Network equipment company will update its OmniSwitch operating system early next year with components allowing enterprises to build software-defined networks
By: Howard Solomon Computing Canada (28 Nov 2012)
Alcatel-Lucent’s vision for creating software-defined networks doesn’t include OpenFlow in the short-term, a communications protocol often touted as a building block of SDNs.
However, when the company released its SDN strategy on Tuesday it said adding OpenFlow to its switches won’t likely happen before 2014, because adoption of the technology isn’t moving quickly.
Besides, says Cliff Grossner, Alcatel’s Ottawa-based senior director of network solutions, there are other ways of building SDNs than with OpenFlow.
So the Alcatel strategy is to deliver tools early next year to allow organizations to build small software-defined networks on existing networks with the flexibility to allow them to scale up.
The goal, Grossner said, is to have one co-ordinated virtual infrastructure across servers, applications, network and storage. This approach also allows SDNs to span across an entire enterprise and not just the data centre, he said. “I believe that we bring a practical approach to DSN for enterprise scale networks.”
The manufacturer will do it by releasing several components in the first half of 2013 to its Alcatel Operating System (AOS) for its OmniSwitch 10000 and 6900 data centre switches.
These include --RESTful application programmable interfaces, which will allow applications, external controllers and orchestration platforms such as OpenStack and CloudStack to talk to the OmniSwitches; --new application performance analysis through what Alcatel calls “application fingerprinting” and performance graphs of virtual machines ; --and a way to ensure a global view of everything on the network.
As part of the strategy Alcatel’s OmniVista 2500 Virtual Machine Manager now recognizes VMware hypervisors in addition to Citrix’s.
The goal is to allow IT and network administrators to automate the network to meet demands of virtual workloads. Software-defined networking is a way of letting a server control a network by separating the plane in physical routers and switches into a separate layer that network operators can customize the network for specific applications.
Still in its early stages, network equipment makers are rushing out strategies and products to enable network administrators to start building SDNs. However, industry analyst Zeus Kerravala of ZK Research says the fact that there’s no standard approach is stunting the technology’s growth.
That’s one reason why most organizations he talks to are still researching SDNs.
Kerravala likes Alcatel’s approach, which doesn’t require enterprises to rip out old networks. Instead, he says it’s a “practical solution that can be deployed along side existing networks.”
One of the problems with SDNs is they require a large degree of programming by IT knowledgeable staff, who may be in short supply in small companies. That’s also one reason why right now SDNs are of great interest to carriers, service providers and researchers.
Kerravala notes that Alcatel has tried to put things together so enterprises can start a small software-defined network and allow it to grow. And while many competitors are touting their switches now are OpenFlow-enabled, he said Alcatel won’t be hurt by holding off as long as it can educate its customers.
Grossner said that Alcatel believes that a number of SDN approaches by competitors are more suited to carriers than enterprises, which tailored its strategy.
He said Alcatel’s so-called Application Fluency approach has been making networks application-aware since 2010, so its SDN strategy fits right