The access part of networks has largely been left out of the discussion when it comes to software-defined networking (SDN). But this week Calix announced some technology that expedites software improvements in the access network — its AXOS Sandbox.
Calix’s products facilitate last-mile connectivity to residences and businesses. That last mile connectivity could include DSL, fiber, GPON, and active point-to-point gigabit Ethernet. The company’s customers include both Tier 2 and Tier 3 telcos and cable providers worldwide. It has provided access hardware systems since the founding of the company 17 years ago.
More recently, Calix created its AX operating system (AXOS). It’s a software platform that taps centralized policy instructions and implements them at the access network.
But in customer discussions, Calix executives noted that service providers were less interested in talking about software than they were in solving a problem: It takes them way too long to test and implement new software in their access networks.
“We were kind of dumbfounded,” says Geoff Burke, senior director of corporate marketing at Calix. “The questions weren’t about how to virtualize. They have five to 10 certification labs specializing in different functions. It manifests into this quagmire.”
So Calix created its AXOS Sandbox. It’s a virtual environment that eliminates the need for physical systems in service provider labs to test new services. With virtual instances of AXOS, operators can test and certify new software and do BSS and OSS integration work. AXOS Sandbox gives technicians access to countless virtual instances of AXOS to use for testing.
“The data center is very meshed,” says Alan DiCicco, senior director of solutions marketing at Calix. “But as you go into the access network, there’s only one way in and one way out. You don’t have the luxury of redundancy.”
The AXOS Sandbox is kind of like running a shadow software network for testing purposes. And it uses the standard interfaces NETCONF/YANG and OpenFlow, making it easier to slide into existing service provider networks.
“This approach to the access network is totally new and unique,” says Burke. “This is not the way things have traditionally been managed in the access network.”
The AXOS Sandbox “is the live production software, lifted completely out and put in a virtual machine,” says DiCicco. “I can completely replicate thousands of nodes and put them in a virtual space so we can do testing and integration.”