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eNd to End scalable and dynamically reconfigurable oPtical arcHitecture for application-awarE SDN cLoud datacentErs

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End-to-end networking solution for low-power, cost-efficient and scalable datacentre networks

New networking solutions are urgently needed to satisfy the soaring demand for internet services which has led to an explosive growth in datacentre traffic. An EU initiative built on optical network infrastructure to favourably combine high bandwidth with reduced cost and power in contrast to existing datacentre networks.

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Datacentres are the enablers for all types of digital goods and services. Booming demand for internet services is causing enormous growth in datacentre traffic. Datacentres need to grow and evolve in order to deal with the traffic. They must also tackle the resultant problem of increasing electricity costs needed to power bigger systems. The EU-funded NEPHELE project proposed and developed a dynamic optical network infrastructure to deal with this issue. “Today’s data-affluent society relies on datacentres to store and rapidly access massive amounts of information,” says project coordinator Prof. Hercules Avramopoulos. “NEPHELE technology will provide a viable solution for seamlessly scaling capacity in datacentres.” The growth is creating undue challenges for traditional network technologies. The most daunting one is scalability. Performance-wise, traditional architectures are designed for north-south traffic and face fundamental limitations to keep up with inter-datacentre traffic demand expanding along the east-west axis. Rapidly growing datacentre market NEPHELE’s main objective was to strengthen Europe’s industrial position in the field of cloud datacentre technologies by developing a scalable hybrid interconnect architecture for dynamically reconfigurable datacentres. The datacentre solutions market is expected to nearly double from USD 18.56 billion in 2015 to 32.2 billion in 2020. Many of the project’s industrial partners are set to hold considerable shares across the value chain of this huge and swiftly developing market. The developed network components comprise an architecture that allows network convergence over a transparent Ethernet optical datacentre network. NEPHELE leveraged mature/commercial off-the-shelf photonic component technologies. More importantly, it’s the first to extend prominent software-defined networking (SDN) platforms with slotted time-division-multiple-access functionality, thus adding the capability to dynamically assign network resources directly at the optical layer. Fast resource allocation algorithms were developed and integrated as add-ons to the SDN platform. Researchers took considerable care to develop the project approach on commercial off-the-shelf photonic components. This was done to avoid the often long maturation time of photonic technologies, which may hinder rapid exploitation. Smooth integration into existing systems NEPHELE was also designed to fit current industry standards and norms, such as compatibility with Ethernet hosts, so that it can smoothly integrate into the existing optical networking ecosystem. Using current pricing for the key optical components involved, NEPHELE equipment can provide significant cost reductions, with further savings expected in mass production. Substantial power consumption reduction is also expected, dramatically mitigating operating costs for network equipment energy and heating, ventilation and air conditioning. Prof. Avramopoulos explains that NEPHELE is well positioned to claim a large share of datacentre-related markets, from network equipment datacentre software technologies to optical devices and datacentre storage equipment. NEPHELE was successfully concluded in April 2018, leaving the consortium with motivation to pursue near-market exploitation, and to further explore future datacentre network architecture concepts and technologies. “New networking solutions are urgently needed to sustain the booming growth in the cloud ecosystem,” concludes Prof. Avramopoulos. “NEPHELE builds on the enormous capacity of optical links and leverages hybrid optical-electronic switching to provision high capacity at reduced cost and power compared to current datacentre networks.”


NEPHELE, datacentres, datacentre networks, datacentre traffic, optical network infrastructure

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