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Internet2 implements large-scale deployment of ONOS

The Open source SDN Network Operating System (ONOS) community is making rapid progress. Internet2 and the Internet2 network operations centre (NOC) at Indiana University announced that they have actively deployed ONOS on Internet2's nationwide research and education network in the US.

A software defined networking (SDN) based IP peering application has been deployed atop the ONOS operating system, which enables the software-defined network to exchange information with other, traditional networks. This is the first time that such software-defined capabilities have been deployed on a live network at nationwide scale, the organisations claim.

The development is similar to the demonstration last month of an ONOS-based open source router in Australia communicating with routers in the US (see Open source routers communicate across continents), but on a grander scale.

Internet2 operates the largest and fastest research and education network in the US, at speeds of more than 100Gb/s with 8.8Tb/s of capacity. More than 200 major research universities and 100 countries connect to one another over Internet2.

Internet2 has virtualised its network, allowing the network to be partitioned into multiple independent private networks, or ‘slices’. That capability has been in place for a while, but the current announcement is one of the first where user groups take advantage of those capabilities.

Now five higher education institutions – Duke University, Florida International University, the Indiana GigaPoP, Mid Atlantic Crossroads (MAX) at the University of Maryland-College Park, and the University of Utah – are connected to a virtual slice of the Internet2 nationwide network that is piloting the ONOS technology.

An ONOS cluster has been deployed in that slice on the Internet2 network, controlling 38 OpenFlow-enabled Brocade and Juniper switches. The SDN-based IP peering application developed by the ONOS project team, and leveraging the open source Quagga BGP software routing suite, tells the OpenFlow-based switches how to reach external IP networks.

The benefits of ONOS in an SDN-based network like Internet2 include network programmability, lower costs and removal of vendor lock-in, according to the ONOS community. In this particular case, the centralised control plane leads to significant improvements in network operation efficiency for the Internet2 network.

“A primary feature of the Internet2 network is its ability to serve as a ‘playground’ for piloting new advanced networking capabilities in a real-world environment with demanding users and advanced applications capabilities,” said Rob Vietzke, vice president of network services at Internet2. “The ONOS and SDN-IP peering deployment is another demonstration of how Internet2 and the academic community continue to be a large-scale platform in which pre-market innovations can be prototyped at scale.”

In addition to having ONOS deployed in a large production network, there are other significant takeaways from this achievement that are worth the industry’s attention, the ONOS project participants point out.

The IP peering application forms an essential part of a migration scenario, allowing new SDN capabilities to be deployed alongside existing IP-based networks so that industry adopters can allow the two to coexist. Operators can choose to start the SDN deployment in any isolated environment and then use an SDN-IP Peering application to connect their SDN island to the rest of the network. Following that, they will be able to roll out the SDN technology to the whole network gradually and at their own pace.

This approach may also be useful when operators want to build an SDN-based transit network, where high capacity is needed and lower costs are desired. This SDN-IP Peering app along with ONOS is an optimal choice to help build such a cost-effective transit network, the project partners claim.

The use of this application on the Internet2 Network has already expanded, peering with additional deployments of ONOS at other universities and national research and education networks around the globe, including South American research network AmLight operated by Florida International University. Connectivity to European network GEANT through the Italian research and education network GARR is also planned.

Early work in the Internet2 implementation has also generated useful feedback that is now included as part of the requirements for upcoming ONOS releases.

“At ON.Lab we develop interesting open source SDN platforms and Internet2 is a keen early adopter bringing new capabilities to its customers,” said Bill Snow, vice president of Engineering for ON.Lab. “With the deployment of ONOS on Internet2’s nationwide network, we get to validate and demonstrate ONOS’s scalability, performance and high availability in a production setting and learn from this experience to make ONOS better.”

The main partners in the ONOS project include AT&T, China Unicom, Ciena, Cisco, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Huawei, Intel, the US National Science Foundation, NEC, NTT Communications and SK Telecom.

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