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What’s Next for SDN Control?

portrait of Teresa Monteiro

June 24, 2021
By Teresa Monteiro
Director of Solutions, Software and Automation

Secured autonomic traffic management of SDN flows

Not long ago, my colleague Paul Momtahan wrote that, following a 20-year journey, we have reached a point where multi-vendor, open, and disaggregated networking is a reality. Infinera is fully committed to supporting the open networking paradigm and continues to nurture innovative initiatives that evolve and enhance this environment. One such promising initiative is TeraFlow, an ongoing project funded by the European Commission, which aims to develop a carrier-grade SDN controller for networks beyond 5G.

It is clear that open networking, combined with the exponential increase in the size and complexity of networks and the volume of data they carry, is precipitating the adoption of SDN solutions. But most SDN controllers today still fall short of the requirements expected for long-term network evolution, for example, in terms of architecture, flow aggregation, redundancy, reliability, or security.

The TeraFlow project’s objective is “to build a new type of secure cloud-native SDN controller that will drastically transform Beyond 5G (B5G) networks by integrating current NFV and MEC frameworks and revolutionary features for flow management at the service layer, and optical/microwave network equipment integration at the infrastructure layer.”

The project and its technologies

The TeraFlow project is developing an innovative open-source SDN controller using a cloud-native, container- and microservices-based architecture. It uses novel virtualization techniques and allows flexible and scalable deployments, enabling agile DevOps processes and continuous delivery workflows. This approach provides benefits such as:

  • Self-healing properties, with continuous microservice monitoring and restart in case of failure
  • Auto-scaling via microservice resource consumption monitoring and corresponding horizontal scaling in case of overload
  • Load balancing via microservice replication
  • A declarative networking approach, including automated rollbacks

What’s-Next-for-SDN-Control?Figure 1: TeraFlow architecture

The TeraFlow concept is expected to offer very high levels of reliability, redundancy, and security, and is built upon three main pillars:

  • Autonomous networks and compute integration with unification of network and cloud resource management for high availability and serviceability as well as improved quality of service and experience, including lifecycle management of transport network slices
  • Trusted multi-tenancy with resource allocation per tenant, optimized resource usage, isolation mechanisms, and a novel distributed ledger technology based on blockchain
  • ML-based cybersecurity using forensic evidence, including attack prevention, detection, and mitigation

These will be tested against the three leading TeraFlow networking use cases: Autonomous Networks Beyond 5G, Automotive, and Cybersecurity.

Through support for multi-vendor, multi-layer, multi-domain services, the project will address not only the needs of traditional telecom operators, but also those of edge and hyperscale cloud providers. With TeraFlow, operators will be able to achieve substantial business agility with novel and highly dynamic network services and zero-touch automation features.

For this purpose, and to ensure integration into any operational environment, the TeraFlow project will work in close collaboration and develop synergies with standard-defining organizations (ETSI NFV, ZSM, ENI, PDL, IETF, ONF) and the open-source software community, with dedicated focus on ONF ONOS and ETSI Open Source MANO.

What’s-Next-for-SDN-Control?Figure 2: Autonomous networks beyond 5G – TeraFlow use case

Infinera’s role

Infinera’s contribution to the TeraFlow project is focused on providing OpenConfig support in our DRX Series of programmable, carrier-class disaggregated IP routers and our Converged Network Operating System (CNOS) open, disaggregated, hardware-agnostic routing software for further automation of SDN networks. We are also developing necessary extensions to protocols and monitoring functions in the routers to enable network and Layer 3 service automation under SDN control.

Infinera is a proud partner of the TeraFlow consortium, working jointly with 13 other organizations from eight European countries, from academia to telecommunication and software solution providers to network operators:

  1. Atos (Spain)
  2. Centre Tecnològic de Telecomunicacions de Catalunya – CTTC (Spain)
  3. Chalmers University (Sweden)
  4. NEC Laboratories (Germany)
  5. Norwegian University of Science and Technology – NTNU (Norway)
  6. Old Dog Consulting (U.K.)
  7. Peer Stritzinger (Germany)
  8. SIAE Microelettronica (Italy)
  9. Telefónica Investigación y Desarrollo (Spain)
  10. Telenor (Norway)
  11. UBITECH (Greece)
  12. Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (Spain)
  13. Volta Networks (Spain)

The TeraFlow project was officially started on January 1, 2021, as part of the 5G PPP Phase 3 projects focused on smart connectivity beyond 5G. It will last 30 months and has been funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The TeraFlow project is also expected to foster strong relationships with other 5G PPP projects through multiple collaboration activities.

As open networking establishes itself and use cases for 5G and beyond get closer to materialization, the need for advanced automation in network management and operation is heightened. Innovative projects such as TeraFlow are advancing network automation hand in hand with standard-defining organizations and existing open industry initiatives, consolidating evolving operator requirements in a future-proof manner, and influencing the vendor ecosystem. For all this, TeraFlow is a project to watch, with potential to play a role in wider and faster adoption of SDN deployments by all types of network operators.