This series of blogs is inspired by content originally written by Jac Kloots, Teamlead Network Services at SURFnet.
In part one we outlined what SURF is and what it was trying to achieve in upgrading SURFnet network as part of Project SURFnet8.
Onward to a Future-proof Network
With its ‘intent-based interactive networking’ concept in mind, SURF is planning to make things considerably easier for the network user. The upgraded network will ensure that network services for operational management, education and research will be more easily and quickly available, reducing pressure on ICT departments. The priority themes for this period have been mapped and identified as follows.
Replacing the Optical Layer
First, the optical layer of the network needed to be upgraded. On Friday 9 June 2017, SURF worked with ECI Telecom and Tallgrass to create a 400 Gbit/s connection between Breda and Utrecht—the first direct link between these two locations in the SURFnet network. SURF used ECI’s Apollo platform for the optical layer on this new fibre-optic connection, marking the initial implementation of the SURFnet network’s new optical layer. This implementation was fully completed in October 2018.
The new optical layer has made direct 400 Gbit/s possible and will make 100 Gbit/s transport capacity the new standard. The Apollo platform provides high capacity, flexible DWDM transport and many other options for future software-based applications and network functions virtualisation (NFV). It also makes it possible to automatically restore optical connections. In the event of a break in the fibre-optic connection, an alternative optic route is found within seconds, keeping capacity loss to a minimum. Certain parts of the network can also be cleared of traffic, ensuring that maintenance can be carried out without redundancy and capacity loss.
Orchestration Layer for Automatic Configuration
However, configuring the current network requires expertise in various technology domains – and quite a bit of manual labour. For instance, if a new educational institution wants to purchase an internet connection, SURF must configure this connection in three technology domains: optical, switching and routing.
Currently, it is not possible to manage these technology domains from a single system. In the new SURFnet network, each technology domain will have an open and programmable API, making it possible to configure that domain automatically. From then on, the intelligence needed to make services such as SURF light paths or SURF internet available to an institution will be situated in the orchestration layer. This smart software will carry out the appropriate actions in various technology domains, behind the scenes and at the right moment, to roll out new services, all based on a predefined workflow. Additionally, the orchestration layer will retrieve and update information from a wide range of administrative systems.
With this highly configurable and automated infrastructure in place, SURF will be able to give users a much higher degree of self-reliance. A topic we will cover in the next blog in this series.