CORD Fuels Access Virtualization Push

As CORD becomes its own open source project and releases a major distribution, virtualized access gets closer to reality.

August 2, 2016

4 Min Read
CORD Fuels Access Virtualization Push

Virtualization has already blossomed at the edge of the network, but there are now clear signs it is pushing its way into the access as well.

One key aspect to this is the CORD Project (Central Office Reorganized as a Data Center), which just concluded its first big week as its own open source initiative. CORD gained life as a use case for the ONOS open source controller created by ON.Lab , but is now its own entity, with separate use cases of its own. Two of those are focused on broadband access, including the residential broadband use case already being tested by AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), and Mobile CORD, in which Verizon, among others, is engaged.

In addition to being launched as its own project, adding significant new members including Google, formalizing its ties to the Broadband Forum and hosting its first two-day summit, CORD made its initial software distribution as well. That is a bigger step than it might seem, says Guru Parulkar, executive director of the ON.Lab. (See Broadband Forum Formally Collaborates on CORD.)

"Because CORD is not one single open source software platform, it is more of an integrated solutions platform that brings many software components and services together, being able to create the open source distribution that someone can download has required a lot of work," Parulkar says. What was released last Friday was the complete system -- with hardware requirements, operating instructions and software building blocks to support all three deployments -- residential broadband, mobile and enterprise.

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Building on ONOS, OpenStack , the Open Compute Project and more, the distribution includes domain-specific services as well as other services, "and then the good news is people can go to our web site, and they can order those hardware building blocks and follow the assembly instructions and download the software themselves," Parulkar states. Or they can reach out to two vendors that have stepped up as systems integrators: Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN), and, as of last week, Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS). (See Ciena Offers Hardened ONOS for Next-Gen Central Office Conversions.)

That's a critical step because it begins moving them away from the central offices of the past, where hardware was purpose-built and software was tightly tied into it, limiting flexibility and driving up the cost and the time it takes to introduce new services. One of the things that makes CORD disruptive is that it is virtualizing the access space -- GPON and LTE, among others -- as well as the rest of the CO, he notes. AT&T began its trial of CORD for residential broadband access in March of this year. And there is reason to think others will follow suit. (See CORD Opens Door to Virtual Reality & More and CORD Connecting as ONOS Expands.)

That's tied into the other clear signal that virtualization is coming to the access and that is competition in the virtual access space. Calix Inc. (NYSE: CALX) made the biggest splash last fall, and Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) recently joined the party. Bigger players such as Huawei and Nokia, which have both major virtualization efforts and access gear, are playing in this turf as well. (See Adtran Pieces Together a Software-Defined Access Mosaic and Calix First to Launch Software-Defined Access.)

It's interesting though that Calix (with partner Ericsson) and Adtran were both chosen by Verizon to be part of its NG-PON 2 trial -- a clear illustration of what service providers mean when they say future investments must take virtualization into account. (See Verizon Readies Landmark NG-PON2 Trial.)

Neither is part of the CORD project to date, although Parulkar says there have been discussions with Adtran. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) is currently a CORD partner.

There's good reason to expect to see these two trends come together, as more service providers move to upgrade their access networks -- including cable operators, by the way -- to deliver more bandwidth, and want the flexibility of how that is done.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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