IBM is working with a faculty and student team at college in New York State on a software defined network (SDN) technology that will enable users to quickly reconfigure optical networks to help move data and applications from one location to another during natural disasters.
The technology uses the open-source SDN protocol OpenFlow and an SDN controller IBM and the team at Marist College, a private liberal arts school in Poughkeepsie, have developed. IBM sponsors the computer science lab at Marist and plans to commercialize the product in 2014.
Zachary Meath, one of the students involved in the project, wrote in a blog post that the team's goal was to come up with a new way to reprovision a network “in a matter of minutes, not days or weeks, which is currently the norm.”
In addition to OpenFlow and the Flodlight controller, the team has built an application that reads network statistics and tells the controller which changes need to be made to the network to accommodate a particular application.
“The application we created is smart enough to dynamically make changes to the network based on data it receives from the network,” Meath wrote. “Sometimes, for example, an administrator may not be able to predict how much bandwidth is needed, but the network will know when to precisely add or remove bandwidth.”
They have also written a web-based graphical interface, called Avior, that enables access to the system's management features through a browser from any computer, smart phone or tablet.
Preventing network outages is an optimal use for the invention, Meath wrote. “Let’s say that there is a virtual machine in a data center in New York City that is streaming a sports event to TV viewers and suddenly a natural disaster, such as a hurricane or flood, is headed towards that data center. With our invention, a network administrator could immediately and remotely migrate the virtual machine to another data center in New Jersey, which is safe because it is outside the potential disaster area.”
If needed, the admin can also increase bandwidth between the data centers to speed up the migration and reprovision optical links between the data centers to boost bandwidth. After the migration is complete, the software can remove the extra bandwidth automatically.
The solution can also be used by network operators to dynamically adjust bandwidth for customers bursting into cloud during traffic spikes.
“Our invention can automatically and dynamically reprovision bandwidth to accommodate sudden spikes in the network traffic,” Meath wrote. “Also, when there is no traffic on that part of the network, all of the extra bandwidth links are automatically removed, saving money for both the customer and network service provider.”