As the telecom industry continues its push towards open optical networks (OONs), it is instructive to examine the experience of an early adopter of the OON paradigm. Alibaba, a hyper-scale data center operator, has been operating open and disaggregated data-center interconnect (DCI) metro networks for a number of years. This paper provides insight into their various design choices, e.g., why they chose to employ OpenConfig data models and their modular approach to architecting the system. The paper also highlights the models’ shortcomings and describes Alibaba’s internal efforts to supplement the models to better support vendor-agnostic device abstraction. Their internal YANG models for a reconfigurable optical add/drop multiplexer (ROADM), including the wavelength-selective switch (WSS) component, are explored in detail. This insight is essential for other operators contemplating a migration to OONs, as well as the developers of these models. Another critical element that required internal development was a control and management platform suitable for an open DCI network. Their resulting platform, which provides unified
management over open equipment from multiple vendors, is described extensively. Again, their design philosophy and architecture are illuminating. The paper concludes with a discussion of the current state of their network, the benefits that they have realized through open DCI, and future directions.
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