Today, optical network operators use a set of network protocols to manage their network. These protocols are proprietary command line interfaces (CLIs) provided by vendors to control specific functions on their own network elements. Network elements from different vendors have different CLIs, as do different elements from the same vendor, which means network operators must manage multiple commands and protocols to keep their network running smoothly. To make matters worse, it’s difficult for these CLIs to share information between one-another or IT systems, increasing operational complexity.
With open-source controllers and application program interfaces (APIs), network architects are less reliant on vendor-specific element management systems (EMSs) or CLIs.
At a high level, moving away from CLIs and towards APIs in optical networks will create benefits that fall into three broad categories:
- APIs make it easier and faster to develop applications that work on multiple platforms from multiple vendors. REST APIs remove silos because they are not limited to a specific CLI, vendor or network type. This makes it much easier to develop tailored applications that can combine data from multiple sources and display them in custom graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that work across multiple vendors, protocols and layers.
- APIs integrate easily with existing IT tools. APIs are written in programming languages that are already used within the IT environment – nothing is lost in translation between the two systems, unlike CLIs such as TL-1. This is also true when deciding which data model to use. Data or information models identify how the variables are assembled within the software application or inside the hardware that describe how to configure, provision, monitor, and maintain the device or application. API data models are also compatible with IT compute and storage building blocks, unlike CLI data models, which must be transformed to be understood by IT applications.
For example, information gathered through APIs using JSON or XML formats are much easier to integrate into a Web application than when using TL-1.
- APIs make much more efficient use of IT resources. This is one of the most important factors for network operators and IT teams. Vendor-specific network and element management systems often need numerous long-lasting remote access sessions, which puts a heavy strain on IT resources to handle these sessions. Development APIs, such as RESTCONF and NETCONF are designed to be session-less, and are very light on IT resources as a result. This benefits also saves capital expenses (CAPEX) by significantly reducing the need for servers and other compute devices between the software application and the network element they manage.
If you’d like to see how your network can benefit from using APIs, the Ciena Emulation Cloud is an open application development environment designed to help customers and third-party developers to create, test and fine-tune customized applications based on your specific needs and without requiring you to invest in the IT infrastructure yourself.