BT and Dell EMC Join Forces to Research Flexible, Software-Defined Networks of the Future

bt cloud connectBT and Dell EMC have teamed up and announced a research collaboration dedicated to validating a new way of managing network traffic. Their combined research is taking place to explore how disaggregated switching can create flexible, open networks.

The proof-of-concept, which is taking place at the BT Labs in Adastral Park, Suffolk, would explore how disaggregated switching can create flexible networks which are more responsive to customer needs by using standard open network switches commonly found in data centers, coupled with specialist switching software.

“This proof-of-concept trial with Dell EMC will enable us to evaluate the performance of disaggregated switches against traditional integrated network switches, and make informed decisions about the role this kind of solution will play in the dynamic network services of the future,” said Neil J. McRae, chief architect for BT. “We’re determined to ensure that BT‘s network continues to be world-class and able to deliver the services our customers need, when and how they need them. Agility and programmability, maximizing the benefits of SDN, are therefore key to our future network evolution.”

Disaggregated Switching

In contrast to the traditional integrated network switches currently used by operators and enterprises around the world, disaggregated switching uses merchant silicon based switching systems combined with either commercially available or open source system software. This would represent a significant shift architecturally, applying server-like principles to the delivery of dynamic network services over fixed-line and wireless networks.

dellemc poweredge serversBT is evaluating the performance of Dell EMC disaggregated switches against traditional integrated switching hardware to test the performance, economics and programmability of this new, virtualized approach, which would be important as customers increasingly require more flexible, agile networks.

According to BT and Dell EMC, disaggregated switches have several potential advantages over traditional network switches, as they can be managed flexibly using Netconf protocol and YANG models. This makes the entire system inherently programmable and allows the switches to be operated in concert to spin up new network services or make configuration changes rapidly.

Bandwidth Calendaring

BT will work with Dell EMC to evaluate a number of potential use cases as part of the trial as the company evolves its network strategy to maximize the “benefits” of SDN (software-defined networks), NFV (network functions virtualization) and programmable silicon. These include the instant activation of Ethernet circuits from a third party (such as an enterprise), and the ability of the system to deliver real-time network operational data.

The platform also has the potential to deliver other programmable use cases such as bandwidth calendaring – flexing the bandwidth of an Ethernet circuit according to customer need via a predetermined calendar – and delivering network telemetry data to third parties automatically.

“The service provider network of tomorrow cannot be built on yesterday’s technology,” said Tom Burns, senior vice president & general manager, Dell EMC Networking, Enterprise Infrastructure & Service Provider Solutions. “We’re energized and focused on collaborating with BT to drive innovation and help achieve their goals of enhancing network agility, flexibility and programmability to provide the high level of service their customers expect.”

Furlow consulting