ONF Pushes Disaggregation and Open Source Optical Networking

Created May 4, 2018
Dai Kashiwa, Director of NTT Communications, and an ONF board member representative of the NTT GroupApplications and Research

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) is sponsoring a new, far-reaching community effort to bring the benefits of open networking to the optical domain. The Open Disaggregated Transport Network (ODTN) project is an operator-led initiative to build optical transport networks using disaggregated optical equipment, open and common standards, and open source software. The project is backed by some of the world’s largest network operators, namely China Unicom, Comcast, NTT Communications, Telefonica and TIM. These heavyweights are collaborating to build this first-of-its-kind open source platform to initiate a transformation within optical transport networking.

Each of the five founding operators has committed to performing lab integration and evaluation of the platform for future transport applications. Additional support is being provided by leading vendors in the optical equipment space, with NEC, Nokia, Oplink and ZTE contributing to the software platform and building full solutions, CTTC contributing from academia, and ADVA, Ciena, Coriant, CoAdna, Infinera and Lumentum participating in lab and field trials.

The ODTN aims to drive innovation by delivering an open source platform for running multi-vendor optical transport networks. ODTN is designed to enable an optical peripherals ecosystem that allows multiple components to be combined and assembled into complete solutions. Just as the SDN movement has disaggregated the datacentre and operator edge networks, ODTN wants to bring similar benefits to the optical transport network, including best-of-breed choice, elimination of vendor lock-in, cost containment and accelerated innovation.

The ONF reasons that operators that are experiencing rapid traffic growth can benefit significantly from disaggregation between the terminal equipment and the optical line system. Disaggregation allows for the rapid adoption of the latest transponder technology, which advances at a much faster pace than the line system. Furthermore, open source and SDN solutions also work to eliminate complex and proprietary Element and Network Management Systems (EMS/NMS), leading to their streamlined integration into production networks.

Historically, long distance DWDM communications has been known to pose technological challenges due to the analogue nature of optics. This complexity has long been the logic behind the requirement for vertically integrated solutions, but ODTN is taking an approach designed to bridge this gap. To ease optical distance and transponder compatibility issues, ODTN will assume that every optical link uses a matched pair of transponders from a single vendor. But unlike single vendor solutions, the network can use a different brand of transponder for each coloured wavelength link, and these transponders can run over an open line system from yet another supplier.

“It is one of the most innovative technical challenges to deploy open SDN/disaggregation technologies into transport networks. We expect that it will dramatically shorten the service development term and reduce costs,” said Dai Kashiwa, Director of NTT Communications, and an ONF board member representative of the NTT Group.

“Disaggregation is an essential requisite for the application of SDN to transport networks,” added Juan-Carlos Garcia, Director of Technology and Architecture, GCTIO, Telefonica. “This SDN application is key to accomplish our goals regarding network virtualisation, focused on extending and personalising user services, and pursuing full operational automation.



This article was written
by John Williamson

John Williamson is a freelance telecommunications, IT and military communications journalist. He has also written for national and international media, and been a telecoms advisor to the World Bank.