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Software-defined networking gets boost from Ciena

The network specialist, Ciena Corporation is building a software-defined, multi-layer wide area network (WAN), in collaboration with with CANARIE, Internet2 and StarLight to boost confidence in the technology of software-defined networking (SDN).

The project will bring together the key packet, optical, and software building blocks required to demonstrate the benefits of such networks. It will use OpenFlow across both the packet and transport layers, will be supported by an open architecture carrier-scale controller and intrinsic multi-layer operation, and incorporate real-time analytics software.

The research network will give research and education institutions and other network operators a platform to experiment with software-defined networking  and other advanced technologies such as agile photonics and real-time analytics software. SDN offers the promise of network programmability together with powerful new software intelligence capabilities to help optimise the network assets in-service. This new network platform will help speed SDN development for carriers and enable Ciena and its partners to explore and refine practical paths to SDN adoption and realization of its benefits.

The network is the first to broadly deploy multi-layer SDN technologies, providing OpenFlow-enabled SDN at both the optical transport layer as well as the packet networking layer. It also offers a modular carrier-scale software control system that uses open source components. Researchers can try out new technologies on a fully operational network without having to build a unique infrastructure for every use case.

A multi-path infrastructure will connect Ciena’s corporate headquarters in Hanover, Maryland, USA with its largest R&D center in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. International connectivity is achieved with Internet2 through the StarLight International/National Communications Exchange in Chicago and CANARIE, Canada's national optical fibre-based advanced R&E network. This research network has the potential to cross connect data flows from Ciena R&D labs to virtually any National Research Network (NREN) or university research facility across the globe. This is the first time a network vendor, such as Ciena, has been connected to an international span of NRENs. The network architecture currently spans 2500 km. The network footprint is expected to grow in 2014.

According to Guru Parulkar, executive director at Open Networking Laboratory: 'SDN promises to change networking fundamentally for the better – lowering costs while expanding flexibility, programmability, and monetisability for service providers. However, it also represents a significant transformation in how networks are built and operated. Plotting the forward course from the status quo is not a simple matter, especially for service providers who operate large networks and operate many revenue-bearing services managed by complex back-office environments. By working with R&E partners to create a real and largely fully-featured operating model of a “future” software-defined WAN, Ciena is providing a place and opportunity for relevant industry experiential learning. Such activities are critical to bringing SDN reality closer.'

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