& cplSiteName &

What's at the End of the CORD?

Mari Silbey

The whole notion of a Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) is the telecom industry's way of taking innovative data center technologies, including virtualization and software-driven services, and feeding them into the broadband access network.

But does CORD work? And if so, what value is it delivering?

During a session on "The Next-Gen Central Office/Headend" at Light Reading's recent Big Communications Event (BCE), panelists had some early conclusions to share. Among them, and perhaps most notably, the CORD approach appears to generate returns faster by creating new revenue streams than it does by helping operators save money through network upgrades.

CenturyLink Inc. (NYSE: CTL) Director of Network Architecture Bill Walker explained how his company has used CORD as a reference architecture for its DSL infrastructure, including virtualizing broadband network gateway (BNG) equipment and running over-the-top services on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware. The theory was that CenturyLink would save money by moving away from expensive, dedicated hardware in its central office locations. (See CenturyLink Delivers DSL Using CORD Platform.)

As it turns out, however, the company's had an easier time realizing gains through new service introductions enabled by the CORD implementation than it has through equipment cost savings.

"In reality it's profitable. We've generated revenue. But we're actually struggling more with the pieces that were going to save us money," said Walker. He added that new services, like network-based security and SD-WAN, are what's driving the financial success of CenturyLink's CORD deployment today.

According to Walker, bandwidth also continues to be one of the major drivers for implementing CORD. Specifically, by disaggregating hardware and making systems more modular, it's possible to better prepare for whatever challenges the next wave of bandwidth demand brings. Walker said CenturyLink and others weren't ready for the Netflix phenomenon, but they will be for future applications.

Robert Conger, VP of Cloud and Portfolio Strategy at Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN), agreed, pointing out that when operators are using highly integrated hardware and there are spikes of demand, it's difficult to make targeted network upgrades. But with a modular system, it's easier to drop in capacity where it's needed.

"They need that modularity. They need that system with interchangeable parts because they don't know what's coming next," said Conger on the BCE panel.

For more fixed broadband market coverage and insights, check out our dedicated Gigabit/Broadband content channel here on Light Reading.

Unfortunately with a CORD architecture, there's no one-size-fits-all approach, particularly across different types of access networks with different types of legacy equipment. There are some common themes popping up among service providers, however.

Conger noted, for example, that where optical line terminals (OLTs) for FTTH deployments are concerned, all of Adtran's customers are looking for solutions that at least include a path toward software-based control, even if operators aren't ready to fully virtualize OLT functions today. Customers are also demanding technology that's open and not locked into a single vendor ecosystem.

There are similar conversations taking place in the cable industry around HFC architectures. Cable operators are looking to their vendors for a migration strategy that will lead them from proprietary headend hardware -- cable modem terminations systems (CMTS) or Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) chassis -- to software-defined solutions that can run on COTS servers. (This is sometimes called Headend Re-architected as a Data Center or HERD.) As an intermediary step, many cable companies are considering distributed access architectures that move some functions of cable hardware deeper into the network and introduce new software for automating equipment configuration. In the long run, however, the expectation is that fully virtualized CMTS/CCAP chassis will be available. (See The Cable DAA Vendor Race Begins and Cable's DAA Moment Is Here.)

Conger believes that the move toward 10G PON will help drive the CORD trend. As operators plan capacity upgrades in their fiber networks, they'll also explore more modern approaches to managing that infrastructure.

"[I] think it's going to be extremely disruptive over the next ten years," said Conger, referring to the combination of 10G PON upgrades and CORD strategies.

The trend has already started. Conger declared on the event panel that at least ten tier-one operator customers are involved in 10G PON deployments where new software-driven systems are part of the upgrade. It's still early days in 2017, but 2018 could be the year that 10G deployments aligned with CORD implementations really take off.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

(1)  | 
Comment  | 
Print  | 
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View        ADD A COMMENT
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/31/2017 | 11:33:30 PM
Going forward
I wasn't familiar with CORD - It's interesting to see how the methodology is being applied. Innovation is the future!
Featured Video
From The Founder
Light Reading is spending much of this year digging into the details of how automation technology will impact the comms market, but let's take a moment to also look at how automation is set to overturn the current world order by the middle of the century.
Flash Poll
Upcoming Live Events
November 30, 2017, The Westin Times Square
December 5-7, 2017, The Intercontinental Prague
March 20-22, 2018, Denver Marriott Tech Center
May 14-17, 2018, Austin Convention Center
All Upcoming Live Events
SmartNICs aren't just about achieving scale. They also have a major impact in reducing CAPEX and OPEX requirements.
Hot Topics
When Will 6G Arrive? Hopefully Never, Says BT's McRae
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/21/2017
Let's Talk About 5G Efficiency, Not Wacky Services
Iain Morris, News Editor, 11/21/2017
Top 5 Tech Turkeys 2017
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/22/2017
AT&T's Lurie Leaps to Synchronoss as New CEO
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/17/2017
Wireless Could Arrive Soon in NYC Subway Tunnels
Dan Jones, Mobile Editor, 11/20/2017
Animals with Phones
Live Digital Audio

Understanding the full experience of women in technology requires starting at the collegiate level (or sooner) and studying the technologies women are involved with, company cultures they're part of and personal experiences of individuals.

During this WiC radio show, we will talk with Nicole Engelbert, the director of Research & Analysis for Ovum Technology and a 23-year telecom industry veteran, about her experiences and perspectives on women in tech. Engelbert covers infrastructure, applications and industries for Ovum, but she is also involved in the research firm's higher education team and has helped colleges and universities globally leverage technology as a strategy for improving recruitment, retention and graduation performance.

She will share her unique insight into the collegiate level, where women pursuing engineering and STEM-related degrees is dwindling. Engelbert will also reveal new, original Ovum research on the topics of artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, security and augmented reality, as well as discuss what each of those technologies might mean for women in our field. As always, we'll also leave plenty of time to answer all your questions live on the air and chat board.

Like Us on Facebook
Twitter Feed
Partner Perspectives - content from our sponsors
The Mobile Broadband Road Ahead
By Kevin Taylor, for Huawei
All Partner Perspectives