CALIENT Technologies

Move the light, not the fiber

Modular Core Router is Latest in Trend to Make Service Provider Networks More Flexible

New network architectures are emerging to help make service provider networks more flexible and to take advantage of software defined networking (SDN) architectures. One trend is the disaggregation of network systems to more efficiently connect transport networks to local distribution networks.

Credit: Flickr User Robert

How? That’s where having a zero latency, unlimited bandwidth, optical circuit switch like the CALIENT S320 comes in handy.

I’ve already written about this trend twice in the context of data center networking. First was this post about the general benefits of disaggregation in the data center using the vPOD architecture. I also wrote this post about interest we’ve had from some customers in vCluster – GPU networking and FPGA sharing – two applications that are closely related to disaggregation.

Now, the trend is moving into the service provider network. We’re actively collaborating with a service provider and router vendor to disaggregate, or more accurately, modularize the core router.  We’ve successfully proven the economic value, but there’s additional work we’re doing now to prove that deconstructing circuit switching from packet switching allows the scaling benefit that we hope.

This is a big deal because core routing is expensive and complex to manage. And workloads are not as static as they used to be, which requires a lot more re-configuring of the core router.  This takes staff time and can mean network configuration errors. Some core router manufacturers are working on automation of the core router configurations using machine learning and artificial intelligence. While these efforts are a few years in the future, modularization of the core router can be done now and is complementary with advances in automation.

Taking a Look at the Modular Core Router

As can be seen from the illustration below, the standard transport-to-access network architecture involves dense wave-division multiplexers (DWDM) handing off optical traffic to core routers that route the data packets to edge routers which, in turn, route traffic on the last mile to the customer premise.

To create a modular router, this configuration is replaced with a CALIENT S320 OCS providing a low latency connection between stackable core routers and the edge routers. Data traffic comes into the S320 and, using its all-optical MEMS switch, is directed to the proper core router which forwards it to the right edge router, again using a dedicated connection provided by the OCS. This configuration allows core connectivity to be optimized based on bandwidth profile with additional core router capacity added up on demand. Essentially, the OCS acts as a flexible backplane for the modular components making up the core routing function.  OCS connections can easily be reconfigured to accommodate traffic changes using SDN or CALIENT’s own management software.

The modular router has great potential for service providers and we’re excited about the results. Stay tuned for more updates as we further prove out this new concept.


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