Abstract and virtualize, compartmentalize and simplify: Automating network connectivity services with Optical Service Orchestration

Service providers delivering network connectivity services are evolving the transport infrastructure to deliver services faster and more cost efficiently. Part of the strategy includes using a disaggregated network architecture that is open, programmable and highly automated. The second part of the approach takes into consideration how service providers can leverage that infrastructure to deliver new value-added services. There’s no question that the network can, but to what extent? How agile does the infrastructure need to be to accommodate dynamic services? What is required to shift the transport infrastructure more to the revenue infrastructure column rather than the overhead infrastructure column?

Today, service providers have deployed separate optical transport networks with each containing a single vendor’s proprietary network elements.  Optical line systems using analog amplification are customized and tuned to enhance the overall system performance, making it nearly impossible for different vendor devices to work together within the same domain. For years, service providers with simple point-to-point transmission have used alien wavelength deployments leveraging multi-vendor transmission on single vendor optical networks. However, as service providers look to add more flexibility to the network using configurable optical add/drop multiplexing, the ability to use different vendor components on legacy systems is impractical.

It is evident by historical deployments that optical vendors have competed for business based on system flexibility, capacity, and cost per KM. This has led to the deployment of optical domain islands. That doesn’t reflect a dastardly plan by any single vendor to corner the optical transport market. As outlined above, the drive to differentiate on performance and capacity contribute to monolithic, closed, and proprietary systems. In many cases network properties, span distance, or fiber type, dictates what system a service provider deploys. This leads to a deployment of separate optical system islands (optical domains). A provider has separate optical domains in metro networks, access network, and long haul networks. Each network is managed by a separate management system, which means that for service providers to configure services across the optical infrastructure, manual coordination is required.

Industry collaboration efforts such as the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) have contributed tremendously to interoperability of physical and link layers by developing implementation agreements, socializing standards, benchmark performance, and testing interoperability. These efforts have accelerated deployment of technology that lowers cost of implementing high capacity technology. However, service providers still face the expense and time of managing separate optical domains together and maintaining them over time.

Many service providers are leading the industry to supporting open optical systems. With open optical systems, optical networks are deployed in a greenfield environment where the vendors are natively and voluntarily interoperable. The Open ROADM MSA and participating vendors is one example. Open ROADM devices are part of a centrally controlled network that includes multiple vendors’ equipment, and functionality is defined by an open specification. This type of open network delivers value with lower equipment costs and reduced supply disruptions.

There is no escaping the complication that this type of networking makes it inherently difficult for service providers to introduce new vendors into a network that is delivering private line services. In this environment, operational costs are far more significant than equipment costs. Each system is configured independently, with time and extreme expertise across multiple functional areas required to bring them together to deliver end user services. New services face the same hurdles of time, field, and needed back office expertise, further incrementing the work needed to integrate existing elements.

To fully harness the power of automated provisioning and virtualization for network connectivity services, a different type of orchestration is required. We’ll call it Optical Service Orchestration (OSO.) With the OSO concept, service providers are able to lifecycle manage connectivity services across separate optical domains, and virtualize the optical domains, allowing end customers to manage their own private network.

Using OSO, service providers don’t have to change out the entire network. They can deliver a network connectivity service from one domain to another, whether it’s physical or virtual, with simple configuration changes that are controlled and managed by software-defined networking.

An Optical Service Orchestrator combines the existing network with innovative vendor approaches as it makes sense for the network and the business. Some domains are open; some are not. Some vendors want to participate in open technologies and communities, some do not. Some are highly focused on the performance that comes from a tightly coupled optical components. The truth is that vendors occupying the optical domain have been doing this for a long time and are evolving their technology to deliver next-generation digital services. It would be foolish to turn away from expert innovation in an attempt to commoditize network equipment.  Especially when the underlying optical component ecosystem is already commoditized.

In a typical operator optical network with a mix of legacy and open optical domain deployments, an OSO platform controls multiple optical domains, regardless how open the domain is, and automatically stitches services together across domains. Each domain becomes an abstracted ”network element” with discrete inputs and outputs, with the OSO orchestrating puts and gets into an automated workflow. This common controller extracts the optical topology to the IP and MPLS layer and then adds layer 2 and layer 3 services on top programmatically and automatically, spanning the physical and virtual network seamlessly.

The result is that the operator can deliver Ethernet private line service without having to understand and configure each vendor’s optical domain. The domain vendor controller handles the idiosyncrasies of the optical domain without having to give up on network performance (Cost / GB-KM). Abstract and virtualize, compartmentalize and simplify.

Service providers are able to leverage the OSO capabilities to virtualize transport networks by providing a simple customer web portal. The portal allows a service provider’s end customers to provision their own services on a virtual optical network using service templates with any number of network element configurations.

Service providers gain the ability to extend the life of their legacy gear, as well as allowing for the eventuality of introducing new gear into the network- all while using software to provision dynamic services. With the OSO, service providers can automate transport, lower costs all while growing and monetizing new network connectivity services.

Andres Viera will present “Enabling Automation in Optical Networks” at the NFV & Zero Touch Congress show, April 25 @ 4:05pm. Stop by Fujitsu booth #13 to learn more.

About Andres Viera

Andres is the Product Line Manager for Virtuora Service Activator powered by UBiqube. In this role, he is responsible for defining SDN/NFV control solutions, use cases, and detailed product requirements. Andres is also an expert in defining multi-layer network orchestration and control framework solutions, as well as defining IP layer service life-cycle management and network control applications. He holds a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in mechanical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and an MBA in Finance from Fordham University.