVS), a data center network virtualization application that makes the data center network as agile and dynamic as cloud compute resources, while also driving dramatic increases in compute utilization through automated network provisioning. 

Compared to other SDN approaches, Big Switch said its architecture is distinguished by its large ecosystem of physical and hypervisor switch, security, cloud orchestration and application partners. These include: A10 Networks, Arista Networks, Broadcom, Brocade, Canonical, Cariden Technologies, Citrix, Cloudscaling, Coraid, Dell, Endace, Extreme Networks, F5, Fortinet, Gigamon, Infoblox, Juniper Networks, Mellanox Technologies, Microsoft, Mirantis, Nebula, Palo Alto Networks, Piston Cloud Computing, Radware, StackOps, ThreatSTOP, and vArmour.  

Big Switch's vision is to focus on open APIs, open standards, and platform-independence with the goal of transforming the network from the seven-layer OSI model to a simpler SDN model with a data layer, a controller layer and an application layer.  Significantly, the company said its solutions will operated in pure SDN mode, as an SDN overlay to an existing network, or in a hybrid deployment.

“SDN is the most disruptive and transformative trend to hit the networking industry in over 20 years and Big Switch Networks Open SDN product suite delivers on the promise of the full potential that we envisioned when we started this company,” said Guido Appenzeller, CEO and co-founder of Big Switch Networks.  “Big Switch Networks ecosystem ensures customers the broadest range of choice in physical and virtual infrastructure and applications, coupled with the industry’s only open network application platform. Our Big Virtual Switch network virtualization application enables up to 50% more VMs per rack, resulting in as much as $500K/rack in CAPEX savings and $30K/rack/year OPEX savings, based on a 40 server rack.”

Some highlights of the product suite:

Big Virtual Switch dynamically provisions up to 32,000 Virtual Network Segments while enabling multi-tenancy in cloud infrastructure.  The company estimates the Big Virtual Switch can improve compute utilization by 25% to 50% while rescuing stranded compute capacity providing up to 50%+ more VMs per rack.  It supports a range of topologies including: hypervisor switch overlays, physical switches or Hybrid Network Virtualization, which includes any combination of the above
Big Tap delivers monitoring functions to an Open SDN. Big Tap provides enterprise-wide network visibility by optimizing the utility of security tools, performance tools, and network packet brokers.
Big Network Controller is the Open SDN application platform and includes an open programming interface, open core controller based on Floodlight, and open protocols to deliver unified network intelligence, programmability and scalability.  The Big Network Controller provides common network abstraction on network infrastructure.
  • Big Switch has raised $39 million from Index Ventures, Khosla Ventures, Redpoint Ventures, Goldman Sachs and others.  The company was founded in 2010 by Guido Appenzeller and Kyle Forster.

Cyan Sets its Sights Internationally with Key Appointments

Cyan announced the addition of four executives to target international markets and expand the sales and reach of its Blue Planet software-defined network (SDN) system and Z-Series packet-optical transport platforms. These appointments include: Paul Couturier, vice president and general manager, Europe, Middle East, and Africa; Mike Scheck, vice president, Latin America; Andy Wu, vice president, North Asia and Japan; and Chris Jacobson, vice president, Southeast Asia. These additions are led by John Halliwell and join a North American team led by Eric Clelland.

 "Cyan's software and hardware solutions allow service providers to contain costs, accelerate service delivery, and increase profitability. These are vital issues for our customers in every region of the world and our products are universally applicable," said Mark Floyd, Cyan chairman and CEO. "Cyan has enjoyed remarkable growth since introducing our unique SDN solution, and we continue to see strong demand worldwide. Assembling this incredibly talented team gives us a presence in all global markets and enables us to meet continued demand for our solutions."

Sidera Links CoreSite Data Centers with Low Latency Fiber

Sidera Networks is providing connectivity between CoreSite data centers in Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington, DC, and Reston, Virginia. Sidera's fiber network leverages unique rights-of-way between the major metropolitan areas from Maine to Virginia and out to Chicago, as well as access to Toronto and London. Sidera's facilities-based services include Ethernet, SONET, wavelength, dark fiber, and internet access.

The companies note that this arrangement gives CoreSite customers immediate access to over 40 financial exchanges and the Sidera Xtreme Ultra-Low Latency Network, which was specifically designed for applications demanding the lowest latency and highest performance.

Additionally, as a result of the expansion into additional CoreSite data centers, Sidera will extend peering on CoreSite's Any2 exchange, the nation's second largest peering exchange. Sidera also will be able to provide seamless access to CoreSite's Open Internet Exchange, an aggregation hub that gives expanded peering and interconnection opportunities to CoreSite customers.

Box Scales Up its Cloud Storage in Equinix Data Centers

Box, which delivers cloud storage to enterprises and consumers, has selected Equinix data centers as a key part of its growing infrastructure.

Equinix said it worked with Box to develop a comprehensive strategy for distributing its growing global network via the global footprint of Equinix International Business Exchanges. Specifically, Box initially moved its infrastructure into an Equinix Silicon Valley facility and recently added infrastructure in Equinix data centers around the globe including Chicago, Ashburn, Va., Amsterdam, Sydney, Hong Kong and Tokyo.

"With Equinix, we know we’ll get consistently high performance and reliability across our data centers. In addition, having our largest customers just a cross connect away helps us forge stronger business relationships. Other colocation sites give you four walls. Equinix is a partner that cares about our business and helps us connect with a global marketplace of partners and customers," stated Stefan Apitz, vice president of Operations, Box.

Ofcom Plans 4G Spectrum Auction for January

Ofcom, the official regulator for the UK, published final regulations and a timetable for the 4G mobile spectrum auction. Ofcom has set  the reserve prices for the spectrum at £1.3 billion -- making this the largest ever sale of mobile airwaves in the UK.

Applications are due in December.  Qualification will happen in December, followed by the principal stage of the auction in January. New 4G services using this spectrum are expected to go live in May/June 2013.

"Today marks an important shift from preparation to the delivery of the auction, which will see widespread 4G mobile services from a range of providers. The entire industry is now focused on the auction itself, with a shared goal of delivering new and improved mobile services for consumers," said Ed Richards, Ofcom Chief Executive.

Infinera's Instant Bandwidth Provisions Capacity in 100G Chunks

Infinera introduced an "Instant Bandwidth" capability that enables its DTN-X platform to provision capacity in 100G increments.

Instant Bandwidth provides one-click software control to unlock and add up to five 100G circuits on new line cards for the DTN-X.  The new line card supports 500G long-haul super-channels with 100G activated initially.  When additional capacity is needed in the bandwidth pool, the operator can unlock an additional 100G increment via software control.  The DTN-X platform leverages Infinera’s 500G Photonic Integrated Circuits (PICs) and FlexCoherent processor technology. The platform enables 5 Terabits of OTN switching per bay, enabling enabling services to be aggregated into the bandwidth pool for efficient wavelength utilization.

Infinera said a key advantage of its Instant Bandwidth capability is that network operators gain the ability to rapidly add 100G circuits while moving to a success based business model.  Provisioning time is nearly eliminated while the operator does not pay for 100G interfaces that are not yet in use.

TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) will use the Infinera DTN-X platform with Instant Bandwidth in their nationwide 100G U.S. network.   This enables TSIC to turn up 100G of transport capacity via one-click software control.

“Instant Bandwidth on the DTN-X creates more opportunities for our customers to win by using time as a weapon to compete and respond to increasingly variable demands to flexibly grow and manage network capacity,” said Dave Welch, Infinera Co-founder, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer. “Software activated bandwidth changes the business model and the economics of transport networking, accelerating time to revenue for operators while boosting their competitiveness.”

Infinera started shipping the DTN-X platform earlier this year and the Instant Bandwidth solution for it is now available.

See our Blueprint column on:

TeliaSonera IC Deploys Infinera's Instant Bandwidth in North America

TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC), which operates a wholly owned fiber optic network connecting 200 Point of Presence (PoPs)) across Europe, North America and Asia, has selected Infinera's DTN-X platform with Instant Bandwidth capability for its North American network.  TeliaSonera International Carrier is the first to deploy the DTN-X with Instant Bandwidth.  Financial terms were not disclosed.

The DTN-X platform enables TSIC to offer its customers up to 100G bandwidth-on-demand across its North American fiber network, which spans 18,000 km and connects 35 PoPs in 23 cities.

"Infinera's DTN-X with Instant Bandwidth gives us a competitive edge enabling significantly shorter customer delivery times for 100G services and allows us to offer one of the most advanced and scalable networks in North America," said Erik Hallberg, President of TeliaSonera International Carrier.

"TeliaSonera International Carrier's selection of the DTN-X with Instant Bandwidth demonstrates the strength of the relationship that began with our DTN in the 10G era and is now entering the 100G era with the DTN-X," said Chris Champion, Infinera Vice President, EMEA sales. "As TSIC continues to grow their business, Instant Bandwidth on DTN-X provides a flexible infrastructure, one-click capacity and lower operational costs as they face increasing demands for bandwidth in a more competitive environment.

  • In November 2011, TeliaSonera International Carrier and Infinera performed the world's first terabit trial in California based on DTN-X equipment.
  • In August 2012, TeliaSonera International Carrier (TSIC) and Hibernia formed a strategic partnership for global media distribution. Under the deal, Hibernia Media will acquire TSIC's MediaConnect business, while TSIC's  fiber backbone will form the core of the new network.
  • In July 2012, TeliaSonera International Carrier comfirmed deployment of a new 100G DWDM overlay network across Europe based on Nokia Siemens Networks' hiT7300 platform and its coherent CP-QPSK technology. The CP-QPSK modulation format is also used for TeliaSonera’s existing network to improve performance. Nokia Siemens Networks also provides a full set of care services including software maintenance, help desk as well as spare part management services. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Crossbeam Acquired by Private Equity Firm

Crossbeam Systems has been acquired by Thoma Bravo, a private equity firm, for an undisclosed sum.  Crossbeam’s current senior management team will continue to manage the company.

Crossbeam is best known for its X-Series network security platform or network operators.  The company is based in Boxborough, Mass. and has more than 200 employees worldwide.

Thoma Bravo currently manages a series of private equity funds representing almost $4 billion of equity commitments.  In software, Thoma Bravo has completed 54 add-on acquisitions across 25 platform companies with total annual earnings of approximately $1 billion.

“Crossbeam is in a stronger-than-ever position to strengthen and expand our customer solutions,” said Mike Ruffolo, president and CEO of Crossbeam. “Thoma Bravo’s support and expertise in the software and technology industries will allow us to pursue new products and services through strategic initiatives and potential acquisitions to enhance our offerings.”

Google Venture Fund Boosted to $300 Million/Year

Google announced a 50% increase in the size of the Google Ventures fund to $300 million in new investments per year.  The company now has over 130 start-ups in its portfolio.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

China's CERNET Builds 100G OTN with ZTE

The China Education and Research Network (CERNET) has selected ZTE for phase 3 network expansion. The phase 3 expansion will begin in 2012 and aims to expand the coverage and transmission capacity of the network and to improve its speed and security.  The network will cover Beijing, Chongqing, Dalian, Guangzhou, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Shenyang, Shenzhen, Wuhan and Xi’an.

ZTE will supply its coherent 100G solution and ZXONE 8000 series OTN products to build the backbone bearer network. The ZTE platform is capable of hybrid transmission of 100G and 10G services and supports a seamless upgrade from 10G to 100G.

The China Education and Research Network (CERNET) is a national academic computer network managed by the Ministry of Education and built and operated by universities and colleges such as Tsinghua University. At present, more than 2,000 universities, colleges, middle schools, primary schools and scientific research institutes are connected to CERNET, supporting more than 20,000,000 users.

Terra Deploys Juniper's QFabric Data Center Architecture

Terra, a leading global digital media company, is anchoring its data center network with Juniper Networks' QFabric architecture. Terra has completed a data center network transformation by seamlessly transitioning existing data center switches into nodes in a single-tier QFabric architecture.

Terra's web properties reach a monthly audience of over 100 million.  The companies said the new QFabric architecture will enable Terra to support events that will place Brazil on the global stage -- and where streaming video will be in highest demand -- including the Confederation Cup in 2013, World Cup in 2014 and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Juniper notes that its QFabric architecture can support up to 6,144 10GbE ports within a single data center network fabric. Terra began with QFX3500 10GbE top-of-rack switches earlier this year to optimize the delivery of cloud-based services to its customers before seamlessly transitioning those same switches to the edge nodes of a single-tier network with the QFabric architecture. Terra further consolidated its data center architecture with the QFabric architecture by leveraging support for converged storage.

During the London Olympics this past summer, Terra was the only online broadcaster in Latin America with Web and mobile broadcasting rights. During the Games, Terra simultaneously transmitted 4,760 hours of high-definition streaming video to 100 million viewers over 36 channels through the Web, mobile phones and tablets.

The deployment was supported by Sao Paolo-based integration partner, Binário, which was named Juniper Networks Latin American Partner of the Year for 2011.

  • In September 2012, Qihoo 360, a leading Chinese Internet and mobile solution provider, is powering its new data center using Juniper Networks' QFabric architecture. Specifically, the company has deployed a QFX3000-G QFabric System -- designed for large enterprises, service providers and cloud data center environments -- to support its expansion into new web-based services including search and cloud offerings.

Interoute Builds its Cloud Capacity

Interoute is enhancing its cloud platform to offer computing, communication and connectivity services via its European data centers.  The company is adding an applications management product set and launching a Virtual Data Centre solution that can be configured as a private or public cloud.

The Virtual Data Centre service is initially available via Interoute's facilities in Amsterdam, Berlin, Geneva and London and will be launched via the Paris Data Centre in Q4.

Interoute is also investing in a new state of the art Data Centre in Ghent, Belgium, which will be fully operational in January 2013. The Data Centre is ISO-2007 and PCI certified, and will have an excellent, "green" Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) classification of 1.4.

Financially, Interoute said its top line revenues grew 15%, to  EUR 296.7 million in the first three quarters of 2012 over the same period in 2011.

Sandvine: Internet Data Usage Up by 120% in North America

The mean monthly data usage has increased by 120% from 23GB to 51GB in the past year on North American fixed line networks (51GB is equivalent to 81 hours of video), according to Sandvine's newly released Global Internet Phenomena Report 2H2012.

Sandvine compiles data from a selection of Sandvine’s 200-plus customers spanning North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa, Caribbean and Latin America and Asia-Pacific.  The data is subscriber anonymous.

Some major findings:

  • Mobile networks: The world leader of mobile data consumption is Asia with a mean monthly usage of 659 MB, up 10% in the last six months
  • In Europe, YouTube represents more than 20% of peak period downstream traffic on mobile networks 
  • Netflix dominates North American fixed networks accounting for 33% of peak period downstream traffic 
  • Other video services on North American fixed networks include Amazon (1.8% of peak period downstream traffic), Hulu (1.4%) and HBO Go (0.5%)
  • itTorrent continues to decline in application-share, accounting for 16% of total traffic in Europe and is slightly smaller in North America, accounting for 12%  
  • In Asia-Pacific, where there are fewer paid over-the-top video services available, BitTorrent accounts for 36% of total traffic

The full 34-page report is available for download from Sandvine.

AT&T Blazes Path to Wireless Densification with Small Cells

Wireless network densification is one of the aims of AT&T's Project VIP, said John Donovan, Sr. Exec. VP ‐ AT&T Technology & Network Operations in a webcast on November 7th.

To achieve this, AT&T will deploy more than 10,000 new macro cell sites, 1,000 more distributed antenna systems (DAS) and 40,000 small cell devices.  AT&T will lead the way in small cells with an aggressive deployment that includes LTE as well as other radio technologies.

Some key points of the plan:

  • The first deployments of small cells will be this quarter with units offering 3G UMTS and HSPA+ connectivity.  The company expects to start general deployment in Q1 2013.  The small cell devices will eventually feature UMTS/HSPA +/LTE/Wi-Fi technology in 2014. As the program builds, the company expects lower per unit costs.
  • Small cell deployments will achieve 3 goals: (1) improve spectrum efficiency, (2) build more cost-effective radio access networks, (3) improve in-building coverage for businesses and consumers.
  • By 2015, AT&T expects that more than 50% of its network densification program will use small cells.
  • AT&T has invested over $800 million in wireless networking hardening, such as battery back-ups, generators and other equipment to speed emergency network recovery
  • Voice over LTE plans are advancing.
  • Over 90% of AT&T's mobile data will ride Ethernet backhaul by year end.
  • AT&T's IP backbone now carries 33 petabytes of data on an average business day.

The full, two-hour AT&T webcast on Project VIP is archived on the company's Investor Relations website.

AT&T Enables FaceTime over Cellular for LTE Customers

AT&T will enable FaceTime over Cellular at no extra charge for iOS 6 customers with an LTE device on any tiered data plan.

AT&T will also continue to offer FaceTime over Cellular to customers with any AT&T Mobile Share plan, as well as FaceTime over Wi-Fi, which has always been available for all customers.  AT&T expects to roll out this functionality to customers over the next eight to ten weeks.

Deutsche Telekom Revenue Flat at EUR 14.7b, Growth in IPTV

Deutsche Telekom reported Q3 2012 revenue of EUR 14.7 billion, the same level as in the previous year. Adjusted EBITDA declined by 2.6 percent to EUR 4.8 billion while adjusted net profit totaled EUR 0.9 billion, 28.3 percent less than in the prior year, when taking into account substantial impairment charges regarding T-Mobile USA.

In Germany, Deutsche Telekom is seeing a positive trend in its "Entertain" Internet-based television service, as well as with mobile contract customers and VDSL lines.

The number of Entertain customers reached 1.9 million by the end of September, 39 percent more than in the prior-year period.

Year-on-year growth in fast VDSL lines even reached 55 percent. At the same time, line losses in Deutsche Telekom's traditional fixed network decreased by 12 percent compared with the same quarter in the prior year.

Mobile contract net additions reached 555,000 in the third quarter. 171,000 of these new customers were added in branded business under the Deutsche Telekom and Congstar brands, while the rest were added in the fast-growing, but much lower-revenue reseller segment (service providers).

With its operating businesses across Europe, Deutsche Telekom was hit by continued macro-economic challenges, new levys and the reduction in mobile termination rates in 9 out of 13 countries.  Total revenue in the Europe segment declined 5.7 percent year-on-year to EUR 3.7 billion. At the same time, adjusted EBITDA decreased by 4.3 percent to EUR 1.3 billion.

T-Mobile USA recorded 160,000 net additions in the third quarter thanks to strong performance in the branded prepay segment, with 365,000 branded prepay net additions. The contract customer segment recorded a loss of 492,000 customers in the past quarter, which was better than in the second quarter, but is still unsatisfactory. The churn rate for branded contract customers stood at 2.3 percent, a year-on-year decline of 0.3 percentage points. Against the second quarter, it increased slightly. One reason for this was the launch of iPhone 5 by other mobile operators.  T-Mobile USA revenue in the third quarter decreased by 5.9 percent year-on-year to USD 4.9 billion. Simultaneously, adjusted EBITDA decreased as expected by 14.2 percent to USD 1.2 billion as a result of increased spending on advertising.

Telefónica Reaches 314 Million Accesses, Higher Profits

Telefónica reported consolidated net profit of 3,455 million euros, up 26.4% compared with the same period in 2011, while revenue was flat at EUR 46,519 million for the first nine months of 2012.

Revenue generated by Telefónica Latin America at the end of September exceeded the weighting of revenue from operations in Europe for the first time.

Some highlights

  • Total accesses increased by 5% year-on-year to 314 million by the end of September 2012, driven by the increase in mobile accesses, fixed and mobile broadband, and pay TV accesses.
  • Telefónica Latinoamérica achived 8% year-on-year increase in accesses (67% of the total growth in accesses).
  • Mobile accesses stood at 246 million at the end of the third quarter (+6% year-on-year), driven by a sustained growth in mobile contract accesses (+7% year-on-year), accounting for 33% of total mobile accesses.
  • Mobile net additions in the first nine months totalled 10.5 million accesses (excluding the disconnection of 3.6 million inactive prepay mobile accesses in Spain and Brazil).
  • The Company's mobile broadband accesses  maintained solid growth of 40% year-onyear to 47.7 million at the end of September 2012, and accounted for 19% of mobile accesses (+5 percentage points year-on-year). It should be highlighted the continued smartphone adoption by our customers (with attached data tariffs), with 10.0 million net additions in the first nine months of 2012 (+14% year-on-year).
  • Telefónica’s retail fixed broadband accesses increased by 4% year-on-year to 18.5 million at the end of September 2012, with 458 thousand net additions, reflecting the sustained growth of Telefónica Latinoamérica. Retail fixed broadband accesses reached a penetration rate of 47% over total fixed accesses.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Enabling Elastic Optical Networking for SDN Architectures

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a term that has quickly risen to the forefront of the networking industry, with the objective of solving many of the challenges facing network providers today. While there are many varying opinions of exactly what SDN means, there is one common trait amongst them - “programmability”. 

SDN is a means to open up the network and support programmability of the network, often comprised of multiple vendors, multiple domains, and multiple networking layers. For some providers’ networks, programmability and SDN’s functions are viewed as a means to enabling automated, on-demand networking with optimal resource utilization. 

Initial SDN efforts are largely focused on decoupling the control plane from the data plane and enabling a higher level of programmability into packet forwarding tables of switches. But what does this mean for the emerging converged optical transport layer with integrated switching, which is now playing an increasingly important role in optimizing networks and underlies most of the world’s Internet backbone? What does the optical layer need to adequately and economically support a programmable network with on-demand capabilities?

The Evolution of Optical Transport: Opportunities and Challenges

The architecture of the optical network is undergoing a significant transformation – and with this transformation lays some new challenges around automation, elasticity, and capital/operational efficiency.

The Network Efficiency Challenge

Over the past many years, network providers were deploying 10Gbps wavelengths on a large scale, and the predominant service that was transported over the fiber backbone was 10Gb. Initially, it was SONET/SDH OC192/STM64 service, running at 10Gb rate, and more recently, 10Gb Ethernet (10GbE) services have rapidly risen in popularity, driven by Ethernet convergence. In this environment, the transport service speed matches the wavelength bitrate, and the term “wavelength” was used synonymously to mean the optical, analog transmission wavelength as well as the transparent wavelength-like digital service.

Today, however, there is a growing divergence between the wavelength bitrate and the transport services the network needs to support. Layer 0 transmission is rapidly evolving towards 100Gb optical wavelengths equipped with coherent detection, as carriers and network providers strive to increase fiber capacity to multiple Terabits. But the supported transport services are still largely 10Gb, sometimes less. Moreover, the services mix will continue to include a variety of service rates, as dictated by the economics of these services.

While the quest for achieving optimal cost/bit transmission economics is driving the need for 100Gb wavelength technology, the business of transport services and market demand for a broad set of service rates necessitates a different approach than in the 10Gb wavelength era. With the current economics of 10GbE vs. 100GbE services, it is generally expected that 10GbE services will continue to dominate in volume for some time while networks are upgraded with 100Gb optical technology. Further, this divergence of service from optical wavelength speeds will likely continue, as optical technology takes its next step forward to super-channels – wavelengths with bitrates beyond 100Gb. State of the art technology today offers 500Gb super-channels, with 1Tb super-channels soon to follow, as the drive to increase fiber capacity continues.

The Bandwidth Elasticity Challenge
A second challenge facing providers today is the need for on-demand “elastic” bandwidth to efficiently and cost-effectively deliver bits whenever and wherever needed. Evolving traffic patterns driven by cloud network and datacenter communications are driving providers to relook at their network architecture and the relationship between IP and optical transport layers. The conventional practice of over-provisioning the IP layer and running links at low utilization rates, while constraining the optical layer to provide static, “always-on” 100Gb point-to-point capacity, is being scrutinized, as new optical transport solutions with integrated digital switching emerge that can readily flex and adapt to varying and unpredicted bandwidth needs.

While this level of flexibility and adaptability begets greater elasticity, it highlights the more general challenge of multi-layer resource optimization. With resources that can be allocated and repurposed at multiple network layers, network providers require ways to optimally allocate resources to provide the appropriate bandwidth connectivity services that meet the service requirements of applications.

The Network Automation Challenge

In order for the network to provide on-demand bandwidth at Internet speeds, operational processes need to devoid themselves of human intervention. This encompasses not just automation of processes across multiple network layers, from transmission and transport up through IP/MPLS, but also the orchestration of resources between separate domains and amongst multiple vendors. In the optical transport layer, this means enabling rapid delivery of transport bandwidth in a manner that is cost and resource efficient, without burdensome wavelength engineering processes.

All-Optical Networking Dilemma

Conventional all-optical networks based on ROADMs deliver wavelengths on an end-to-end (A-to-Z) path, and constrain the delivery of transport services statically between those two sites. Operating on the principle of photonic switching, ROADMs can only route entire wavelengths and cannot access transport services carried inside the wavelength. Capacity that is not utilized within the wavelength cannot be leveraged by other traffic demands that do not originate at the same locations but which might share the same physical sub-path. 
As networks evolve to 100Gb wavelengths and beyond, this not only presents a resource utilization challenge, but also a bandwidth elasticity challenge. 

All-optical networks empowered with ROADMs are capable of “flexing” to dynamic bandwidth demands with wavelength granularity only. They facilitate turn-up of new end-to-end wavelengths, but the inability for all-optical networks to 1) manipulate the services inside the wavelength or to 2) pool capacity together and dynamically allocate bandwidth leads to static, underutilized wavelengths and excessive deployed capital. As the pressure to increase fiber capacity grows, leading to larger but fewer super-channels, the wavelength fragmentation challenge is exacerbated.

With the evolution of optical wavelengths from 100Gb today towards 1Tb super-channels in the future, the role of ROADMs will inevitably evolve towards steering large chunks of capacity between major hubs, and less for turning up and delivering digital services to end users. Tightly coupling the allocation of dedicated wavelengths between A-to-Z network locations for on-demand delivery of services does not scale.

Nevertheless, programmability of the ROADM, as well as key optical transmission parameters such as modulation scheme for trading off reach versus capacity, are important elements of SDN for the overall optical transport layer.

In order for a network to offer truly elastic bandwidth, and enable transport bandwidth service to be efficiently delivered over any optical wavelength, virtualization of the wavelengths is a necessity. This entails creation of an abstraction layer that represents the creation of a pool of optical resources that can be leveraged for any bandwidth demands.

The Solution: Bandwidth Virtualization

Facilitating SDN’s programmable networking concept in a manner that simultaneously optimizes utilization of optical capacity and enabling real-time delivery of optimally-sized bandwidth requires a means to decouple transport service delivery from the transmission layer. It requires an abstraction layer that virtualizes wavelengths and pools the capacity together on each link, and promotes sharing of that bandwidth for any transport circuit traversing that link. Instead of a dedicated resource between 2 fixed locations, wavelengths can be transformed into a shared resource supporting services between any network locations.

Not surprisingly, this concept is very similar to IT resource virtualization, where the collective power of multiple physical resources are pooled together and shared amongst multiple Virtual Machines (VMs). VMs supporting applications can be dynamically instantiated or decommissioned from this shared pool of resources, maximizing utilization and efficiency. Bandwidth Virtualization achieves a similar objective by forming an abstraction layer representing a bandwidth pool and hiding details of the underlying optical wavelength resources. Any bandwidth service can be flexibly mapped to any physical wavelength resource on each digital network link, whether the wavelength bitrate is 10Gb, 100Gb, or 1Tb.

This is essential as optical transport evolves towards super-channels. Additionally, through finer granularity switching of transport services rather than coarse wavelengths, Bandwidth Virtualization provides the foundation for SDN programmability. With Bandwidth Virtualization, the transport service provisioning process is decoupled from wavelength engineering, leading to significant benefits including:

  • Reduced time to delivery of new bandwidth services to meet unexpected demands
  • Responsiveness and adaptability of the optical transport layer to dynamic needs of the application and IP layers with appropriately sized optical transport capacity
  • Efficient on-demand allocation of bandwidth from available resources to maximize wavelength utilization
The capability of digitally switching individual transport services rather than just optically redirecting coarse wavelengths provides a level of bandwidth service flexibility that is decoupled from the evolution of optical transmission technology.

Enabling Bandwidth Virtualization

The virtualization of the optical wavelengths requires abstraction into a shared pool of digital bits that can then be rapidly allocated to support any transport service. Key enablers of the Bandwidth Virtualization paradigm include (a) cost-effective OEO conversion to gain accessibility to the individual services being transported via optical carriers and (b) integrated digital switching. Conversion of wavelengths into the electrical domain normalizes the traffic into a form where it can be managed, independent of wavelength bitrate and origin, and enables individual bit-based services to be sorted (demultiplexed), switched, and groomed, before being remapped on to an outbound optical carrier. These functions provide important network capabilities including:

  • Redirection of individual transport services for optimal latency routes
  • Optional redirection for protection against network failures
  • Maximum level of wavelength utilization through mixing and matching of any services on to any wavelengths
  • Mitigation of wavelength reach limitations or wavelength blocking situations
  • Decoupling of the service provisioning process from complex analog wavelength engineering and turn-up
Critical design requirements for Bandwidth Virtualization solutions include minimal latency, minimal space/power, and scalability commensurate with the optical domain. Additionally, Bandwidth Virtualization must be economically viable – implementations that necessitate excessive “boxes” linked together with optics may technically deliver the same capability, but are not as economic as converged solutions with internal integrated switching.

Along with integrated switching, considerations for supporting the broad set of transport services must be made. Generalized optical transport infrastructures typically need to support multiple rates and protocols, and full transparency of the service with stringent performance requirements is mandatory. Additionally, dynamic scaling of the transport service upwards and downwards is also important for optimizing consumption of optical capacity. With this set of capabilities, networks can capitalize on a new level of transport elasticity that provides appropriately sized bandwidth services whenever and wherever needed in the network.

A New Approach: Elastic Optical Transport

The emergence of optical transport with integrated switching is changing the way architects design cloud networks. Instead of the traditional model of “dumb pipes” interconnecting large routers and relegating all bandwidth management functions within routers, network providers now have the option of deploying cost-efficient, flexible optical transport networks with integrated switching and offloading transport bandwidth from routers.

Evolving traffic patterns in clouds coupled with large amounts of data traffic between data centers warrants traffic more optimally being transported and switched within the optical layer, not solely at the more expensive router layer. This evolution towards a more flexible architecture with multiple dynamic switching layers calls for more intelligence in managing not just multi-layer networks, but also networks involving multiple network domains and multiple vendors. The convergence of WDM, OTN and packet bandwidth management functions into the next generation optical transport layer is creating new opportunities for network providers to further reduce the total cost of ownership of their network infrastructure, inclusive of the IP/MPLS layer, while also providing a more scalable, adaptable, and cost-efficient solution that meets the dynamic demands of emerging cloud architectures.

SDN: Ready for Elastic Optical Transport?

The SDN philosophy of decoupling the control plane from the data plane is an important paradigm many in the industry are investigating as a means for automating processes across a multi-layer, multi-vendor, multi-domain network, and orchestrating the many moving parts through network Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to provide an optimal bandwidth solution for applications that takes maximum advantage of what each network layer has to offer. Centralization of information creates the opportunity to make better over-arching decisions, as it provides globalized visibility across layers, domains, and vendors that is necessary to understand and make appropriate tradeoffs between cost, performance, survivability, and other key SLA metrics.

In order for SDN to be truly useful in multi-domain & multi-layer networks, SDN needs to incorporate not just broader network management functionality, such as network discovery and monitoring and correlation, but also deepen its control to include the emerging next-generation optical transport layer, where integrated switching adds substantial network value and has significant impact on overall network architecture, including what happens at higher layers. This broader vision ensures the entire network stack becomes open and programmable. With expansion of SDN to include elastic optical transport and abstractions like Bandwidth Virtualization, network providers will be able to unlock the real potential of the multi-layer network and fully leverage the resources available at all layers.