Infinera brings SDN to optical and packet networks

Vendor releases suite of software that adds software defined networking functionality to networks built with its equipment

Optical switching and transmission system manufacturer, Infinera, has released a suite of software that adds software defined networking functionality to networks built with its equipment, enabling networks to be created on-demand at the level of individual optical wavelengths and up to layer 3.

The heart of the software is the Xceed SDN controller, but Infinera has also launched two Xceed applications, Xceed Dynamic Bandwidth and Xceed Instant Virtual Networks designed to enable service providers to easily and quickly make use of the SDN functionality provided by the controller.

Xceed Dynamic Bandwidth provides on-demand provisioning of network capacity at the optical wavelength and ethernet layers. Xceed Instant Virtual Networks enables service providers to define virtual transport network topologies on a shared physical network infrastructure, with each virtual network appearing as a standalone transport network tailored to the end user’s requirements.

Jay Gill, principal manager, cloud and SDN marketing at Infinera, described Instant Virtual Networks as being “just like a layer 2 or layer 3 VPN but done at layer 1.” He told Computerworld: “The customer will be able to see, via a portal, their resources overlaid on the physical network.

“This will be useful to sophisticated customers who would like to have the control of network they own, one that is private to them, but without them having to invest in a physical network. They will have full visibility over sites, links, ports. It will look like a complete dedicated network that has its own logic for provisioning services on top.”

Co-ordination of optical and packet layers

Gill said a key differentiator of the Infinera product from other software defined wide area network offerings was that it operated at both the optical transport and packet layers, co-ordinating services across both.

“Most of the SDN initiatives and offerings are basically replacing MPLS VPNs, making it easier to do the jobs those have been doing,” he said. “They are attractive to organisations with a large number of endpoints such as retail branches. But underneath there must be a transport network, and those SD WANs don't really touch that layer.”

He said service providers were keen to implement SDN functionality at the transport layer. “They recognise that because of competition pressures and customer service requirements they need to become faster and more agile.And they want to automate provisioning and enable customer control where possible.

“They also want to make their operations more efficient, by looking across optical and packet layer and understanding capacity demands and services and co-ordinating those. The better they can understand those demands, allocating capacity at each layer, the more cost effective it is for them.”

Multi-layer co-ordination

To this end, he said a key component of Xceed was a set of Xceed Microservices, the Multi-Layer Packet Computational Engine with Calendaring. “It looks across the packet and optical layers of a converged network and sees the capacity requirement at every layer down to optical. It co-ordinates those for maximum efficiency and ensures that backup links really are on different paths.”

Calendaring, Gil said, “Allows capacity to be reserved for application in the future, on a long term basis such as for something like the Olympics, or for a weekly backup function between data centres.” He added: “We will continue to add services into that platform and third parties can add services into the platform.”

Gill said that Xceed could be used right across the Infinera product line – for metro, long haul and sub-sea applications — with only software upgrades needed for older products, and that if there were a compelling customer demand, it could be extended to embrace other vendors’ products.

Built on open source software

Xceed is built on Open Daylight and Gill claimed it “really defines what it means to be open.” There are open APIs between the Xceed applications and the Xceed SDN platform and between the SDN platform and the underlying network components.

“People understand the Open Daylight platform and how to interface to it and it gives operators the confidence that they have some control over their destiny and can take control of the platform themselves,” he said. “They will be looking how to differentiate even from competitors that may be using the same Infinera platform.”

Gill said that, to make the open APIs as easy to use as possible, Infinera had adopted the Yang data modelling language. “It is one thing to have an open API but if the way it is programmed and the way the data is structured is totally different from one network to another, it is very cumbersome to do the programming. Having standardised information models will unleash a lot more innovation.

“There are multiple standards bodies and open source communities proposing these but we believe there is quite a lot of momentum around Yang and that is the way we have chosen to go. Not everybody is on board with this but our customers are telling us it is good approach, and there is no real alternative as yet.”

First customers named

Infinera has to date named two customers for Xceed: US network operator, Windstream, and European academic research network, Géant. “Windstream is focussed on using the dynamic bandwidth application and we expect them to be talking about a service very shortly,” Gill said. “Géant sees lot of potential benefit in using the Xceed software but they are till figuring out how they will use it. There are many others that are very supportive but not public at the moment.”

Initially Infinera will sell Xceed direct but Gill envisaged systems integrators taking it on. “We have number of partners we sell through today that are interested in taking on the SDN, but it will probably take some time for them to get up to speed and capable. For the first couple of releases I expect we will be focussed directly on our major service provider customers.”

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