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17 May 2012
ADVA Optical Networking has run an experiment to show the OpenFlow protocol controlling the optical and packet layers of the network. Until now the protocol, which provides a software-programmable interface, has been used to manage packet switches; the adding of the optical layer control is an industry first, the company claims.
The OpenFlow demonstration is part of the European “OpenFlow in Europe, Linking Infrastructure and Applications” (OFELIA) research project involving ADVA Optical Networking and the University of Essex.  A test bed has been set up that uses ADVA's FSP 3000 platforms to implement a colourless and directionless ROADM-based optical network. 
"We have put a network together such that people can run the optical part through an OpenFlow interface, as they do the packet switching part, under one uniform control umbrella," says Jörg-Peter Elbers, vice president, advanced technology at ADVA Optical Networking. "The purpose of this project is to set up an experimental facility to give researchers access to, and have them play with, the capabilities of an OpenFlow-enabled network."  
Remote researchers can access the test bed via GÉANT, a high-bandwidth pan-European backbone connecting national research and education networks.
OpenFlow is an open standard that falls under the more general topic of software-defined networking. A key principle underpinning software-defined networking is the separation of the data and control planes to enable more centralised and simplified management of the network. Current network management involves distributed protocols run across the switches.
OpenFlow is already being used by some of the largest data center operators to control their packet switches and networks.  "The appeal is to have a programmable network which gives you flexibility and agility; a virtualised network that can be run as you, the user, want it," said Elbers.
The OpenFlow protocol is being developed by the Open Networking Foundation, an industry body that includes content providers such as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, telecom operators including Verizon, NTT and Deutsche Telekom, and various equipment makers. 
By Roy Rubenstein