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'Treehouse' software-defined networking project claims a breakthrough

Researchers say a new demonstration shows that network operators can implement SDN to replace expensive proprietary routers.

A trio of researchers has claimed another milestone in the development of software-defined networking (SDN), demonstrating the first multi-domain SDN-only IP transit network with a capacity of 500,000 routes.

Corsa Technology, ESnet, and Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand (REANNZ) said the demonstration showcased an "internet-scale" SDN-only IP transit network of three autonomous systems (AS) managed as SDN domains.

The implementation passed data through three AS domains at Energy Sciences Network (ESnet, the US Department of Energy's international science network at Berkeley University), REANNZ in Wellington, New Zealand, and Google's research deployment at Victoria University, also in Wellington.

"We believe this to be a world-first SDN connection between multiple domains, possible only now that the hardware is available that can handle the full BGP route table [500,000+ routes]," said REANNZ chief executive Steve Cotter.

"This is important and a real game changer — it shows SDN has truly moved beyond the data centre and LAN, into the wide area network connecting 'islands' of SDN with the rest of the internet."

Cotter added that the demonstrations showed that network operators no longer have to buy routers that cost $100,000, as the Vandervecken open-source software and Corsa data plane hardware can now provide the scalability they need much more cheaply.

The partners said that the demonstration embodied the SDN vision of separation of control and data, while enabling integration of SDN networks with the internet.

ESnet's node used the Corsa DP6420 640Gbps data plane as the OpenFlow hardware packet forwarder, controlled by the Vandervecken SDN controller stack written by Google (based on RouteFlow and Quagga).

The demonstration forms part of a project codenamed "Treehouse" that aims to build a worldwide group of SDN islands interconnected by an SDN-BGP routing stack and controller.

Vandervecken is designed to be multi-vendor compatible for use with commercially available OpenFlow switches.

REANNZ's network infrastructure was provided by CENIC/PacificWave and Australia's research netowrk, AARNet.

"It marks significant progress in helping to broaden software-defined networking exchange (SDX) deployments in real, operational networks," the researchers said.

"This connection also takes SDN implementations to a new level, showing how one SDN node can communicate via non-SDN nodes to another SDN node, and still have all the SDN goodness leveraged at the end points," Corsa Technology CEO Bruce Gregory said.