The Optical Networking and Communication
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San Diego Convention Center,
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Hacking the light: Software at OFC

By Casimer DeCusatis Ph.D.

Some said the world should be in Pearl
Some said in Lisp…
Should we write it all again,
I’d end it with a close-paren
“With apologies to Robert Frost”, from
Did you know that in addition to being the premier optical communication conference, OFC is also a great place for software? 

While most people associate optics with hardware such as mirrors, lenses, or prisms, OFC 2014 is also a great place to unleash your inner coder. Try searching on “software” at the OFC homepage and you’ll get hundreds of hits; in this blog, I’ll mention just a few of them and hopefully arouse your interest in learning more at the conference this coming March.
For those of you interested in optical access networks, software is either the next big thing or the current big fad.

You’ll have a chance to weigh in on this question at the workshop on SDN Optical Access: Hope or Hype?  Audience participation is strongly encouraged as we debate the technical, economic, and philosophical view of next generation software defined access networks. Can we finally enable true on-demand service provisioning in minutes rather than days or weeks?  Or is it simply too complicated and expensive to build out any real opportunities in this area?  Come see the latest proofs of concept from industry and academic leaders, and you be the judge.

Nobody wants to experiment with their production network, so you’ll need a good simulation model to determine the impact of any changes before you make them.

Not sure which software to choose as you try to automate and optimize your network?  Consider a short course on network optimization as a first step. You can learn about network and traffic modeling principles, including design for 100G – 400G data rates, robustness, and energy efficiency. Then continue to discuss optimization fundamentals, such as linear programming, mixed-integer programming, heuristic modeling, and branch-and-bound algorithms. You’ll learn how these techniques can be applied to solve problems related to network topology design, resilience, and wavelength routing/assignment in large scale networks. Understanding these technologies is the first step to selecting an appropriate modeling system that meetings your budget and technical requirements.

Any discussion of software has to include one of the hottest topics this year, replacing physical appliances such as network firewalls and load balancers with code.

Known as Network Function Virtualization (NFV), this effort has been the subject of some recently published ETSI standards and a huge amount of interest from telecommunication and cloud service providers. You can join the discussion on physical vs virtual devices at many events during OFC. Of course, a good way to link together virtual appliances would be a virtual network; several different types exist, compatible with the hypervisor of your choice (VMware, KVM, Hyper-V, Power VM, and more). It’s important to select the proper platform or software stack that allows you to logically connect virtual appliances as waypoints on a virtual network, including firewalls, load balancers and ADCs, intrusion prevention/detection, virtual routers, WAN accelerators, optical transport solutions, and more. These linkages are known as service chains within the data center, or function graphs in the NFV standard. Platforms are available from many companies, including IBM, VMware, Cisco, and others; some of these will be discussed at the OFC Enabling the Cloud Symposium on Datacenter Network Infrastructure, where results from real world testbeds will be presented to show how all this software works together.
Don’t forget the impact of open source development communities, particularly the open source network controller. Project Open Daylight is currently the world’s largest open source code project, brought to you by The Linux Foundation, the same people who created the ubiquitous Linux operating system. There’s been a lot of hype about open source network controllers, but this project offers everyone a chance to contribute code to a merit-based review system, whose goal is a software controller that works with any IP switch or optical equipment on the market. Maybe you’ll be inspired to write your own contribution to the network controller in time for OFC next year.
As you can see, OFC isn’t just for hardware designers; there’s a world of optical and networking software to explore, too.

Even if you don’t have a traditional coding background, there are plenty of tutorials and short courses to help get you working at the speed of software. Even if your coding skills are currently limited to working a word processor, drop me a line with your take on the world of optical software at my Twitter feed (@Dr_Casimer).

Posted: 29 January 2014 by Casimer DeCusatis Ph.D. | with 0 comments

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The views expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of The Optical Fiber Communication Conference and Exposition (OFC)  or its sponsors.

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