Ciena and some research and education (R&E) partners are building a wide-area network intended to be a test bed for software-defined networking (SDN).
The goal is to provide a telecom-network setting to try out SDN services and products. “It’s not a plugfest and it’s not an open playpen,” says Chris Janz, Ciena’s vice president of market development.
It’s a complete, physical network being built in collaboration with Canarie, Internet2, and StarLight. They’re contributing parts of their networks to create the test bed, which will span 2,500 km at first.
The network is OpenFlow 1.3-configurable on the optical layer as well as the switching layer, and is outfitted with centralized control systems — the IETF’s Path Computation Element (PCE) happens to be one, but there will be others too, Janz says.
Of course, Ciena is contributing packet-optical transport gear: the 6500 and 5400 product families.
One benefit to the participating groups is that they’ll get to play on a geographically spread-out network — one that really does span the nation. Along similar lines, Internet2 has been encouraging its participants to experiment with OpenFlow on its nationwide network.
Ciena gets some self-interest served here, too. The network is a showcase for its OPn architecture and will give Ciena some insight into how that architecture might be used. A lot of the applications on the test network will probably be taking advantage of analytics and other real-time feedback to test things like the provisioning and pricing of on-demand services, Janz says.
Ciena will be using the network as well. “We have some very specific demonstration objectives of our own, ranging from what I call micro-SDN to macro-SDN cases,” Janz says.
By “micro,” he means little tests — replacing one box with an OpenFlow switch, for instance. “Macro” would be akin to running an entire SDN-enabled network and offering services that can be customized on the fly — and that’s where it’s important that this test bed mimics a carrier network. “You’ve got to have control of the full span of the network. You’ve got to involve all layers,” he says.
The network is still being built out, but Ciena hopes to have some results to show off at conferences late in the year.