(Featured image: New York City, as seen from the confines of the Javits Center, home to Interop New York.)
While I spent most of my time this week at the Ethernet and SDN Expo, software-defined networking (SDN) was obviously the talk of Interop New York as well. (The two conferences were “co-located,” as they say.)
In particular, I heard from Transmode and RAD about new products. Neither is particularly radical, but both point to SDN/NFV activity that I think will become the norm in their respective product areas.
Transmode Bulks Up for SDN
Transmode is augmenting its packet-optical transport products with the Path Computation Element (PCE) and Path Computation Element Communication Protocol (PCEP) standards from the IETF.
PCE allows multilayer provisioning; PCEP allows other PCE systems to talk to Transmode’s, feeding it data such as the latency requirements for a particular link.
Transmode, whose gear mostly targets telecom networks, already does its own path computation that combines packet and optical layers. Now that alternatives are well down the standards path, the company figured it should get on board. Transmode loses a proprietary edge in the process, but if everybody else is doing something in a standardized way, it doesn’t pay for a company like Transmode (which, let’s face it, doesn’t have Cisco-like pull) to stand alone.
Transmode also plans to add a virtual router to its Enlighten management suite (which doubles as the company’s control plane), to give itself Layer 3 visibility. Until now, Transmode has dealt with the optical layer and Layer 2 packet forwarding, but “even though we’re not traditionally a Layer 3 box, we feel we have to participate in that,” says Rob Adams, Transmode’s vice president of product line management.
This is mostly a long-term plan. The PCE addition will come later this year, while multilayer provisioning capability will appear in 2014. PCEP won’t be added until 2015, and the virtual routing, depending on how quickly the network functions virtualization (NFV) standards emerge, will come in 2015 or 2016.
RAD’s Distributed NFV
RAD came out this week with details of distributed NFV, a concept it had teased last month. The term comes out of the NFV ETSI group, says Dror Bin, RAD’s CEO — which is why you’ll hear it in other contexts, such as Cisco‘s recently announced NCS platform.
It’s nothing fancy to describe. RAD is adding an x86 card to its Ethernet demarcation devices — boxes which run Ethernet management software and represent the border between a service provider’s network and the customer’s network.
This lets operators put virtualized functions at the customer premises rather than in the cloud. For instance, diagnostic tools could deploy inside a demarcation box, and a service provider could run them remotely.
Where it goes from there, RAD doesn’t yet know. It’s yet another case where a vendor is hoping the customers dream up lots of exciting use cases. If the idea catches on, the box could host multiple functions and create a mini-service-chaining scenario, says Yuri Gittik, RAD’s head of strategic marketing.
It’s another turn of the push/pull cycle regarding where to house applications. Sometimes, it’s considered better to centralize everything — but then the pendulum swings, and the trend is to put the intelligence at the edges. Gittick describes it in terms of centrifugal and centripetal force, which is an analogy I hadn’t considered before.
Demarcation boxes are closer to commodity status than to the diamond-encrusted core-router market, so a trick like distributed NFV could get RAD some attention. Then again, the competition is plentiful — Accedian, MRV, Omnitron, and Transition Networks come to mind offhand. Transmode might have one too, come to think of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if they all add x86 cards to their gear.