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How can SDN and NFV change the telecom central office?

SDN engineer Darien Hirotsu discusses the benefits of the Central Office Re-architected as Datacenter concept for the telecom central office.

At Open Networking Summit 2015, ON.Lab introduced the concept of Central Office Re-architected as Datacenter (CORD). CORD is conceptually similar to the network functions virtualization (NFV) specifications of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, providing a standard framework for managing and deploying network functions independent of specific hardware platforms. A key difference, however, is that CORD integrates NFV with software-defined networking (SDN). CORD provides a number of potential benefits for the telecom central office:

  • Enable faster time-to-service for the service provider
  • Provide a better subscriber experience, via a user interface (UI) for service deployment and management
  • Enable service innovation for third parties providing virtualized network functions (VNFs)

First, service providers that are hesitant to offer their customers new network functions may find CORD's potential appealing. CORD leverages open source projects to virtualize network functions, eliminating the need to install physical devices for each new instance of a network function. Incorporating principles from NFV and SDN, service providers may treat subscribers like tenants -- dynamically stitching together new network functions, much like large cloud providers do, enabling faster time-to-service.

Subscribers may also benefit from this new architecture, which provides the necessary tools for centralized provisioning of new services. Ideally, customers will no longer have to wait days or weeks for different teams to install and provision relevant portions of a new service or network function. Also, as seen in the ONS demo from ON.Lab, CORD may provide a UI enabling subscribers to request their desired service changes on-demand, further enhancing the subscriber experience.

Finally, let's dive into service innovation via third-party integration. Third parties may package their services or network functions in various form factors for adoption in service provider networks, leveraging the CORD architecture. This packaging may be in the form of a virtual machine or a new SDN control program. At the ONS conference, ON.Lab illustrated a proof of concept showing two different flavors of VNFs: a virtual CPE provided by a virtual machine running in OpenStack and a virtual-broadband network gateway application running as an SDN control program in Open Network Operating System. Both functions traditionally work from physical appliances. With CORD and the relevant open source software, however, third-party providers have multiple ways to deploy virtualized network functions.

The CORD architecture presents many exciting potential benefits that could transform the telecom central office. We are seeing customers and vendors alike combining elements of NFV, SDN and cloud to drive change. While we are in the early proof of concept stages of this new architecture, it should be interesting to see how it evolves and matures.

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This was last published in August 2015

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