OIF Tackles Incremental Bandwidth Increases with FlexEthernet

Significant Strides Made on SDN, APIs, CEI

As members of the Optical Internetworking Forum gathered last month for their first quarterly meeting of 2015, the organization launched a new project to enable flexible Ethernet by providing a toolkit to expand the utility of existing and future Ethernet interfaces.  The new project, labeled FlexEthernet, provides a way for Ethernet equipment to more efficiently utilize optical link bandwidth. FlexEthernet toolkit provides channelization, bonding and sub-rate functionality to connect one or more Ethernet MACs using standard Ethernet PMDs between equipment, either directly or through transport links.

Building upon the OIF’s multi-link gearbox (MLG) work that addresses multilane configuration, FlexEthernet provides support for speeds in between and beyond the fixed speeds currently defined, driving a wider set of applications needed by data centers and carriers.

“Ethernet connections between routers or transport gear needs to be flexible by providing incremental increases in bandwidth,” said Nathan Tracy of TE Connectivity and the OIF’s Technical Committee chair.  “The proposed FlexEthernet toolkit bridges the gap between previous, current and next-gen rates.

At the quarterly meeting, OIF members prepared to approve the OIF’s SDN Framework, a technical white paper identifying components and interfaces requiring standardization to provide a cohesive SDN app development framework designed around Web 2.0 technologies. Members also made progress on developing implementation agreements for SDN APIs addressing Topology, Service Request, Connection Request and Path Computation.

“The OIF is ahead of the industry in identifying specific work that needs to be done to bring SDN to fruition,” said Jonathan Sadler, Coriant and the OIF’s Technical Committee vice chair.   “The API documents are the outcome of the prototype SDN demonstration that took place late last year. We have motivated, enthusiastic members working hard to finalize these APIs for service provider deployment.”

Members of the Physical and Link Layer Working group held a one-day interim meeting in addition to their usual three-day meeting discussing PAM4 and NRZ specifications as they continued work on the multiple CEI-56G projects.   The CEI-56G development work will increase the data rates by a factor of two over the data rate of CEI-28G while also defining new application spaces.  The group will hold another interim meeting before the Q2 meeting in April. For more information on the OIF’s CEI work see http://www.oiforum.com/technical-work/current-oif-work/

About the OIF
The OIF facilitates the development and deployment of interoperable networking solutions and services. Members collaborate to drive Implementation Agreements (IAs) and interoperability demonstrations to accelerate and maximize market adoption of advanced internetworking technologies. OIF work applies to optical and electrical interconnects, optical component and network processing technologies, and to network control and operations including software defined networks and network function virtualization. The OIF actively supports and extends the work of national and international standards bodies. Launched in 1998, the OIF is the only industry group uniting representatives from across the spectrum of networking, including many of the world’s leading service providers, system vendors, component manufacturers, software and testing vendors. Information on the OIF can be found at http://www.oiforum.com.

OIF’s FlexEthernet Project Targets DCI

News Analysis, Light Reading
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large

February 12, 2015

Internet content providers and other network operators are looking for much fatter connections between their data centers than the current Ethernet service definitions can provide. So the Optical Internetworking Forum is stepping up with a new project to define more flexible Ethernet options for using the entire capacity of a given optical link. (See OIF Aims to Enable More Flexible Ethernet.)

Known as FlexEthernet, the project will establish a way for Ethernet equipment to use a variety of different tools such as channelization, bonding and sub-rate functionality to create those faster connections in a standard way, says Nathan Tracy, chairman of the Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) ‘s Technical Committee and manager of industry standards for TE Connectivity (NYSE: TEL).

The idea is to supplement the Ethernet standard definitions developed by the IEEE with a common approach that can be brought to market more quickly, in time to meet the booming demand for faster connections between data centers, Tracy says.

“This uses the IEEE’s Ethernet in more flexible ways,” he notes.

Large Internet content providers are among those clamoring for the new flexibility, Tracy admits. While he doesn’t name specific companies, it’s apparent that Google (Nasdaq: GOOG), Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) and Facebook are driving their own networking agendas and would benefit from this kind of connectivity.

One common feature set within FlexEthernet would allow a given link between two points to consume the full bandwidth of that link, beyond the published data rates that are typically 10 Gbit/s or 100 Gbit/s. “What FlexEthernet will enable a user to do is to start running data at the maximum rate of the link and then dial that down until it reaches an error rate that is acceptable,” Tracy says. “The traffic will go beyond the defined Ethernet service, but it will still look like Ethernet as the data goes on and off the link. That is one of the first apps of FlexEthernet and it is the one that drove this conversation a year ago.”

Another possible FlexEthernet option is to enable creation of custom data rates by using bonding of multiple rates — offering a 200Gbit/s service by bonding together two 100Gbit/s lanes, for example. The traditional way of doing this involves link aggregation, Tracy says, but that wouldn’t deliver the full 200 Gbit/s.

The IEEE would be expected to ultimately develop a standard approach to 200 Gbit/s, but that could be a couple of years away and, in the meantime, a standard approach to offering that kind of connection can be defined by the OIF.

“This would allow interim data rates for niches or specific needs until it is determined there is a broad market potential and broadly available technology” to do it via IEEE standards, Tracy says. The standards process isn’t forced ahead of what could be more efficient options in the long run.

FlexEthernet using an extension of the OIF’s multi-link gearbox will also allow the bundling of 10Gbit/s lines together so they can be supported by one 50-gig pin on an ASIC. This makes more efficient use of the limited number of pins on a given ASIC, Tracy notes.

The new project was launched at the OIF’s quarterly meeting earlier this year, along with the preparation of the OIF’s SDN Framework, a technical white paper which lays out the components and interfaces that will need to be standardized for SDN. That work is focused on establishing an applications development framework. (See SDN Tests Go Swimmingly, Says OIF and OIF Launches SDN Implementation Project.)

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

Ethernet speed tuning goal of OIF FlexEthernet project

Author Stephen Hardy,
Editorial Director and Associate Publisher, Lightwave

February 12, 2015

Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) members decided last month at their first quarter 2015 meeting to launch a project that would enable systems designers and their customers to tune the transmission speeds of their Ethernet equipment to rates not specified in existing Ethernet standards.

The FlexEthernet project will build on the OIF’s previous development of the multi-link gearbox (MLG), a device that mitigates differences in the number of lanes between chip interfaces. For example, the MLG can translate between a chip that sends a 100-Gbps signal across 10 lanes of 10 Gbps and another that operates at 4×25 Gbps and allow the signal to be recovered in its original 10-lane form (see “OIF launches new interconnect, 100G projects” and “AppliedMicro demos OIF-compliant 100G/10G multi-link gearbox chip”). The new project will create ways of using channelization, bonding, and sub-rate functionality to enable data rates to be adjusted either above or below current Ethernet standards.

The effort responds to requests from data center operators for a way to maximize the capacity of existing network infrastructures, according to Nathan Tracy of TE Connectivity and the OIF’s Technical Committee chair. For example, if a particular link couldn’t support a 40 Gigabit Ethernet connection due to reach or interference factors, FlexEthernet would enable the user to reduce the transmission rate to the highest the link would support without having to drop all the way to 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Tracy said. Conversely, if an operator wanted to transmit at a higher rate than 100 Gigabit Ethernet, FlexEthernet would enable that as well.

Transmission rates of 200 Gbps would be possible today if the FlexEthernet project were complete, Tracy added.

However, it’s not complete – and, as is customary among OIF spokesmen, Tracy declined to predict when the FlexEthernet development project would finish.

In other action at the quarterly meeting, the OIF membership moved closer to approving its SDN Framework document and finishing development of implementation agreements for software-defined networking (SDN) APIs addressing topology, service request, connection request, and path computation (see “OIF to explore Transport SDN, CFP2” and “OIF looks to solidify Transport SDN APIs”). The Physical and Link Layer Working group also met to discuss the application of PAM-4 and NRZ modulation formats for various CEI-56G projects.

The groups will meet again in April.

OIF Advancing Transport SDN Agreements

News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large


After successfully demonstrating Global Transport SDN, the Optical Internetworking Forum is starting an effort to develop implementation agreements for the interfaces used in that demo to link applications to an SDN controller. The move will address issues revealed in the demo about gaps in definitions for how user applications interact with the underlying transport network resources. (See OIF Launches SDN Implementation Project.)

The Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) , which did the demo jointly with the Open Networking Foundation , is planning to develop these agreements for the two application programming interfaces (APIs) that were used in the demo — for service request and topology — as well as for path computation and link resource manager interfaces that the group has already identified in its SDN Framework. (See SDN Tests Go Swimmingly, Says OIF and OIF, ONF List Vendors in Transport SDN Demo.)

The implementation agreements are essentially agreements among multiple industry players on how something is done, in advance of standards development, says Jonathan Sadler, the Coriant exec who is OIF technical committee vice chair. The OIF’s SDN Framework has been in process since 2013 and a number of APIs have been identified in that work that need to be addressed. The two that were part of the demo — service request and topology — were given early importance but others will also be needed as SDN Global Transport is pushed toward commercial availability, he notes.In particular, implementation agreements will enable a common Service API to enable deployment across OpenFlow and non OpenFlow-based networking environments.

“The implementation agreement includes how to use REST and JSON — two specific technologies in Web 2.0 space — to convey the info needed for SDN in the transport environment” to set up services, Sadler says.

The goal is to have one approach and one programming language for the way applications talk to the network and request resources, he adds. Today, applications have multiple ways of talking to the network and requesting resources. A common approach will simplify the communications between applications, an SDN controller and the underlying network resources.

Ultimately, that will allow application developers to write one version and use it across multiple networks and different types of vendor equipment and controllers, which in turn will help drive broader application development.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

OIF Launches New Project to Identify APIs for Transport SDN

Close on the heels of the joint Optical Internetworking Forum (OIF) and Open Networking Foundation (ONF) Global Transport SDN demonstration that concluded in October, the OIF has launched a new project to develop implementation agreements (IAs) for the application programming interfaces (APIs) used between application and network controller during the event. The new initiative will build on the Service Request and Topology APIs prototyped in the demonstration, culminating in IAs for use by carriers and equipment vendors. The new initiative will also create IAs for Service Request, Path Computation, Topology and Link Resource Manager interfaces that have been identified as part of the OIF’s upcoming SDN Framework document. The APIs to be delivered by the new project are based on REST and JSON principles enabling rapid and flexible application development.

“The prototype Transport SDN demonstration revealed a lack of definition for how user applications interact with transport network applications and resource functions,” said Jonathan Sadler, of Coriant and the OIF technical committee vice chair. “The programmability of Transport SDN requires some of the internal interfaces used by ASON to become open.”

In particular, a Service API is important as it allows applications to request connectivity services from the network. Having a common Service API allows a variety of applications to access services provided by the network, particularly in an environment with multiple domains with potentially different underlying control methods.

During the Global Transport SDN demonstration, different domains supported a number of South-Bound Interfaces (SBIs) with the Domain controller, including vendor-specific, standard OpenFlow version 1.3, and OpenFlow with optical extensions. The use of a common Service API allowed the same application to be tested across these heterogeneous domains.

Similarly, the Topology API allows applications to understand the connectivity available in the network.  A common Topology API allows a variety of applications to access network topology information, enabling support for new constraints and service criteria.

The Global Transport SDN demonstration implemented a prototype Topology API. Different domains exported their topology information enabling path computation to be performed outside of the controller.  These paths could then be requested using the Service API.  Additionally, the Service API responses had references to links and nodes in the topology, enabling the activated path to be shown.

Leadership Elections

The Forum conducted its annual leadership election with Doug Zuckerman of Applied Communication Sciences and Junjie Li with China Telecom elected to the OIF board of directors for one-year terms. Officers re-elected to two-year terms include Dave Brown of Alcatel-Lucent, vice president of marketing; Dave Stauffer, of Kandou Bus, secretary/treasurer; John McDonough, NEC Corp of America, vice president; and Torsten Wuth, of Coriant, Physical Layer User Group working group chair.

About the OIF
Launched in 1998, the OIF is the first industry group to unite representatives from data and optical networking disciplines, including many of the world’s leading carriers, component manufacturers and system vendors. The OIF promotes the development and deployment of interoperable networking solutions and services through the creation of Implementation Agreements (IAs) for optical, interconnect, network processing, component and networking systems technologies. The OIF actively supports and extends the work of standards bodies and industry forums with the goal of promoting worldwide compatibility of optical internetworking products. Information on the OIF can be found at http://www.oiforum.com.