Dispatches from Fairbanks, Alaska: OSCARS Goes with the Flow– OpenFlow and NEC ProgrammableFlow, that is

ESnet’s Inder Monga and Samrat Ganguly of NEC Corporation made a splash at the Summer 2011 ESCC/Internet2 Joint Techs conference in Fairbanks, Alaska by demonstrating some brand new ways that laboratories, universities, and industry can integrate end-to-end network virtualization across both the local area network (LAN) and wide area network (WAN). Check out the video of their demo “OpenFlow with OSCARS: Bridging the gap between campus, data centers and the WAN.”

Monga and Ganguly combined OpenFlow and On-Demand Secure Circuits and Advance Reservation System (OSCARS) as centralized controller technologies with NEC ProgrammableFlow switches to demonstrate automation and secure service provisioning that will enable scientists to share data and collaborate easier while easing the burden on their campus IT infrastructure staff.

Science networking already extensively employs aspects of network virtualization. Mismatches still exist between the campus networks, HPC data centers and R&E networks that require manual intervention and limit end-to-end automation and control. But OpenFlow-enabled campuses, through integration with OSCARS WAN capabilities, can be used to accomplish automated, end-to-end flow management capabilities, thus closing the gap. There was a need noted to define a higher layer API/Network Virtualization constructs that span both OSCARS and OpenFlow and lead to a end-to-end virtual networking model for applications.

At ESnet we are exploring the potential of OpenFlow because it enables network administrators to “program” flexible manipulation of flows, through a well-defined “forwarding instruction set”. Only certain traffic flows, selected by policies pre-programmed by local network administrators in the OpenFlow controller, seamlessly traverse the dynamic WAN virtual circuits enabled by OSCARS. This demonstrated approach creates a simple, secure and dynamic bridge between multiple OpenFlow enabled campuses, or datacenters instead of requiring statically (and manually) configured VLAN circuits used today.

OSCARS and NEC ProgrammableFlow

OSCARS enables the automated provisioning of guaranteed bandwidth over the WAN in multiple research and engineering around the world.  OSCARS allows user applications to reserve bandwidth across multiple wide-area domains in advance and offers reliable end-to-end throughput, and quality of service in managing time-sensitive and large data sets.

NEC’s ProgrammableFlow switches and controller software leverage the OpenFlow protocol to automatically monitor and intelligently distribute network traffic across multiple paths, enabling more efficient use of network resources and multiplying available bandwidth within the network. ProgrammableFlow cuts the complexity as it provides a simple interface to implement complex virtualized networks.

A plug for our testbed

Networking researchers around the country can access OpenFlow’s capabilities on ESnet’s Advanced Networking Initiative (ANI) testbed using NEC ProgrammableFlow switches to test out advanced concepts in networking.