AT&T, ACS, IBM test elastic cloud-to-cloud networking concept

AT&T (NYSE: T) is taking another step in advancing its company-wide cloud strategy by completing a proof-of-concept technology trial with IBM and ACS that it says will reduce set-up time for cloud-to-cloud connectivity, particularly between data centers.

While AT&T has not applied the concept in a live network yet, the proof-of-concept could be used as a test case to examine how to implement sub-second provisioning time with IP and next-generation optical networking equipment. It also could enable elastic bandwidth between clouds at high connection request rates using intelligent cloud data center orchestrators, instead of requiring static provisioning for peak demand.

Built with joint contributions from AT&T, IBM and ACS, the work was performed in conjunction with the U.S. Government's DARPA CORONET program, which focuses on rapid reconfiguration of terabit networks.

"Back in 2007, DARPA started a project called DARPA CORONET, but its focus was to look at the optical layer of our network," said Robert Doverspike, executive director of Network Evolution Research at AT&T Labs, in an interview with FierceTelecom. "The optical layer of our network carries all of the links between our routers so those were generally provisioned in a very slow project so the DARPA CORONET wanted to make them more reliable against weather events and network faults."

For the trial, AT&T was tasked with developing the overall architecture, drawing on its experience in developing bandwidth on demand technologies and routing concepts. IBM provided the cloud platform and intelligent cloud data center orchestration technologies to support dynamic provisioning of cloud-to-cloud communications, while ACS contributed its expertise in network management and innovation in optical-layer routing and signaling as part of the overall cloud networking architecture.

One of the key enablers in enhancing the provisioning time was that the prototype was implemented on OpenStack, which allowed the trio to elastically provision WAN connectivity and placing virtual machines between two clouds for the purpose of load balancing virtual network functions.

"What's unique about this whole thing is we set up a controller to control this network that we did in my lab--all these three layers of the network--and talked to these orchestrators from IBM and Brocade and came up with algorithms, protocols and APIs so we could show how you do typical data center functions such as data backup, large data storage and bandwidth balancing," Doverspike said.

Using on-demand bandwidth for cloud-based applications such as load balancing, remote data center backup operation and elastic scaling of workload, could enable potential cost savings and operational efficiency for both CSPs and carriers.

During the demonstration, the IBM cloud platform and orchestration technology managed the life cycle of Virtual Machine (VM) network applications on OpenStack software to automatically monitor server load and request both cloud-to-cloud network bandwidth from a SDN WAN Orchestrator developed by AT&T and compute resources as needed for VM migration.

Meanwhile, AT&T's SDN WAN Orchestrator automatically routes data server connection requests across the appropriate network layer: IP/MPLS, subwavelength or Dense Wavelength Division Multiplexing (DWDM). Finally ACS integrated their own provisioning protocols with DWDM network elements to set up and tear down connections as needed.

The creation of this prototype coincides with AT&T's User-Defined Network Cloud concept, which it says will help it move to an all cloud-based architecture that will use SDN tools in the WAN to create what the telco says is "a programmable network that is more flexible, efficient and aware of applications."

"Today, to get high bandwidth connectivity what you'll see in most data center providers is nailed up private lines," Doverspike said. "They lease 10 Gigabit Ethernet, 1 Gigabit Ethernet or even SONET private line and it's rigid and it never moves and is leased per year."

Already, the service provider is offering customers the bandwidth on demand capabilities between its network and other third-party cloud services from IBM and others via its NetBond solution.

For more:
- see the release

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