Alcatel-Lucent today introduced its Network Services Platform (NSP), a Software Defined Networking (SDN) provisioning and control system that automatically manages and balances bandwidth and network services over several different layers of networks, including IP and optical systems.
NSP delivers on some of the key SDN concepts — namely, making networks intelligently responsive, so that they can automatically fine-tune network circuits in response to service demands. With a vast array of cloud and data services both increasing bandwidth demand and becoming more unpredictable, service providers need SDN technology to automate the way networks respond to changing data demands.
Alcatel-Lucent says NSP, which will be sold as a software package, “bridges the gap between service design, provisioning and network engineering for the first time.” The goal is to enable service providers to create services in real-time, by automatically provisioning network circuits whether a connection is Ethernet, IP, or optical. The software gives full visibility of the state of the network across all layers at all times.
With a bevy of recent SDN-focused product and technologies emerging, the big question for end users and investors might be: What’s new here? Alcatel-Lucent says that NSP automates network paths, connections, and services across multiple domains in heterogenous, multi-vendor networks. The truth is, it’s not the first to manage bandwidth over multiple domains, as that is a close description of Cyan’s Blue Planet, one of the earliest SDN products, which became a key asset in Ciena’s recent announcement that it will be acquiring Cyan.
There are key distinctions between NSP and Blue Planet, however. NSP is not a service orchestration or cloud orchestration program — which Blue Planet includes — and Alcatel-Lucent is emphasizing its traffic optimization functions. Alcatel-Lucent’s cloud provisioning and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) technology are part of Nuage Networks, its cloud technology subsidiary, as well as the product known as CloudBand. NSP is focused on optimizing and virtualizating IP and optical networks.
NSP will support 24% more revenue-generating traffic by using algorithms to intelligently distribute new connections across the network, according to Bell Labs research (Bell Labs is owned by Alcatel-Lucent).
NSP has several components. The Network Resource Controller (NRC) handles the intelligent network control capabilities so that operators can automate adaptation to changing traffic flows. The NRC accepts path connection requests from the NSD, from Operation Support Systems (OSSs) and orchestration systems, and from physical/virtual network elements.
“The NRC modules are able to calculate optimal paths through the network for a given set of business and technical constraints by leveraging centralized views of all available assets/topologies and their current state,” says Alcatel-Lucent.
Two of the other modules are the NRC-X, which dynamically creates optimal paths across multiple domains that are separated by IP/optical or vendor boundaries, and the Network Resource Controller – Transport (NRC-T), which manages the creation of transport path connections for Layer 1 OTNs, Layer 0 dense wavelength division multiplexing (DWDM), and multi-layer transport services.
These features make NSP an automated traffic provisioning and management tool. You might be asking about about real-world use cases. Alcatel-Lucent has summarized a few of those in the NSP literature. They include:
- Optimizing data center traffic. Data center traffic patterns often change during parts of the day or week. For example, nighttime activity in a data center might require more bandwidth for data backups. NSP can automate changes in networks to accomodate dynamic bandwidth needs.
- Services upsell. NSP integrates with Nuage Networks’ VSP to coordinate service chains — automatically provisioning network resources — when customers order new services. NSP can balance traffic of new services across appropriate data centers, “slicing up” the network assets and virtualizing the networks for the new customers.
The bottom line is that NSP gives Alcatel-Lucent a powerful new SDN tool, designed for multi-vendor and multi-layer networks. The product will be commercially available in June. Coupled with the assets of Nuage Networks and cloud-management tools such as CloudBand, Alcatel-Lucent has built a substantial SDN portfolio for the virtualization arms race.