OpenFlow, which allows operators to control the network using software running on a network operating system within an external controller, has recently been proposed and experimentally validated as a promising intelligent control plane technique. To mitigate the potential scalability issue of an OpenFlow-based centralized control plane and to leverage the mature, well-defined, and feature-complete path computation element (PCE) communication protocol, the complex path computation function required in optical networks can be formally decoupled from the OpenFlow controller so the controller can off-load the task to one or more dedicated PCEs. In addition to the control plane intelligence, future optical networks also feature data plane intelligence such as the introduction of flexible transmitters and receivers, which can dynamically change the modulation format and transmission rate of the optical signal without hardware modifications. In this paper, for the first time, we successfully demonstrate a dynamic transparent wavelength-switched optical network employing flexible transmitters and receivers controlled by an OpenFlow–stateless PCE integrated control plane. Our designed flexible transmitter is implemented by a cascade of a dual-drive Mach–Zehnder modulator (MZM) and a dual-parallel MZM. By adjusting the electrical binary drive signals, the flexible transmitter is able to flexibly switch the symbol rate and the modulation format, including binary phase shift keying, quadrature phase shift keying, 8-ary quadrature amplitude modulation (8QAM), and 16QAM. The flexible receiver is able to automatically detect different modulation formats and symbol rates and measure the bit-error rate. All the network elements, including optical switching nodes and flexible transmitters and receivers, are extended with OpenFlow interfaces, which can be intelligently controlled by the OpenFlow–stateless PCE integrated control plane with significant protocol extensions. On an actual network testbed with real hardware, we successfully validate dynamic and seamless interworking operations between the OpenFlow controller, a stateless PCE, and all the data plane hardware. The overall feasibility and efficiency of the proposed solutions are verified, and dynamic end-to-end path provisioning and lightpath restoration in such a new network scenario are quantitatively evaluated. We also tested the scalability of the proposed control plane; the experiment results indicated that dynamic path provisioning and restoration can be achieved within hundreds of milliseconds by using the proposed approach, and the overall architecture scales well with a batch of requests.
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