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OpenFlow debuts on an optical network

May 10, 2012 // Rick Merritt

OpenFlow debuts on an optical network

The move to software-defined networks passed another milestone as ADVA Optical Networking (Munich) demonstrated the OpenFlow specification for the first time on an optically switched network. The demo is part of Europe’s OFELIA project and is now available for use as a test bed for researchers.


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OpenFlow is a specification that emerged from work at Stanford to implement network virtualization and control in software. Google, one of the main proponents of the technology, recently revealed its efforts using OpenFlow on one of its electrically switched production networks.

Software-defined networking aims to simplify the configuration and management of large networks. Todays nets use an increasingly complex set of specialized systems and protocols that require significant expertise to manage, creating difficulties especially in fast-growing Web 2.0 data centers.

ADVAs work was a collaboration between a handful of its engineers and PhD candidates at the University of Essex where the test bed is based. The team needed to create several extensions to OpenFlow including a hardware abstraction layer for optical nets which currently is not part of the specification.

OpenFlow is not yet mature enough nor does it have the features to cope with all the aspects of an optical network, said Achim Autenrieth, a principal engineer at ADVA.

A lot of OpenFlow comes from Ethernet people who dont know much about the needs of optical networks, said Stephan Rettenberger, vice president of global marketing at ADVA.

The demo uses ADVAs FSP 3000 wavelength division multiplexing switch and its RayControl management software. All the OpenFlow work was handled in software with no changes to hardware.

Engineers will develop a network virtualization app as a next step for the test bed. They also plan to open up and make visible to the OpenFlow controller more optical functions [such as] realizing signal impairment-aware routing services, said Autenrieth.

Researchers in Brazil, Europe, Japan and the U.S. can access the OpenFlow island on the OFELIA network through GANT, a pan-European backbone that connects national research nets. The OFELIA project is scheduled to remain live for about a year.
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