IBM, Marist Test SDN-Based Solution to Prevent Network Outages

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Print this article Print

The technology would enable administrators to access networks via their mobile devices and quickly move data and services out of harm's way.

IBM is partnering with Marist College to create a cloud-based solution that uses software-defined networking technology that could make it easier for network administrators to protect data and services during natural disasters.

The innovation, which is being tested at the SDN Innovation Lab at Marist, would mean that in the event of a significant weather event—such as Super Storm Sandy, which slammed into New York and New Jersey in October 2012—organizations could greatly reduce or eliminate any downtime to critical communications systems. The solution would significantly cut the amount of time it takes to move voice and data applications and services to another location—an effort called re-provisioning, according to IBM officials.

Under normal circumstances, it takes days to re-provision. The solution being tested at Marist can cut that time down to days or minutes, which would mean fewer network disruptions and outages, according to IBM Distinguished Engineer Casimer DeCusatis.

"A year ago, Sandy left millions of individuals and businesses in the Northeast without electronic communications for days, weeks and even months—in some cases, data centers were literally under water," DeCusatis said in a statement. "With our invention, a data center operator could quickly and simply move data and applications to another data center outside the danger zone in minutes—from a remote location using a tablet or smartphone."

A key to the innovation is the use of software-defined networking (SDN) technology, according to IBM officials. In SDNs, the network intelligence is removed from the underlying hardware and put into a software controller, creating a network that is more programmable, dynamic, flexible and automated. Data center administrators can more efficiently control data flows within physical and virtual networks, the officials said.

With the solution from IBM and Marist, network administrators will be able to remotely access their networks and make changes to resources from a wireless device and an open-source network controller that is being developed by Marist.

According to IBM officials, the cloud-based solution is being demonstrated to potential customers and could be commercially available in 2014. It is one of several innovations being developed in the college's SDN Innovation Lab, which is sponsored by IBM. The lab, which has been open for several years, helps evaluate new SDN-related technologies and use cases, as well as supports IBM's cloud computing research.

The other projects include a new invention for managing bandwidth for systems in a cloud environment that see extreme or unexpected demands for service, a solution that can predict and stop congestion on the network by creating what officials are calling a "heat map" of network activity, and a prototype streaming video offering that ensures picture quality and continuous transmission by monitoring CPU and memory to shift the video stream from one virtual machine to another within a cloud while it's running depending on demand.

IBM and Marist also created an open-source SDN controller for cloud networks that is based on Big Blue's Distributed Overlay Virtual Ethernet (DOVE) technology. The controller is being donated to the OpenDaylight Project, a vendor-driven effort to create an open SDN platform. The project was founded by IBM, Cisco Systems and others and is being developed under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

Originally published on www.eweek.com.