Ciena DRAC Goes Open Source for Network Control

Ciena open sources Dynamic Resource Allocation Controller, technology it acquired from bankrupt Nortel technology for managing network path control.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jun 7, 2010
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Routing traffic across a network can take many different paths, but networking-vendor Ciena is taking a new approach that could resolve some of the chaos.

Ciena is open sourcing a technology called the Dynamic Resource Allocation Controller (DRAC) under the GPLv3 license. DRAC provides a solution for abstracting network resources and enabling users to provision dynamic on-demand lightpaths.

The approach could provide a new method for connecting large and disparate networking assets.

"A dynamic on-demand lightpath is a dedicated network connection between users that can be provisioned when and where they need it," Paul Runnels, a member of Ciena's product line management team, told InternetNews.com. "The current main users for this service are typically researchers that need to transport huge data sets across the network -- they benefit from the ability to use a software interface to provision dedicated connections across networks, for a limited time and without human intervention from network operators."

Runnels added that in order to facilitate the dynamic on-demand lightpath, DRAC provides a GUI as well as a Web services interface that enables integration in applications.

Ciena acquired the DRAC technology through its $774 million purchase of Nortel's optical networking and Metro Ethernet business units.

By open sourcing DRAC, Ciena isn't simply throwing the technology over the corporate firewall. Rather, Ciena is aiming to foster a community of developers and drive future growth for the technology.

"The DRAC development was undertaken with a close working relationship with SURFNet and we will continue to work together to establish a collaborative environment to enable and support open source developers of DRAC," Runnels said.

SURFnet is the operating entity for the National Research and Education Network (NREN) in the Netherlands that connects more than 150 research and educational institutions. SURFnet has been using DRAC since 2008.

"SURFnet has taken the lead in initiating an open source community that will take DRAC and turn it into Open DRAC," Runnels said. "With DRAC being open sourced, there is now a real opportunity to build a broadly supported open tool that benefits from contributions from many different parties and that can evolve in a way that is beneficial to many."

DRAC is already in use on Ciena's commercial equipment today and Runnels said that he expects it to be a mainstay in its portfolio going forward. Now that the DRAC technology is open source it could also end up in products from other vendors in the future as well.

Ultimately, Ciena envisions DRAC growing into a user-provisioned network services tool supported by multiple vendors.

"DRAC provides industry-leading capabilities in the management and virtualization of network connectivity," Runnels said. "DRAC supports the addition of other networking vendors' products and therefore lends itself to use different applications."

Moving forward as an open source project, DRAC will likely continue to evolve.

"The open source community is looking to capitalize on the Web services interfaces available from DRAC in order to integrate network connectivity requests and schedules into their own applications and infrastructures," Runnels said. "Further 'virtualization' of the network as a resource via DRAC is entirely possible."

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.

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