Transport SDN: networking in the fast lane

01 October 2013 | Chris Champion

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Chris Champion

Blog Author | Infinera; Senior Vice President, sales, EMEA


Software Defined Networking (SDN) is quickly becoming one of the biggest trends in the networking industry.

Software Defined Networking (SDN) is quickly becoming one of the biggest trends in the networking industry.

SDN is designed to simplify network operations, while accelerating new service delivery. It's not just packet networks that may benefit from SDN. We are also extending SDN to the optical transport network, with the introduction of Transport SDN. Transport SDN enables faster and more flexible delivery of optical transport services.

Most network operators are struggling to run multi-layer, multi-vendor, multi-domain networks more efficiently. In the transport layer of the network, the transport and the router layers are controlled separately, which means it can be a challenge to manage. Transport SDN is revolutionising the transport optical layer by enabling a central control plane that connects the router and transport layers, allowing for more control and further helping to increase network efficiency.

The benefits of Transport SDN are fourfold:

1. Operational simplicity – It simplifies everything on the transport layer by creating one central point at which the applications and circuits can be controlled and automated.

2. Accelerated Service innovation – It allows network or applications changes to be simulated and tested ahead of time, through software and automated processes, accelerating the rate of new service innovation.

3. Increased Efficiency – Centralised control of network resources allows increased utilisation of network assets.

4. Accelerated Revenue – Automated, centralised control of network resources enables faster provisioning of new services for customers.

With any new trend there are always challenges to overcome in order for adoption to be encouraged, and Transport SDN is no exception. One of the biggest hurdles is that many networks are not SDN-ready. The future certainly looks bright for Transport SDN and while we remain in the early stages of adoption, now is the perfect time to ensure that networks are SDN-ready. For any network, this requires equipment that is capable of allowing centralised SDN control over a pool of computational, bandwidth or application resources.

Transport SDN involves even greater challenges, as it occurs at incredibly high speeds and involves massive quantities of bandwidth and traffic. Multilayer control is essential between the transport and router layers for this to work, while the combined multi-protocol capabilities of OTN and GMPLS are crucial to enable access to large pools of bandwidth that are optimal for efficient SDN control.

When executed properly, Transport SDN can be used to provision services and automatically optimise network resources across a multi-layer network to meet changing traffic demands. Ultimately, dynamically meeting or even creating demand with new service offerings is the goal. Service providers and standards bodies are working towards this, but they must be both right and quick.

For service providers who are behind, the competition will not wait for you. Vendors, engineers and standards bodies alike cannot afford to languish, or they may find out Transport SDN is already here.