Cisco Brings Programmability to 100G

Cisco ONE SDN approach comes to carrier grade core routers.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Oct 3, 2012
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Software Defined Networking (SDN) is an approach to optimizing networks in many different ways. Networking giant Cisco is now using the SDN approach to deliver an enhanced carrier grade offering on its flagship CRS-3 core routing platform.

The new CRS Elastic Core Solution, delivers better 100 Gbps performance than prior solutions from Cisco with enhanced programmability. The technology behind the programmability is known as nLight and it is closely tied to Cisco's Open Network Environment (ONE), SDN strategythat was announced in June.

"As part of Cisco Open Network Environment (ONE) we discussed the importance of having bi-directional multi-layer programmability across various layers," Sanjeev Mervana, senior director, Products and Solutions, Service Provider Group, told InternetNews. "nLight leverages the same framework to offer this essential multi-layer programmability between the IP and optical layer."

As an example, Mervana explained if a financial customer is seeking a very low latency path to connect to an alternate site, nLight provides programmability through its ability to extract data between network layers to identify low latency optimal paths. Based on this information, nLight can compute and setup these paths.

Without nLight, there isn't as much visibility into both the optical and IP layers. As such, Mervana noted that service providers end up over provisioning both IP and optical layers and allocate stranded unnecessary bandwidth to ensure availability.

Mervana added that the visibility that nLight provides helps to improves service providers’ ability to obtain real-time topology changes occurring in their network.

"This, in turn, provides better capacity planning, enhanced protection and restoration schemes, improved and reduced time in terms of provisioning capabilities – all the attributes needed to improve time to market and customer service experiences," Mevana said.

Coherent 100G

Another component of Cisco's CRS Elastic Core Solution is an improved coherent optical technology.

"Coherent technology has been in around for some time, but what we are announcing now is the latest generation ( 3rd ) of coherent technology, which Cisco acquired through our 2010 acquisition of Core Optics, a designer of digital signal processing (DSP) solutions for high-speed optical networking applications," Mervana said.

Other vendors including Cienahave also been working on Coherent Optical 100G solutions in recent years.

Mervana noted that the Cisco 100G solution operates at distances up to 3,000 km without the need for signal regeneration.

"We first introduced this technology back in May with our ROADMs, and now we are integrating it into our routing platforms," Mervana said. "These innovations, along with nLight, provide a total elastic core solution for network operators to have lower Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) solutions for their service offerings. "

Hardware and Software Required

The road to Cisco's Elastic Elastic Core Solution includes both hardware and software updates for Cisco's CRS-3 customers. The CRS-3was first announced in March of 2010 as the successor to Cisco's CRS-1. Merana explained that Cisco's 100G IPoDWDM customers will need to buy a new hardware module supporting the 100G optics. The nLight component will be released as part of the IOS XR software release.

Next Stop 400G?

While Cisco is now improving its 100G solution, the CRS-3 as a platform is capable of handling up to 400 Gbps per slot. The move towards 400 Gbps platform is one that rivals including Alcatel-Lucent and Ciena are building towards.

"Cisco usually does not speculate on roadmap items, however innovations in 100 Gbps coherent IPoDWDM Cisco nLight technology are a testament to Cisco's commitment to leading the industry in both Internet Protocol and optical technologies," Mervana said. " Additionally, Cisco takes leading role in various standard bodies, including IEEE for 400 Gigabit Ethernet."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournaList.

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