CORD, Could Help Move Telcos to SDN, Open Networks Faster

Top of Mind

CORD, Could Help Move Telcos to SDN, Open Networks Faster

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, TMC  |  September 16, 2015

There are several important trends and telco desires and imperatives that are converging at the same time. On the one hand, over the top types are eating the telcos’ lunch, so the telcos want to transform their networks so they’re more like those of their more agile competitors. On the other hand, the telcos want to have more power in their relationships with their equipment suppliers.

We all know about the first point, and there’s more on that later in this column. Let’s look at the second point first.

The telcos have long been at the mercy of their suppliers, who have been able to lock the communications service providers in to their systems by requiring them to use specialized management systems. This essentially means that CSPs then have to use a single vendor’s gear on both ends of the connection – such as both the optical line terminal and the optical network terminal in a gigabit passive optical network.

That’s one of the reasons why the telcos are so interested in open source and software defined networking. It’s also among the key factors that drove AT&T, China Unicom, NTT (News - Alert) Communications, and SK telecom to join the non-profit effort called ON.Lab, which is doing the first public demonstration of CORD. And it’s been a driving force of the Broadband Forum’s (News - Alert) work on, for which that group decreed vendors are not allowed to mandate the use of a specific management stack but rather must support open standards like OpenFlow.

“After years of shakedown, the telcos have said ‘enough,’” said Michael Weissman, vice president of marketing at Sckipio.

Sckipio, which sells modem chipsets that support NETCONF YANG and OpenFlow, provided the OpenFlow-enabled distribution point unit to demonstrate CORD with access technology. AT&T (News - Alert), ONOS project, and PMC-Sierra are also part of the team that showed the CORD proof-of-concept this summer at the Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, Calif.

CORD is a new term that stands for central office rearchitected as a data center. It refers to an approach of providing infrastructure-as-a-service and networking services as tenant applications for this infrastructure.

The new concept combines the cloud, commodity infrastructure, NFV, open building blocks, and SDN to bring the agility of the cloud and the economies of scale found in the data center to service provider networks – spanning from the equipment at the home or office customer premises, to the access part of the network, to the telco’s central office. Key components of CORD include commodity hardware, NFVI orchestration (XOS, OpenStack), an Open Leaf Spine Fabric, an SDN Control Plane (ONOS), simple on-premises customer premises equipment and virtualized CPE, virtualized access (PON OLT MAC + vOLT), virtualized BNG, and virtualized functions.

“With CORD, service providers can architect their central offices using common, commodity infrastructure such as ONOS, OpenStack, XOS, white box switches and servers,” said Guru Parulkar, executive director for ON (News - Alert).Lab and ONRC. “CORD also represents an open and unique opportunity with AT&T as the leading service provider, ON.Lab and ONOS project as providers of open source software platforms, and merchant silicon vendors PMC-Sierra (News - Alert) and Sckipio. This team plans to enhance the solution with new features and harden it, bring in new players and advance CORD from lab trials all the way to deployment.”

The CORD proof-of-concept will illustrate the benefits of CORD to service providers, subscribers, and third-party providers. An example of CORD in a residential scenario, according to an On.Lab spokesman, might involve provisioning a new subscriber. In this case, the process would involve the telco inputting the subscriber into the system. Then the vCPE app creates a container for the subscriber. It’s a thin app, not anything complex, and it takes the necessary information to provision service and pushes it to XOS and spins up the vCPE for the subscriber.

The software involved in the demonstration was expected to be available by the end of last month (August) via the ONS Drake release.

Edited by Maurice Nagle