AAC Digest

SDN testbeds and future networks

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SDN Breakthrough Announcement
By David Wilde, AARNet Network Architect
As a National R&E Network (NREN) operator, our goal is to render the network invisible: it should function so well and seamlessly that our users no longer even think about it. But regardless of our ongoing efforts towards achieving this, the network is now only part of the solution when it comes to providing a useful service to our users, whether they are in the domains of research, teaching & learning or support. Compute power and storage are necessary additional building blocks to create the infrastructure which our users now require a daily basis. And for that infrastructure to be used to its full potential, it is equally necessary for software tools to be developed and the right people and practices put in place.
Software Defined Networking (SDN) is a tool we’ve been testing. SDN is rapidly emerging as a technology with potential to improve network flexibility via software-based management and control. To date, development has been centred around data-centre and campus networks, and relatively little work has been done on the applicability of SDN to wide area and carrier networks.A consortium of researchers from nine Universities and the CSIRO, led by UNSW, has been awarded a LIEF grant by the Australian Research Council to deploy SDN equipment within each of their labs. These sites are being interconnected by AARNet to create a national wide-area SDN testbed environment.This testbed is already helping us better understand the SDN ecosystem – Openflow-enabled hardware (Noviflow, Pica8, Corsa), controller software (Floodlight, Ryu, ONOS), application development APIs, and SDN applications themselves.Building this wide-area testbed is helping us learn the complexity, maturity, performance, and scalability aspects of carrier SDN deployment, as well as identify current gaps. The intended result is a growing store of knowledge and experience, to be shared with network operators who are potentially interested in exploring SDN solutions.

Last month AARNet and CSIRO joined forces with ESnet, Corsa and the Open Networking Foundation to demonstrate international carrier-scale SDN exchanging 15,000 routes across a trans-Pacific link. The key focus was to demonstrate that multiple parties – in this case AARNet, CSIRO and ESnet – could use SDN and OpenFlow across the WAN.

AARNet is shortly adding its own SDN testbed to the mix, which will have Noviflow switches in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth and Seattle. Once this network is operational, the next focus will be OpenFlow services and application-layer integration, to try and expand the understanding of SDN. It will also enable international testing on an adhoc basis.

David spoke about SDN developments at the Australian SDN meetup on 10 June in Melbourne.


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