Open Network Foundation & Other Organizations; ONF-Optical Transport WG; Ciena & SDN

1.  ONF relationship to ETSI NFV WG and OpenDaylight Consortium:

My last Viodi View article examined the motivation and current work of the ETSI NFV WG and questioned whether service providers might prefer to base “software control” of their networks on that standards initiative, rather than SDN-Open Flow from the ONF.

Dan Pitt, ONF Executive Director (and a colleague of this author for 30 years) acknowledged the SDN carrier issue in an email: “During the Open Network Summit, there was a lot of interest and discussion around the impact of SDN on carriers, service providers and the telecommunications industry. At ONF, we are excited to continue our close work with the ETSI network-operator-led Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) Industry Specification Group (ISG).”

Regarding the ONFs relationship with the new OpenDaylight Consortium, Dan wrote the following:

  • “ONF welcomes any group that supports the mission of furthering the commercialization of open, standards-based SDN.
  • The Foundation was aware of the pending launch of the OpenDaylight Project as well as the participation of our member companies within this initiative.
  • We encourage our member companies to participate in any industry initiatives – including open-source ones – designed to foster innovation, implementation, and deployment of SDN.
  • We are pleased that the OpenDaylight Project will focus on the OpenFlow™ protocol standard that ONF provides and continues to evolve.
  • While we have endorsed user-led SDN initiatives, we are supportive of any group that holds true to our guiding principles by being based on multi-vendor standards and open to broad, merit-based, multi-vendor input.”

2.   ONFs Optical Transport WG:

The new ONF-Optical Transport WG (OTWG), chaired by Ciena’s Lyndon Ong, will be of interest to all service providers considering SDN for enhancing their networks and delivering new services.  This new ONF WG will address “SDN and OpenFlow™ control capabilities for optical transport networks. The work will include: identifying use cases, defining a target reference architecture for controlling optical transport networks incorporating the OpenFlow Standard, and identifying and creating OpenFlow protocol extensions.” 

The Optical Transport WG has had several conference calls and two face to face meetings since its initial formation as a Discussion Group in September 2012.  It was approved by the ONF Board on March 17, 2013 as a new Working Group.  Its members include large optical networking vendors (such as Ciena, Huawei, Ericsson, ADVA and Infinera), smaller vendors (such as BigSwitch and Vello Systems), and carriers such as Verizon.

Lyndon wrote in an email, “Verizon has been the most active carrier participant in the OTWG, although DT and Telefonica participants have also attended some of the conference calls. More recently we have had representatives from Korea Telecom, Level 3 and  NTT, so the number of carriers may increase now that we are an approved ONF Working Group.”

We think that network operators will be following this work very closely- either as direct OTWG participants, or via their network equipment vendor partners.

3.  Goals and Objectives of the ONF Optical Transport WG (OTWG):

  • Develop a use-case document describing applicable use-cases for SDN and the OpenFlow Standard as they apply to optical transport networks, showing how the OpenFlow Standard is added to the original network control architecture in each scenario to enable new problem solutions
  • Develop a reference architecture and framework document describing terminology, modeling of optical transport switches and networks, and utilization of virtualization and network abstraction in optical transport networks
  • Formulate an information model representing generic optical transport networks and optical switches, and the corresponding data models that can be used by ONF protocols
  • Document the requirements needed to address gaps and support optical transport service providers’ carrier grade requirements with regards to network stability, security and resilience, migration, and interoperability with existing platforms
  • Recommend solutions and extensions to the ONF protocols that address the identified requirements for SDN and the OpenFlow Standard control of optical transport networks

The Charter of the OTWG states:

“The OTWG will develop a use-case document describing applicable use-cases for SDN and the OpenFlow Standard as they apply to optical transport networks, showing how the OpenFlow Standard is added to the original network control architecture in each scenario to enable new problem solutions.”

Three important Milestones for the OTWG (from Chair Lyndon Ong) are the following:

  • September 15, 2013: Submit a Final Version of the OTWG Architecture and Framework document (including Information/Data Model work) and Use-Case document for TAG/Chairs review
  • December 15, 2013: Complete a First Version of the OTWG Requirements document
  • April 15, 2014: Submit a Final Version of the OTWG Requirements document for TAG Chairs to review

The OTWG Reference Architecture figure below illustrates both the “direct” and “abstracted” approaches being being progressed by the OTWG.

SDN Reference Architecture is depicted in this diagram.

In the “abstracted” approach, the client controller operates on an abstracted or virtual view of the network. This enables the network topology to be simplified or reflect a partition based on policy management.  The Mediation/ Virtualization FlowVisor function does a translation between the southbound interface (i.e., OpenFlow with optical extensions) from the client controller to what is being transmitted to the actual optical network elements.

In summary, Lyndon had this to say about SDN and ONF Optical Transport WG:

“SDN is one of the most exciting developments in networking in some time, and has the potential to unlock innovation and upgrade network efficiencies. I’m looking forward to working together with my industry colleagues through the ONF Optical Transport Working Group to address SDN and OpenFlow standards for optical transport network control.  From a Ciena viewpoint, I think this is very much in line with our focus on streamlined forwarding, software automation and programmability, and will lead to benefits to Ciena’s customers.”

4.  Ciena is “all in” for SDN!

Ciena is clearly committed to ONF SDN. In addtion to Lyndon Ong chairing the ONF OTWG, the company participated in the ONF PlugFest that took place last October.  More importantly, Ciena announced they will deliver OpenFlow in their optical packet network equipment as per this blog post on their SDN strategy: Detailing Ciena’s SDN Strategy 

As a strong indication of Ciena’s committment to the ONF and SDN product support, Joe Berthold, PhD – Physics and VP of Network Architecture at Ciena wrote in an email:

“Ciena is aggressively embracing openness at both API levels – business applications to network control software, and network control software to network physical equipment – because we firmly believe that openness is the most critical attribute of SDN. The point of SDN is to unleash productive innovation by making network behaviors more determined by software. Software is relatively malleable, accessible, and quick to change as needed to deliver something new. But for these properties to be exploited, openness is essential. We are committed to bringing openness to our network operator customers through our OPn architecture. As such, we are highly active in the Open Networking Foundation (ONF), where the industry’s leading organizations are collaborating to define the openness-based framework. In fact, we have been contributing significant resources to advance the work of the ONF, and currently two of our staff members serve as working group chairs.”


The author sincerely thanks Dan Pitt, Lyndon Ong, Joe Berthold, and Jamie Moody for their contributions to this article.

Next Up:

Stay tuned for the final article in this series, which will report results from an interview with Dan Pitt that has yet to be scheduled.

0 thoughts on “Open Network Foundation & Other Organizations; ONF-Optical Transport WG; Ciena & SDN

  1. Superb article! Looking forward to reading more about ONF “standards” process after your interview with Dan Pitt. Especially interested in how ONF will work with ETSI NFV and then input to ITU-T. Which ITU-T study group might undertake such a project on software control of telecom networks?

      1. ITU-T SG13 is planning work on SDN during the current 2013-16 Study Period. Study Group 13 has initial responsiblity. The following study questions have been defined and will be addressed in future meetings:
        •Q.2/13 “Requirements for NGN evolution (NGN-e) and its capabilities including support of IoT and use of software-defined networking” as in TD 31 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.3/13 “Functional architecture for NGN evolution (NGN-e) including support of IoT and use of software-defined networking” as in TD 31 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.6/13 “Requirements and mechanisms for network QoS enablement (including support for software-defined networking)” as in Annex 1 of TD 18 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.8/13 “Security and identity management in evolving managed networks (including software-defined networking)” as in Annex 2 of TD 18 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.9/19 “Mobility management (including support for software-defined networking)”as in Annex 3 of TD 18 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.11/13 “Evolution of user centric networking, services, and interworking with networks of the future including Software-Defined Networking”as in TD 26 (PLEN/13)
        •Q.14/13 “Software-Defined Networking and Service aware networking of future networks”as in TD 26 (PLEN/13)
        However, SG13 is only responsible for service descriptions and architectures- not for implementable protocols or physical interfaces! For more info see this ITU-T SG13 Plenary report from Feb 2013 meeting:

  2. Thanks for the insight and perspective on so many SDN topics and issues. What do you make of the exponentially increasing SDN hype in light of all the confustion, use of NV/NFV instead of SDN, and lack of implemntable standards? Here’ s a great example: SDN market about to explode-Could be 10 times previous forecasts, according to researchers!

    1. Thanks for your comment. As I am not a market forecaster & don’t believe in any of the numbers published for ANY telecom technology, I can’t directly answer your question. Here’s a vague attempt:
      When I organized the July 2012 IEEE ComSocSCV meeting: “SDN- New Epoch or Passing Fad,” I had some doubts on SDN’s commercial viability, especially for service providers. Those doubts are much larger now, despite all the hype and love fests. The more of those I read about, the more pessimistic I get on SDN!!!
      Opinion: I think SDN has to prove itself before telcos will deploy it. Currently, there are no standards, other than Open Flow, which many companies are NOT using in their SDN implementations.
      The cleanest place to start is to use SDN-Open Flow to interconnect large scale data centers, as Google announced last year and documented in this post:

      Using SDN-Open Flow any place else, e.g within Data Centers (interconnection of DC switch/routers), telecom access, telecom internal/back end network, cloud network access (as a replacement for IP-MPLS VPNs), etc will be a MAJOR FORKLIFT UPGRADE or overlay of existing network equipment (which violates the strict separation of data and control planes). Yet the extremely bullish, optimistic forecasts will probably increase nonetheless as the hype continues to build. This old pro has been there before- many times!

  3. From 3rd ETSI Future Networks Workshop-April 2013:
    • What needs to be standardized for NFV and related areas?
    • Which functions and interfaces would give most benefit to the industry from standardization?
    • What are the complexities and difficulties associated with standardising particular functions/interfaces?
    • How and where should standardisation take place?
    • Do proprietary standards have merit and which standards bodies should be the focus of attention?
    • What are the merits and limitation of the approach of the NFV ISG which focuses on white papers rather than defining new standards?
    • All the Management and Orchestration systems already exist, but they’re proprietary. Should they be standardized?
    • Should open source software be a standard?
    • When virtualizing LTE, placing it ‘in the cloud’ will not meet the low latency requirement which lead assumption of distributed deployment?
    • Is NFV public cloud or private cloud, and if its private cloud, what’s the advantage of NFV?
    • Is the emerging market for NFV or SDN clear enough to permit stable standards?
    Reference: Towards Future Networks – a viewpoint from ITU-T”, IEEE Communication Magazine, Vol. 51, No.3, March 2013, pp 112-118 (available on line for IEEE ComSoc members and IEEE Xplore subscribers).

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