Earlier this month, Infinera and Pacnet announced an exciting collaboration that brings network virtualization to the optical network. In this special interview with Infinera’s VP of Marketing Michael Capuano, we learn more about Infinera’s Open Transport Switch (OTS) and how it helps Pacnet deliver software-defined networking (SDN) to the optical layer.
It’s been a while since we last spoke about Open Transport Switch. Can you give us an update about OTS and tell us your definition of optical network virtualization?
Capuano: The Infinera Open Transport Switch is a lightweight, Web 2.0 software construct based on SDN principles enabling abstraction and virtualization of the converged packet optical transport layer. With the OTS service providers can programmatically control functions such as discovery, provisioning, monitoring and de-provisioning of optical transport bandwidth services. The transport network is virtualized in the sense that service providers do not have to manage the mapping of services to individual wavelengths, they simply see a pool of bandwidth that can be controlled programmatically between any two end points. And they can partition these resources for their end-user customers. In Pacnet’s case, the approach is to allow end-users to control the virtualized network directly through a self-service portal or via application programming interfaces.
Infinera has the advantage of starting with our Intelligent Transport Network which in the case of Pacnet is built with DTN-X platforms which are highly scalable and software controllable – a requirement in order to provide programmatic control. Then Infinera Open Transport Switch provides an abstraction layer on top which makes the network easier to program – we provide a balance between full control of the virtualized resources and a simple programming model. OTS was designed with an IT mindset – it is lightweight and modular so it can support rapid feature innovation in order to help service providers who are transforming to a DevOps model, like we see with Pacnet. OTS can be deployed using Hybrid Control Mode (HCM) which enables the deployment of SDN enabled services alongside the existing production transport services that are being managed by Infinera’s DNA network management software on the same network elements – a key tool for migration to an SDN-controlled network.
Can you talk a bit about the type of customers who you have next for optical network virtualization — or more specifically, who is the target customer for OTS?
Capuano: Any service provider who wants to become more agile and competitive while lowering operational costs is a target for OTS. This includes traditional telcos, cable operators, Internet content providers, exchanges, challengers, R&E, government… you name it. In the case of Pacnet, they have a mesh submarine network with 46,000 km of owned fiber connecting PoPs and data centers across Asia-Pacific in 15 cities. Pacnet has widely deployed DTN-X across this network and has been running terabits of production services for the last few years. In parallel they have transformed to a DevOps model and deployed the Pacnet Enabled Network (PEN) for Ethernet NaaS and network functions virtualization (NFV) services like vRouter and vFirewall. With their commitment to rapid DevOps innovation and our lightweight approach with OTS, Pacnet was able to integrate OTS into the Pacnet Enabled Network and deploy this next release of PEN, including the virtualized optical layer, in a matter of months versus the 12 to 18 months or longer, typical for deployments. Now Pacnet’s Ethernet NaaS offering can exceed 10G and with Infinera technology can even exceed 100G if needed.
What type of market adoption are you seeing with Open Transport Switch?
Capuano: This is our first production deployment of OTS and what I believe to be the first truly wide-scale deployment of an SDN transport layer with services commercially available to any end-user customer. OTS release 1.0 is available today and we have engagements with a number of other large customers in APAC, North America, and Europe. Our release 2.0 will be available in May 2015 and we are targeting quarterly releases thereafter – possibly even more frequent releases if our customers require it.
Can you tell us a little about Pacnet and how they plan to or how they currently use Open Transport Switch?
Capuano: Pacnet is using the Open Transport Switch to virtualize the optical transport layer and extend their Ethernet NaaS offering to greater than 10G and even greater than 100G if desired by their end-user customers. That said there are two items that I believe are key to Pacnet’s success:
- Pacnet has committed to an IT mindset, built a strong software development team that understands modern programming approaches, and has embraced the DevOps model which allows Pacnet to develop, QA, and deploy into operations quickly.
- Pacnet has integrated SDN all the way from the operation support system (OSS) and the billing support system (BSS) down to the network control layer to the point where they can present real time pricing to the user. This is critical to deliver something commercially.
Is this a POC, Field Trial, or production deployment?
Capuano: This is a production deployment across a number of Pacnet’s cities which are built with the DTN-X platform. I can’t go into detail on how many cities, but commercial services are now widely available to any Pacnet customer, including customers on their busiest routes such as between the cities of Singapore, Hong Kong, and Tokyo.
What are the benefits Pacnet got from going with OTS versus an alternative approach?
Capuano: Pacnet told us that they appreciated Infinera’s open, light weight and modern approach with the software – it was easy to integrate and worked as advertised. They also noted that they appreciated Infinera’s support of the DevOps approach – which we provided them with thorough developer documentation and a remotely accessible lab where they could develop and test against the OTS APIs. Finally, Pacnet was appreciative of Infinera’s ability to work closely with them on the integration, helping to move the integration and deployment along quickly.
How is OTS controlled?
Capuano: Infinera aligns with the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) information model as we provide an abstraction of the Intelligent Transport Network to deliver a simplified programming model. We also have taken an open approach to our SDN strategy where the OTS can integrate into any application, controller or orchestration software layer through REST APIs. In our discussions with customers we have learned there are many different SDN approaches and we want to build the most scalable, flexible, and programmable optical transport network that can plug into any of these. And while OTS today provides REST APIs for integration, our approach to OTS will enable us to easily extend the same functionality to other control interfaces as needed by customers.
Talking about APIs, can you share some examples of what types of applications can use the OTS API?
Capuano: One interesting application is apparent when reviewing the APIs that PEN exposes to their end user customers. Pacnet has a broad set of customers, including internet content providers. So imagine a large ICP-type customer that has software development capabilities and that also needs to replicate data between data centers in Singapore and Hong Kong. They could, as an example, write an application that could monitor the amount of data that needs to be replicated between two data centers and make an intelligent decision on the right time to activate a connection and for what duration and when to tear it down for this replication. Additionally, if Pacnet were to decide to implement dynamic spot pricing, this application could also monitor that information and do an optimized “what if” decision. In this case, the execution of the command would flow from the end-user customer application through the PEN software layers all the way down through the OTS APIs. The benefits of this include:
- Ensuring the ICP gets the most cost effective service and pays only for the bandwidth that they need;
- Smoothing out the demand for Pacnet making sure that their assets are being used to their maximum;
- Increasing customer retention since the ICP is now integrated to Pacnet’s APIs, their service becomes stickier; and,
- Increasing service delivery speed and accuracy, while also reducing operational costs as the ICP and Pacnet have removed multiple human procedures out of the system.
If someone is interested to learn more or wants to play with OTS and the APIs, what’s the best way for them to get started?
Capuano: Right now, OTS is only available to Infinera customers or strategic technology partners. In addition, we are interested in talking to prospects who are interested in deploying an Infinera Intelligent Transport Network along with the Open Transport Switch software. These folks should contact their Infinera sales representative or business development contact. If they don’t know who that is they can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll point them in the right direction.