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NFV and SDN Demo Showcased for Transforming Telecom Carrier Central Offices

By Peter Bernstein June 19, 2015

The Open Networking Summit has drawn to a close this week in Santa Clara, CA, and there was certainly a lot to take in.  This included a variety of announcements from the industry heavyweights who are active participants in Open Network Forum (ONF) activities to help accelerate the adoption of network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN). However, something that really caught the eye of attendees was a demonstration project aimed at the transformation of telecommunications service providers’ central offices.  Yes, those central offices who in the future may be called office central data centers.

The reason for my proposal of a name change was the showcasing of the Central Office Re-architected as Datacenter (CORD) proof-of-concept (POC) which is being stewarded by ON.Lab and its Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) project. The central office remake project is being done in cooperation with AT&T as the service provider and with PMC-Sierra and Sckipio as providers of merchant silicon hardware components.  

This is no simple makeover, but rather a total transformation that is being proposed to in essence make telecom carrier central office virtually (pardon the play on words) identical to the hyperscale data centers of the likes of Google and AWS with of course an NFV wrinkle.  In short, the goal is making carrier functionality run workloads on white-boxes under open source software orchestration and control in an almost totally virtualized “E”vrionment.

"CORD enables service providers to build an underlying common infrastructure with white boxes using ONOS (carrier-grade open source SDN control plane), OpenStack (virtual infrastructure management) and XOS (an open source service orchestration/management platform built on OpenStack) with a diversity of organizations building the services and solutions that ride above," ON.Lab said in its press release describing the project.  They added that:  "In effect, this common infrastructure replaces the fragmented, non-commodity one in today's central offices where each site hosts more than 300 unique deployed appliances, each requiring a physical install and specialized management.

As further showcased were the CORD’s benefits for service providers, subscribers and third-party providers.  Cited as key capabilities were the following—  

Service Providers

  • SDN control, orchestration and management with ONOS, OpenStack and XOS on commodity infrastructure.
  • An open high-performance leaf-spine fabric.
  • OpenFlow-enabled PON OLT MAC hardware enabling virtualization of the traditional Optical Line Termination (OLT).
  • OpenFlow-enabled distribution point unit (DPU).
  • Access-as-Service, Subscriber-as-a-Service, Internet-as-a-Service, Caching/Content Delivery-as-a-Service, virtualized functions including firewall, URL filtering, parental control and Broadband Network Gateway (BNG).
  • Service provider portal for intuitive provisioning, management and monitoring of infrastructure and services.


  • Simple customer premises equipment (CPE) that replaces existing complex CPEs and can be managed by ONOS.
  • Internet, firewall, parental control services.
  • Subscriber portal for signing up for and managing services.
  • For third-party providers, they are:
  • Content delivery (caching) for their own content in the service provider network.
  • Third-party provider portal for signing up for and managing services.

"SDN and NFV are speeding up innovation, as seen in projects like CORD," said AT&T exec Tom Anschutz. "These technologies create systems that do not need new standards to function and enable new behaviors in software, which decreases development time. Faster development time leads to rapid innovation, something the industry needs to continue satisfying data-hungry customers."

Next steps for CORD include making it ready for service provider testing by the end of this year, and the forthcoming release by ON.Lab of the next iteration of the ONOS data center operating system due in August which is the foundation of CORD. 

In fact, it should be noted that ONOS recently made news when in conjunction with Internet2 group at Indiana University.  ONOS will be on Internet2's national research and education network that will connect five U.S. universities —Duke University, Florida International University, Indiana University, University of Maryland, College Park, and the University of Utah —in order to advance their inter-networking capabilities.

In short, this is not going to be about cutting the cord but virtualizing it to meet the demands of a connected, data-driven world where a premium is placed on cost-effective scalability, agility, security and ease-of-use and management.  

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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