Lots of companies talk about using software-defined networking (SDN) to co-manage the IP and optical layers, but Alcatel-Lucent thinks the product it’s working on has an edge, due to the company’s deep history in both of those technologies.
The new product hasn’t really been announced, but it was mentioned in a talk by Basil Alwan, AlcaLu’s president of IP routing and transport, during a small media session Monday in Mountain View, Calif.
And yes, the product will be related to Nuage Networks. It’s going to use Nuage’s policy layer, “managing nodes inside the service provider as opposed to managing an overlay” in the data center, Alwan said. (The overlay case is Nuage’s normal function today.)
Specifically, this product will take advantage of Nuage’s Virtualized Services Directory (VSD), which stores policies and business logic that the SDN controller converts into commands for the underlying infrastructure. That information gets applied to routers and switches now; certainly, it could be extended to include optical networking.
SDN for optical transport isn’t a new topic. Infinera‘s proposal of an Optical Transport Switch (OTS) points in that direction. And other vendors are working on the concept, as Alwan noted. Ciena and Cyan come to mind, and Cisco has a multiphased plan for this kind of integration as well.
But what makes the problem tricky is the need to cross-manage IP and optical and to change both dynamically, Alwan said. “You have to have a vision for managing routers and optical so you can get the efficiencies out of both layers,” he said.
Naturally, AlcaLu has been building the kind of joint IP/optical vision Alwan was talking about. It’s been part of his job since 2009, when optical transport was added to his purview as head of IP routing.
More is likely to be disclosed in November, when AlcaLu will be holding its annual Technology Symposium, this time in Lucent‘s old stomping ground of New Jersey.
One of the challenges is that service providers might be squeamish about having an external element control the optical network. For that reason, as well as for the technological challenge, converged IP/optical management isn’t a short-term project. “It’s not going to happen in a day. It’s going to be some work,” Alwan said.