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BT, Dell EMC alliance to explore new form of switching

August 16, 2017  

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BT and Dell EMC today announced a research collaboration the two said is dedicated to validating a new way of managing network traffic.

The proof-of-concept, which is taking place at the BT Labs in Adastral Park, England will 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 centres, coupled with specialist switching software.

“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.” They said in a release. “This represents a significant shift architecturally, applying server-like principles to the delivery of dynamic network services over fixed-line and wireless networks.”

BT 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 is important as customers increasingly require more flexible, agile networks.

“Disaggregated switches have several potential advantages over traditional network switches, as they can be managed flexibly using Netconf protocol and YANG models,” they said. “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.”

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.