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Ciena unveiled an OpenDaylight SDN controller and a set of applications that will bring multi-layer programmability to the WAN and allow network operators to offer on-demand bandwidth and network services.
The OpenDaylight (ODL) controller lies at the center of Ciena's Agility Software Portfolio and is designed to reach into the packet, circuit and wave layers of the network. Until recently, most SDN control and programmability strategies have focused on the network's packet layer.
Meanwhile, on the northbound side of the controller, Ciena has created a series of applications that extract information on network topology and the state of every link and flow on the network from the controller, and integrate it into analytics tools. These tools use the information to make traffic steering decisions to optimize application performance and make the best possible use of available bandwidth.
If the controller reports overloaded links, for example, the tools could make decisions to reroute data or applications over less congested areas of the network. These new directions would be passed back down to the network through the controller.
"Ciena is tackling problems that have been difficult to deal with in the past because we couldn't pull together network activity intelligence and expose it enough to potentially solve these problems," said Eric Hanselman, chief analyst at 451 Research. "What ODL and other platforms like it give us is the ability to get that data to an application that does something interesting with it."
Ciena SDN pairs data analytics with programmability
Specifically, Ciena's Agility portfolio relies on three key network and application optimization applications. First, a path computation engine called Navigate gains a global view of the network through the controller and uses advanced analytics to determine the best route through a network to establish a connection. Second, the Protect recovery tool determines an optimal set of restoration paths in case of failure. Finally, the Optimize tool "defragments" the network and reallocates "stranded" or unused bandwidth in real time.
The applications aim to "do automated continuous network planning" and to allow operators to constantly calculate "the most efficient, lowest cost of network resources," said Chris Janz, vice president of market development at Ciena.
Ciena's work to extend this kind of network programmability to the physical layer of the network indicates a technology shift toward SDN in optical networking.
"There is all this work being done in OpenFlow on optical extensions and Layer 0/1 characteristics as part of control infrastructure for OpenFlow. Some of that is what Ciena is leveraging," Hanselman said. "They've also done a bunch of new stuff on their own, like figuring out optical power and error rates, and using that to make decisions about how you route traffic. In a high error rate area, you might put low value data there [for example]. If suddenly you've seen optical power drop, you can expect additional things to go wrong in that segment of the network and you can [take] preventive [measures]," Hanselman explained.
This flexibility in southbound protocol is part of why Ciena chose to build around the OpenDaylight controller, explained Janz. OpenDaylight allows operators to use plug-ins for whatever southbound network management and control protocol they choose. Ciena is not banking on OpenFlow being the southbound protocol of choice, and in fact, expects users to implement plug-ins for traditional commands like SNMP and Netconf,, among others, Janz said.
Bandwidth on demand and cross-domain network orchestration
Beyond improving performance, Ciena is using programmability and automated provisioning to promote the WAN-on-demand business model, in which enterprise users can order up bandwidth and supporting network services through a self-serve portal. So the Agility portfolio also includes a set of network packet broker tools called V-WAN that grants end users control over bandwidth and network functions virtualization function provisioning. It also allows them to orchestrate resources across multiple sets of data centers and domains.
"The general picture would be to see Agility controlling networks, and above it, different applications that tie data center resources together to make a larger platform for services," Janz said. For example, an enterprise customer might orchestrate resources from a combination of its private cloud, a service provider and a content provider. Agility would provide the final service interface among all the resources, Janz explained.
News Director Shamus McGillicuddy contributed to this article.
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