internet2+cloud servicesSoftware defined networking (SDN) concepts are critical to new capabilities launched on the Internet2 research and education network. Five higher education institutions are connected to a virtual network slice controlled via open source SDN network operating system (ONOS) technology and can exchange traffic with traditional networks using an ONOS-based SDN-IP peering application.

ONOS has essentially eliminated the need for routers on the network slice, explained Eric Boyd, senior director for strategic projects for Internet 2’s network services division, in an interview. ONOS in this instance could be thought of as “the equivalent of a software router,” Boyd said.

The five institutions involved are Duke University, Florida International University, the Indiana GigaPoP, MAX/ University of Maryland- College Park, and the University of Utah.

Internet2 ONOS Application
SDN aims to make carrier networks more agile and economical by separating the control plane from network devices and generally centralizing network control. Network slicing uses SDN to isolate a group of users from other traffic on a network, giving participants something that behaves like a separate network that does not impact and is not impacted by traffic on the main network.

“Slicing is done at Layer 2; ONOS is at Layer 3,” said Boyd. On the five-institution slice, “we created a virtual network without a router,” noted Boyd. “We are effectively using ONOS to create the same impact that our high-powered routers do.”

Slicing may sound like a virtual private network, but it brings added capabilities not available with traditional VPNs. For example, unlike a traditional VPN, a network slice can use a different operating system than the main network at the port forwarding layer.

Internet 2 has had slicing capability on its network since last year. But by adding the ONOS-based peering application, the five-institution network slice can now peer with traditional networks.

ONOS is an SDN operating system that became available late last year. Organizations that funded ONOS include AT&T and NTT Communications, as well as several telecom vendors. Internet 2 and other organizations also participated in the creation of ONOS.

ONOS also could play an important role in transforming traditional telecom central offices to resemble data centers, with CO functionality virtualized on general purpose hardware rather than residing on dedicated devices. AT&T last week announced a demo that will use ONOS to demonstrate how the operating system could be used to support those CO transformation plans.

Comments from Boyd suggest that further ONOS innovation could be on tap from other research and networks as well.

“The research and education community across the globe is very interested in new technologies that are open and standards-based because they [allow] interoperability between vendors,” said Boyd. “ONOS does meet that criteria.”