The network innovation continues

The 2012 TERENA Networking Conference is slowly winding down.  As always, it has been an exciting week among good friends.  One thing that has been of particular interest to me this week has been to observe that we continue to see real innovation being presented at the network layers, with several excellent presentations on a range of topics.

For a couple of years – not so long ago – it appeared to me that by an large the innovation (or at least the innovation presented at the TNC’s) had moved up the stack.  Yes, we continued to see increasing bandwidth, increased reach, more packets, but by and large we had years where that was mostly “more of the same” – in contrast to areas such as roaming, identity middleware, network control planes, etc. where we saw new ideas reworking the landscape.  I remember thinking that we should consider renaming the conference the TERENA Middleware Conference.

Not so this year. Not that the middleware, application, or user innovation, has slowed down.  We have seen great presentations on identity management, exploitation of cloud services,  integration of NREN and commercial services, etc.  However, we have equally seen exiting innovations and new ideas with the potential to reshape  the network (transport) landscape.

Of particular interest to me has been a number of presentations on virtualization and on technologies that support a network virtualization approach.  The standout talk for me was the talk Thursday morning by Wes Doonan of ADVA on virtual topologies, showing how far advanced virtualization ideas are in industrial research.  Other talks have presented on software-defined networks, demonstrating that approaches to virtualization are being taking at both the packet and the optical layers. There has been talks on software-defined optics, providing among other things the low-level underpinnings for some of these approaches, and there’s been talks on Network-as-a-Service, an approach to network service offerings that exploit network abstraction and network virtualization to provide application-level services based on complex, multi-level, multi-domain networks.  And there was continued presentations on Bandwidth-on-Demand technologies that also exploit network dynamism, including progress on the OGF NSI protocol framework and and interesting talk from ESnet on the use of OpenFlow technology to cover the last mile local access problem that so often seems to stump dynamic end-to-end network services.

Of course, the “Citius, Altius, Fortius” innovations continue, too.  Close to heart for me was the demonstration given by ADVA and friends on a 100 Gbps optical link on an undersea cable between Denmark and Iceland – a demonstration I’m proud to say build on a long-standing collaboration between Ciena, University of Amsterdam, SURFnet, and NORDUnet, and others, pushing the limits of what we can do with existing optical platforms, using among other things alien wave optical technology, and in this case showing the way toward 100 Gbps inter-continental services.

If you missed the lower-layer network innovations among all the upper-layer presentations, I encourage you to peruse the program on the TNC2012 website and use the excellent video streaming service to sample some of the talks.  For me, I will be looking forward to the evolution of the technologies presented and for more innovations presented at future TERENA conferences.

About lpfischer

CTO @ nordu.net, raised on 4.2BSD on VAX, remembers usenet over uucp
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