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Optical Networks: SDN Vision.

Jan 28, 2016

A recap of ONF and OIF’s recent SDxCentral webinar about SDN for optical networks.

There’s no question about it – SDN is here. However, the industry is now asking how network operators can deploy SDN while avoiding interoperability and operational issues. ONF and the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) came together in a recent webinar to discuss these challenges and share in-depth knowledge on SDN for optical networks.

Transport networks were originally designed to support voice and data traffic with high reliability. Spikes in traffic were predictable. But these networks were not built to deal with the dynamic capacity demands facing networks today and are hindered by lack of integration across vendors and management systems. We now live in a connected world and the age of the cloud. Providers are required to distribute resources around the world to provide 24/7 uptime in the event a storage facility goes down. Applications needing rapid reallocation of resources have changed the demands placed on transport networks, making SDN an attractive alternative to current management technology.

Transport networks need SDN to break free of these limitations and enable dynamic provisioning, optimized network utilization, and creation of new sources of revenue. But if we are to deploy SDN within transport networks, there are also challenges that we must address.

One such challenge is that SDN and network virtualization in general are rather disruptive. Many network operators will require additional training and operations tools to take advantage of software-based networking, and ultimately simplify their operations.

Also, optical networks are complex, to say the least. Carrier networks incorporate diverse network architectures and equipment types. A single source to destination path may cross multiple network domains. The SDN control plane must be able to support multi-domain, multi-layer resource allocation and optimization.

Implementing optical transport SDN will require updates to both network equipment and management software. Network components designed for a more static environment will need to be replaced or enhanced with software that is SDN-enabled. But any replacement of the complex management technology in operator networks carries the possibility of disrupting revenue flow from the infrastructure.

Despite these complications, SDN creates enormous opportunities for service providers and their customers. Customers’ IT operations will benefit from increased available capacity and services. Service providers will benefit from reduced costs as management and configuration tasks are increasingly automated, and increased revenues with the ability to charge customers for the newly available capacity and dynamic services.

ONF’s Open Transport Working Group is responsible for defining standard SDN interfaces for transport networks, and has produced a number of documents to assist network engineers, including results of prototype demonstrations done jointly with OIF to test SDN deployment across multiple carrier labs across the globe. We encourage you to take a look at the various documents the working group has produced as well as watch the webinar with SDxCentral here.

Our next webinar will be held on February 9 and will discuss SDN Skill Training and Certification. You can register for our free webinar with SDxCentral here.

–   Lyndon Ong, Principal Network Architect and Technical Fellow at Ciena, and ONF Optical Transport Working Group Chair