SK Telecom is placing a bet on SDN for next-generation wireless networks, signing up for a partner membership in ON.Lab, which is developing an open source SDN operating system.
"SK Telecom feels that SDN and the whole notion of virtualized infrastructure is very important technology for next-generation wireless networks," says Kang Won Lee, senior vice president of R&D for SK Telecom (Nasdaq: SKM). The Korean service provider is looking at different aspects of SDN as it prepares to build 5G networks.
"ON.Lab is focused on building an SDN controller with the telco requirements as their key objectives, namely scalability, performance and high availability, and we felt it fairly important that we participate," Lee says.
SK Telecom is considering deploying On.Lab's ONOS operating system on its core network. "A large part of radio access will be cloud-based in next-generation wireless, and we want ONOS, if it becomes successful, to be the main component to control that part of the network," Lee says.
SK Telecom's partner membership obliges the company to pay $500,000 per year for five years, and also participate in the board for technical decisions, community building and provide at least two software engineers for ONOS.
"What they are looking for from us and other service providers is the use case that they can work on," Lee says. "We have many different use cases. We need to sit down and prioritize which ones we want to try first. That's the next step."
ONOS's mission is very similar to OpenDaylight. Both are designed to provide an open source control plane for multivendor software networks. When ON.Lab introduced ONOS in November, Ram Appalaraju, strategic advisor for the organization, said he doesn't see the two as competitors, but that he sees ONOS as more suitable than OpenDaylight for carriers and developers. He added that OpenDaylight delivers incremental change, but ONOS is designed to be disruptive. (See ON.Lab Intros Open Source SDN OS.)
Lee sees ONOS and OpenDaylight as potentially complementary. SK Telecom is trialing OpenDaylight for internal proofs-of-concept. But OpenDaylight isn't telco-specific, so SK Telecom is looking into OpenDaylight for its data center environments, where the company needs to configure networks using SDN controllers. It sees ONOS as potentially useful on the WAN. "We are closely watching both of them," Lee says.
SK Telecom is Korea's biggest mobile network operator, with more than 50% market share, with about 27 million subs.
The SK Telecom partnership is one of several milestones ON.Lab announced February 12. The group announced that its ONOS operating system passed 1,000 software downloads globally, after being released as open source on December 5. And it added Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) as a new member, joining SK Telecom as well as founding members, including AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), Fujitsu Ltd. (Tokyo: 6702; London: FUJ; OTC: FJTSY), Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. , Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) and NEC Corp. (Tokyo: 6701). (See Cisco, SK Telecom Join ONOS SDN Initiative.)