Network operators are eager to replicate the efficiencies that commodity cloud providers enjoy today. They want to achieve the economies of scale made possible through infrastructure constructed from a few commodity building blocks, as well as new levels of agility to be able to rapidly deploy and elastically scale services. The thousands of Central Offices (COs) they own and operate are well positioned to deliver innovative edge services, but are laboring under the opex/capex burden of closed/legacy hardware that's currently running in such facilities.
The Cord Project -- a newly announced Linux Foundation initiative to re-architect the Telco Central Office (or Cable Headend) as a Datacenter -- combines Software-Defined Networking (SDN), Network Functions Virtualization (NFV), and elastic cloud services to build cost-effective, agile access networks. (See CORD Becomes New Open Source Project.)
The inaugural CORD Summit, hosted by Google on July 29 in Sunnyvale, Calif., attracted more than 300 attendees, with technical sessions focused on the CORD architecture, as well as how to leverage CORD to deliver services to residential, mobile and enterprise customers. Keynotes from thought leaders at Google, AT&T, and China Unicom stressed the magnitude of the opportunity CORD provides. In addition to those three companies, current CORD partners include Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Intel, NEC, Nokia, NTT, Radisys, Samsung, SK Telecom and Verizon.
An initial release of a reference implementation of CORD was announced at the Summit. It is a fully integrated system -- sufficiently complete to support field trials -- built from open source software, commodity servers and white box switches. Being an integrated system is an essential aspect of CORD, as the project's goal is go beyond a collection of loosely related projects listed under a common banner. Being "field-trial ready" is the target, with an initial residential (GPON-based) field trial under its belt, and additional residential and enterprise trials planned for the coming months.
With this objective in mind, much of the agenda focused on hammering out a roadmap for CORD going forward. The following are the highlights of that roadmap:
Light-and-Right CORD: Develop a configuration of CORD targeted at small Central Offices. Such a configuration would likely include a virtualized OLT device (CORD's vOLT service), but assume other services were running upstream at larger COs. The key technical challenge is to minimize overhead, including the need for OpenStack to run locally.
Full OAM support: CORD is a configurable platform, which means it provides a means for the operator to specify the desired collection of services, as well a full OAM capability for those services. Basic configuration and control infrastructure is in place in the first release, but there remain gaps in how the services are onboarded and configured into CORD. These gaps will be filled in the second release, leveraging OpenConfig where appropriate.
Monitoring service: A general-purpose monitoring service, capable of collecting, archiving and analyzing metrics collected from the software and hardware components configured into CORD is under active development, and will be included in the second release. The service, sometimes called Analytics for CORD (A-CORD), includes metrics collected from hardware (OLT blades, white-box switches), virtualized functions (vOLT, vSG, vRouter), the underlying SDN controller (ONOS), and the underlying IaaS mechanism (OpenStack). Plans are also in place for "programmable probes" that can be activated and customized on a running system.
Enterprise CORD: A proof-of-concept configuration of CORD targeted at enterprises (E-CORD) was demonstrated at the Open Networking Summit, but needs to be integrated into the latest CORD platform. This includes an MEF-compliant implementation of a virtualized Carrier Ethernet service. The key technical challenge is to integrate multiple CORD sites under a global CORD-based controller.
Mobile CORD: A proof-of-concept configuration of CORD targeted at mobile customers (M-CORD) was demonstrated at the Open Networking Summit, but needs to be integrated into the latest CORD platform. This includes a virtualized and disaggregated EPC (Evolved Packet Core) and virtualized/software-based BBUs (Broadband Base Units). Work is also underway to slice the radio access network in support of differentiated service.
Videos of the keynotes and slides from the breakout sessions are publicly available for viewing and download on the Cord Wiki page.
10/16/2017 Huawei Network Transformation SeminarThe adoption of virtualization technology and cloud architectures by telecom network operators is now well underway but there is still a long way to go before the transition to an era of Network Functions Cloudification (NFC) is complete.
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