SDN use cases emerge across the LAN, WAN and data center
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Packet-optical transport vendor Cyan has assembled a team of partners to build and validate a multivendor SDN system that spans enterprise and cloud data centers and enables a dynamic SDN WAN.
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Cyan's Blue Orbit partners include WAN edge-device manufacturers Accedian Networks and Overture Networks; the Ryu OpenFlow controller project from NTT Laboratories; data-center switching vendor Arista Networks; IT operations management vendor Boundary; software-defined network services vendor Embrane; and Canonical, the services company that developed an Ubuntu Linux reference OS for OpenStack.
"This is a group of companies formulated around the testing and demonstration of SDN use cases and making sure SDN solutions work together, especially on the carrier side," said Joe Cumello, Cyan's chief marketing officer.
While other consortiums and partner organizations have focused on research and establishing SDN standards, Cyan set out to assemble a group of partners that could demonstrate how SDN can solve business problems with existing technology, he said.
"In order to provide value in the broader SDN environment, you've got to be able to bolt on various components in the infrastructure and have the right management capabilities," said Eric Hanselman, research director at New York-based 451 Research. In the context of SDN, "none of these vendors' individual pieces have a large amount of value until you integrate them into a whole."
Blue Orbit automates network provisioning in the SDN WAN
Cyan's contribution to Blue Orbit includes its Z Series of packet-optical transport devices and its Blue Planet orchestration platform, which Cyan has lately been positioning as an SDN controller platform that can automate the provisioning and management of third-party network infrastructure. Traditionally Blue Planet has interacted with third-party network gear through specific integration into a command line interface or through Simple Network Management Protocol and other protocols and APIs. With Blue Orbit, Cyan is trying to establish deeper, validated integration with its partners using technologies like OpenStack.
"[Cyan] has already done the legwork to work with the larger vendors," Hanselman said. "They have a suite of capabilities for interaction with Cisco and Alcatel-Lucent products. What they're looking to do is provide enhanced functionality beyond that."
Boundary's network monitoring and management functions are an important element of Blue Orbit. "Boundary can pull real-time monitoring information out of the network so that operators can make more intelligent decisions based on the management capabilities that exist across this [ecosystem]," Hanselman said.
At Interop Tokyo this week, Cyan and its Blue Orbit partners showed how an enterprise's instantiation of a new application or cloud service can trigger automatic provisioning of increased WAN bandwidth to support that service. At a basic level, OpenStack, Ryu and Arista spin up a new service in a data center and send a request to the WAN for more bandwidth. Cyan's Blue Planet platform provisions that new bandwidth on its WAN devices and the devices of its Blue Orbit partners. Then the Boundary platform tracks real-time operational statistics to ensure that the new application is receiving the network resources it needs.
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"All year long [an enterprise] has to buy a 1 Gb or 10 Gb pipe into the data center, and that costs quite a bit of money from your carrier," Cumello said. "What if there were a new type of service offering where instead of buying a 1 Gb or 10 Gb Ethernet circuit that is static all year long, you're able to provision the bandwidth you need around the existing pipe when you need it."
This elastic SDN WAN use case should appeal to enterprises that use dynamic public and private cloud resources with fluctuating bandwidth demands. It should also appeal to growing service providers that are trying to take customers away from incumbent providers, said Eric Clelland, vice president of North American sales for Cyan.
"This solution is not for the carrier that is already extracting revenue from that static 1 Gb pipe," Celland said. "These use cases are for the carriers who are trying to be much more competitive in the market and get a bigger market share by changing the way that WAN circuits are bought."
An enterprise or service provider may look at the roster of vendors in the Blue Planet ecosystem and wonder if it has to replace incumbent vendors like Cisco or Alcatel-Lucent in order to buy into this joint solution. Cyan says it will continue to expand its web of partnerships. It's in talks with four more vendors.
Cyan's Blue Orbit is not necessarily about selling a joint product, but more about showing what can be done today and in the future with SDN, according to Jim Metzler, vice president and analyst with Ashton, Metzler & Associates.
"They can do this today, as Cyan has demonstrated, but this also gives a future path for these individual products," Metzler said. "People who are deploying [products from some of these vendors] may not want to use them [within Blue Orbit] today, but six months or a year from now, maybe they may want to."
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