Enabling SDN Management in the WAN with New Platform & App

The promise of SDN is being stymied in the WAN, where operators are challenged to deliver more and more disparate services with varying and conflicting requirements. Automation is a must in these environments, because they must also process a higher volume and rate of requests for network resources that need to be provisioned rapidly, often within seconds.

SDN architecture, once applied to the WAN, can help address these challenges. However, while SDN controllers can simplify and speed provisioning, they lack the management intelligence needed to run these networks effectively. Humans are taken out of the equation, as visibility into the network is lost. Planning committees no longer get weeks and months to prepare for the rollout of new services. When programmatic changes work, this is not an issue. But in complex networks – especially multi service, multi SDN controller WANs   – operators risk controllers making automatic changes that may conflict with the commands of other controllers, negatively impact application and service performance, and under- or over-utilize links.

What’s needed for viable, programmatic SDN orchestration in the WAN is to replicate the engineering and planning know-how of human operators and restore visibility and control via real-time analytics software. If programmed network changes happen in real time, management systems must recognize them in real time. Polling the routed network infrastructure periodically is inadequate and leaves operators blind. Deploying probes to monitor constantly shifting virtual devices and service traffic is problematic and expensive.

Always-current network routing models, traffic matrices and performance analytics are required for intelligent, real-time orchestration by SDN controllers and also for the operational monitoring of overlay networks and dynamic applications, such as traffic engineering, bandwidth calendaring, and virtualized network functions.

This requires another tier in the SDN architecture between the SDN controller(s) and SDN applications – one for intelligent management and orchestration.

Today Packet Design announced that we are filling this void with our new SDN Platform. This is the first independent, vendor-agnostic platform to provide access to the key analytics, optimization and automation functions required by SDN applications. The platform provides the critical analytics-based SDN orchestration layer between the physical and virtual network infrastructure and the applications that need network resources. This layer uses Packet Design’s unique real-time telemetry, analytics, optimization, and policy to enable intelligent provisioning of network services and accelerate service activation.

The platform was built on the Explorer suite’s ability to see and capture the current routing topology and all events in real time. Packet Design is the only company that correlates real-time routing and path behavior with traffic flows and network infrastructure performance, enabling customers to understand how routing events and failures affect the path and performance of critical service traffic. This real-time routing intelligence is the foundation
for analytics and automation in the WAN-SDN (aka carrier SDN).

Packet Design’s platform is comprised of the Explorer suite of products plus new SDN extensions, including APIs for programmatic access. It builds and continually maintains routing topology models, traffic matrices, performance metrics, predictive analytics, optimization algorithms and business policies to determine in real time if and how application requests for network resources can be satisfied. Additionally, it calculates the impact that the requested changes will have on other services by determining the resulting network topology, traffic behavior, and latency.

The platform also maintains historical traffic matrices (by time of day, day of week, workload profile, etc.) to predict link utilization in the future and determine if network load is likely to change significantly after the application request is satisfied (for example, the predictable increase in market data and trading traffic that occurs when stock markets open).

Packet Design is also delivering SDN applications, the first being a Traffic Engineering (SDN-TE) application built on the SDN Platform (via RESTful APIs) to optimize and provision RSVP-TE tunnels based on available bandwidth and user-specified policies. To balance link utilization, the application leverages the Explorer Suite’s always-current network models and traffic matrices to verify if the network can accommodate requested TE tunnels’ bandwidth requirements. If so, it calculates the best paths and provisions the tunnels via an OpenDaylight-based controller. For customers with a large number of RSVP-TE tunnels, this task usually takes days or weeks, but with Packet Design, it will take minutes. Future versions will support other open source and commercial SDN controllers.

The SDN Platform is open, meaning that its components can be accessed via the RESTful APIs by third party applications. For example, a service provider could use the APIs to populate its customer portal with service-specific performance metrics from the Packet Design platform as well as develop its own custom SDN applications. This capability supports the nature of the highly customized OSS and BSS systems service providers use and their constant focus on using technology to differentiate their services.

We hope and expect the visibility and control afforded by the new SDN Platform and SDN-TE app will remove some of the uncertainty and risk from SDN deployments. Being able to provision software-defined network resources dynamically to accommodate different service types, variable demands, and failures will allow operators to increase business agility, improve operational efficiency, minimize over-provisioning of network resources, better control capex outlays, and decrease operating expenses.

For more information about these products, here are a few resources: