Source: Ottawa Business Journal

The Centre of Excellence in Next Generation Networks (CENGN) has helped two Ottawa high tech firms crack one of the biggest hurdles facing fibre optic networks—how to make them faster and more efficient while meeting the insatiable and often fluctuating demand created by the latest bandwidth-hungry applications.

So far, the solution has been to install bigger and more complex hardware in data centres to accommodate an exponential increase in network traffic fueled by the explosion in mobile devices, cloud services and streaming video. In 2015 at a major trade show in Germany, BTI Systems and start-up Corsa Technology successfully demonstrated how service providers can use software to do the job better and faster.

This “software defined networking” (SDN) solution can automatically adjust to “unplanned” traffic or bandwidth-on-demand (BoD). SDN makes changes to multiple layers in the network, taking the complexity and expense out of manually managing large “multi-vendor” (equipment supplied by multiple manufacturers) networks.

The success signaled a major milestone in the global race to build networks that give us the bandwidth we need, when we need it.

“CENGN has the ability to open doors quickly, key for a start-up company like ours,” says David Whittaker, Product Manager at Corsa. “In a very short timeframe we were able to install our equipment in their lab, connect to the CANARIE 100 Gbps research network and partner with an established player like BTI to demonstrate the successful application of technology in a real-world environment. Having that calibre of partners and first reference customer gets you noticed when you start selling this gear to big global customers.”

Corsa is one of the pioneers in SDN and an affiliate member of CENGN, which offers its members access to a state-of-the-art test, certification and validation platform to commercialize advanced products, applications and services.

Venture capitalists have so far invested $23 million in Corsa, convinced that its high-tech hardware will become the backbone of these flexible, scalable and programmable Internet networks.

But getting there requires real-world demonstrations and partnerships with large, established industry players like BTI Systems, a CENGN member and global company with more than 380 customers in over 40 countries.

The two companies knew each other but had never worked together. An opportunity to partner arose when CENGN invited Corsa to participate in a Dragon’s Den-type event where small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) presented their ideas to member companies. The best ideas received funding and commercialization support from CENGN, as well as access to the centre’s unique multi-vendor testing and validation capacity.

Soon after, BTI and Corsa began working on a project titled “Multi-Site Multi-Domain Data Centre Capacity Management.” The goal was to demonstrate how their hardware and software solutions can quickly deliver large data transfers—known in the industry as “elephant flows”— over multiple layers of a network without disrupting existing traffic.

What BTI and Corsa tested is a quantum improvement over today’s fixed or “static” networks. Currently, it can take days or weeks to accommodate peak traffic loads, making it difficult for service providers to add or change services on the fly.

Peter Landon, BTI’s Director of Product Architecture, said CENGN enabled the two companies to further develop their solutions and test them over a live network at the SDN World Congress in Dusseldorf, Germany. What makes their innovation unique is the ability to apply SDN protocols to multiple layers of a wide area network.

“A network is like a multi-layered cake. At the lower layer is the physical fibre optic network and on top of that you have packet switching and networks applications,” explains Landon. “These multiple layers have independent control systems—they don’t understand each other and they don’t talk to each other. What we successfully tested is a single controller that talks to both the BTI equipment which is at the transport layer and Corsa gear which is at the packet layer.”

The demo was among the first to show how an open interface approach can eliminate the proprietary “vendor lock” on networks. SDN simplifies network design and operation because instructions are provided by SDN controllers instead of by multiple vendor-specific devices and protocols.

“It will allow new customers to install our equipment into their network and run it from the same control infrastructure,” says Landon.

The innovation is also good news for BTI and Corsa customers. “If you look at what we did in the proof-of-concept demo, it will allow a customer to go out and create a very lean solution, and not get smothered in cost and in features they don’t need.” says Whittaker.

Watch the CENGN video of the demonstration at: