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August 31, 2016

Why Infinera Xceed Breaks New Ground in Transport SDN

Pravin Mahajan - headshotBy Pravin Mahajan

Director Product Marketing

In 2009, Kate Greene, a technology writer based here in Silicon Valley, coined a new term to describe Stanford University’s OpenFlow project in an article that appeared in the MIT Technology Review. That term – software-defined networking (SDN) – was seen as tautological by some, with the state-of-the-art approach confirming the pre-existing separation of the forwarding and control planes. Today, SDN has evolved from a descriptor to an entirely new market category. There has been a lot of hype surrounding SDN and its ability to enable network operators of all types to simplify transport networks, reduce capital and operating costs, and quickly and easily deliver new, on-demand services.

Or so the story goes.

In fact, use cases such as network functions virtualization (NFV) service chaining are driving the first phase of SDN adoption within the data center domain. Central offices are being re-architected as data centers (CORD) and mobile operators are virtualizing their evolved packet core, also known as vEPC. At the other end of the network, the customer premise equipment (CPE) is also being virtualized. Network operators have, however, yet to deploy SDN widely across the packet-optical transport domain.

Why is this so? After all, Transport SDN controllers have been available for several years now, and the industry has made the network more programmable through open, standards-based application programming interfaces (APIs). On the demand side, service providers and enterprises increasingly require more dynamic bandwidth services, driven primarily by the adoption of cloud-based applications and content.

A big reason for the slow progress in Transport SDN lies in a simple truth about networks: any control plane is only as good as its underlying data plane. In today’s networks, service providers require frequent truck rolls and manual installation of line cards just to turn up additional wavelengths in the data plane. Even if an SDN controller is available to automate provisioning functions – determining when, where and how additional capacity should be activated – the network often lacks the ability to respond quickly. Another reason is the development approach vendors have chosen for their Transport SDN solutions, with element and network management systems being retrofitted for SDN control. Given these challenges it should come as no surprise that today’s Transport SDN offerings have not met customer requirements for openness and multi-layer control.

Until now.

With the launch of the Xceed Software Suite, Infinera meets the challenge of deploying open, multi-layer SDN control head-on by enabling applications over a dynamic packet-optical transport network — a data plane that can finally take full advantage of SDN control and automation.

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The Infinera Xceed Software Suite delivers an open, purpose-built multi-layer SDN platform and revenue-ready applications that together harness the scalability, flexibility and programmability of Infinera transport networks. The value proposition centers on three key factors:

  1. Revenue-ready applications: Xceed Applications validate the SDN business case by enabling two commercially deployable, differentiated applications: Xceed Dynamic Bandwidth and Xceed Instant Virtual Networks. The Dynamic Bandwidth (DBW) application provides end-users with on-demand provisioning of optical transport networks (OTN), including ODUFlex and Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF)-compliant Ethernet services. Dynamic Bandwidth can be deployed for a wide variety of use cases, including scheduled capacity enabled by Xceed Bandwidth Calendaring. The Instant Virtual Networks (IVN) application facilitates network virtualization for packet-optical transport systems, enabling network operators to define virtual transport network topologies overlaid on a shared physical network infrastructure. Virtual transport links can span multiple physical links and are presented to the IVN customer as a single logical link with its own transport link characteristics, including bandwidth, latency and routing metrics. Xceed Applications span the optical, digital and packet layers, and are deployable across Infinera metro and core packet-optical networks, providing operators a novel path to enhance revenues. Using the standards-based YANG information models, Xceed Applications can be integrated easily into third-party orchestrators and operational support system (OSS) environments.
  1. Purpose-built Platform: Xceed Multi-layer SDN Platform is built from the ground up to be open, extensible and optimized for multi-layer control. With a diverse range of open APIs, standards-based information models and open source components, the Xceed Multi-layer SDN Platform sets a new standard of openness for enabling rapid application development and deployment. While many vendors claim openness, none are simultaneously open across the three dimensions of open source-based code, open APIs and open information models. Infinera uses open source from OpenDaylight as the basis for the Transport SDN controller, while others offer retrofitted versions of their older element and network management systems, which we believe are far less flexible, extensible and open to third-party components and applications. Infinera’s approach to building this platform from the ground up allowed us to develop the key function of multi-layer path computation element (ML-PCE) as a microservice. An immediate benefit is that each Xceed IVN application, comprising virtual OTN switching nodes and virtual transport links with dedicated capacity, has its own private ML-PCE instance. Microservices are small modular software building blocks, which may be packaged into containers, such as Docker containers, in order to build more complex software systems. This approach lends itself to agile development and operations (DevOps) as opposed to waterfall-based software development. The latter is traditionally used for monolithic software systems like older element and network management systems.
  1. Intelligent Transport Networks: While Infinera’s competitors aim to address the entire market for SDN, NFV and multi-domain service orchestration (MDSO), which manages service provisioning and network resources for SDN and NFV across multiple network domains, we are focused on packet-optical Transport SDN. We believe in helping customers build the most scalable, flexible and programmable packet-optical transport networks from core to metro. Infinera has expertise at every layer of packet-optical transport — from optical (WDM) to digital (OTN) to layer 2 (Ethernet) and even layers 2.5-3 (multi-protocol label switching [MPLS] and Internet protocol [IP]). This builds on Infinera’s long history of providing simplified operations through distributed control plane protocols at multiple layers, such as GMPLS (generalized MPLS) for layer 0 and layer 1. By approaching multi-layer control from a deep understanding of the optical layer and building on the most flexible, agile family of optical engines, the Infinite Capacity Engine, along with the innovative and still unique Instant Bandwidth, Infinera can easily optimize across layers using the Xceed Software Suite. By unifying packet and optical network control planes, the Xceed Multi-layer SDN Platform ensures unparalleled transport network efficiency – no overprovisioning, no truck rolls, no stranded resources.

Xceed Blog 2

With Xceed, network operators now have the multi-layer intelligence and service provisioning automation needed to activate bandwidth when and where it is needed, with minimal operations. Infinera is breaking new ground in Transport SDN to ensure the data plane and the control plane are equally dynamic and optimized to help customers capitalize on the relentless growth of on-demand, cloud-based services.

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