OFC was very exciting this year with lots of exhibitors and visitors, and lots of creative ideas in talks and in products.
Multilayer networking and centralized control (which is what SDN means at the end of the day) have been widely discussed at OFC. The value of multilayer control has now been validated by service providers, most notably Telefonica and AT&T, as well as by leading vendors such as Cisco, Juniper, Infinera, and Alcatel Lucent. As for SDN, naturally the focus of OFC has been SDN for the Transport layer (Transport SDN) and its enabling technologies such as flexible ROADMs, supporting colorless and directionless add/drop switching, and sometimes even contentionless switching and flexible grid. While early adaptors of Transport SDN have been (rightfully) vocal about its value, I sense that there is still doubt whether this technology has enough merit on its own or whether it only shines in a multilayer context.
I believe Sedona is now clearly ahead of the pack, having demonstrated for the first time multilayer and multivendor control at Telefonica Spain working with optical and IP equipment from Cisco, Juniper, Infinera, Ciena, and Huawei.
Talk the Talk
Multilayer networking was the focal point of a key Service Provider Summit panel on “Value and Cost of Multilayer SDN”. The panel focused mostly on the customer perspective on the topic, which made it all the more interesting. Some impressions of this panel can be found in the OFC blog “SDN Deployments Every Customer Should Love.”
I gave my short course “Multilayer Interaction in the Age of Agile Optical Networking,” which was very well attended this year by operators, vendors, and even an analyst. We had lively discussions about this complex topic. For a crash course of what multilayer networking means, check out a short video tutorial I’ve just published.
I also gave an invited one-hour tutorial on “Control Architectures for Multilayer Networking: Distributed, Centralized, or Something In-Between?” in which I organized various proposed control architectures in a systematic manner. My conclusion was that multilayer SDN is not likely to be built from a monolithic controller that understands all layers in the network, but rather from a hierarchy of controllers, each specializing in its technology domain. I believe the large number of attendees was another indicator of the growing interest in multilayer SDN (click to download slides).
An interesting network operator view was presented by Mazen Khaddam of Cox about “SDN Multilayer Transport Benefits, Deployment Opportunities, and Requirements.” It provided interesting real-world insights and arrived at similar conclusions.
Walk the Walk
We had an exhibition booth where which we demonstrated the first ever multilayer and multivendor optimization application live from the Telefonica lab in Spain (click to see video).
The booth attracted many more visitors than we expected, including service providers and vendors alike. The mention of our technology by Telefonica in key OFC venues, such as the OSA Executive Forum and in Cisco’s booth (see below), as well as the Light Reading article about us, have greatly contributed to our visibility. Our value as a neutral ground for multivendor interworking was apparent when we had multiple competing vendors sitting at the booth and discussing the technology.
Not far from us was the (much larger) Cisco booth in which an impressive multilayer Cisco-over-Cisco demonstration was focusing more on planning aspects of the network (while we were focusing on operational aspects). In addition, Cisco hosted several expert guests who provided their perspective. Amongst them was Juan Pedro Fernandez-Palacios, who leads a group in Telefonica that is one of the key groups advancing SDN and multilayer technologies around the world. This is also the group championing our lab work in Spain, and Juan was kind enough to show the demo there. I believe this shows the aspiration of some of the key vendors, such as Cisco and Infinera, to truly support an open ecosystem for SDN.
Multilayer control was also highlighted by Juniper, who has branded its service-provider controller NorthStar as a “multilayer” solution that is ready for optical vendors to connect to it.
More generally, several optical vendors have talked about multilayer control, but in many cases this implies DWDM and OTN layers, and perhaps a simple Ethernet layer, all of which are valid solutions, but will not generate the significant value that can be achieved by fusing the IP/MPLS layer and Optical layers together.