No More Navel-Gazing: CORD Speeds Automation

By implementing CORD, service providers can more effectively compete with web-scale operators while speeding network automation and innovation.

Kelsey Ziser, Senior Editor

August 11, 2017

4 Min Read
No More Navel-Gazing: CORD Speeds Automation

Central Office Re-Architected as a Data Center (CORD) increasingly appeals to carriers ready to quit "navel-gazing" about virtualization, and instead adopt a clear, comprehensive path to deploy and integrate major virtualization elements in their central offices, according to a Heavy Reading report released this week. By implementing CORD, service providers can more effectively compete with web-scale operators while speeding network automation and innovation.

In the report, "CORD & the Future of CSP Automation," Heavy Reading Contributing Analyst Steve Koppman explains that part of CORD's attraction to carriers stems from its developers' ability to meet aggressive development timelines. Although still early-stage, CORD has already demonstrated it can further CSP virtualization goals by taking a "Standards Follow Software" approach.

"It's not just new hardware, it's a whole completely different way of running your business," said Roz Roseboro, senior analyst of data center infrastructure and MANO for Heavy Reading. "CORD itself is allowing someone to get a view of what that whole process might look like, and they're addressing all of that within the project as opposed to lots of other projects that have just parts of the puzzle. CORD is trying to put something together that someone could actually deploy."

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CORD appeals to service providers as it "appears to be the most realized and visible manifestation of virtualization in the telco space," combining the trifecta of cloud, SDN and NFV, and providing a comprehensive package for integration of these foundational elements of virtualization, according to Koppman.

Using CORD's explicit model for transitioning from the legacy networking ecosystem, carriers can greatly enhance their ability to compete with web-scale operators unencumbered by interoperability and access concerns. Deploying CORD, CSPs will use a combination of commodity hardware and open source software in their COs to mirror the functionality of data centers, reducing costs and enabling them to update services in real time.

"It's a way for service providers to try automation out without completely changing everything right away because you could do it for just one service and one CO," said Roseboro. "CORD is a way to dip your toe in and prove that this whole new architecture and process can work."

In addition to furthering CSPs' automation goals, CORD also enables access unification and promotes edge-computing capabilities supporting innovation for the Internet of Things (IoT) and virtual/augmented reality, for prominent examples, as well as for myriad future applications. (See Edge Computing: AT&T's Next Big Play?)

"The history of the industry has been of proprietary boxes from different vendors for distinct domains like residential, enterprise and wireless, and these will all now plug into something common -- the multi-service edge. The line between access technologies will break down and it will be more like plugging different line cards into a computer," said Koppman. "This will facilitate the Internet of Things and new applications more generally, shifting the focus increasingly to the network edge."

One of the biggest problems implementing CORD is identifying enough knowledgeable staff and training employees in this new and still emerging approach. "It's not the blind leading the blind," said Koppman. "But it may be the near-sighted leading the astigmatic."

While CORD delivers a worked-out end-to-end solution, it faces similar challenges as other virtualization projects that significantly change how telcos manage services, said Roseboro. "With CORD, you're not only changing the hardware, you're changing how you manage the service -- how you create the service, how it's delivered and how you manage it," she added.

CORD started as an Open Network Operating System (ONOS) use case and initiative led by ON.Lab and the Linux Foundation , but in 2016 spun off as an independent open source project with its own governance, and community of partners, collaborators and contributors. Full operator members include AT&T, Verizon, China Unicom, NTT, Deutsche Telekom, SK Telecom, Google and Comcast; vendor top-tier members include Cisco, Ciena, Fujitsu, Intel, NEC, Nokia, Samsung and Radisys. In addition, CORD claims some hundred other participant companies, primarily longstanding ONF (Open Networking Foundation) members including major service providers such as Sprint, BT, Telefonica and Telecom Italia.

Heavy Reading forecasts a majority of CSPs will use CORD by 2020 to at least some degree, and nearly 40% of all end-customers (residential, wireless and enterprise, collectively) will have service provided by COs or their equivalents using CORD by mid-2021.

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— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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About the Author(s)

Kelsey Ziser

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Kelsey is a senior editor at Light Reading, co-host of the Light Reading podcast, and host of the "What's the story?" podcast.

Her interest in the telecom world started with a PR position at Connect2 Communications, which led to a communications role at the FREEDM Systems Center, a smart grid research lab at N.C. State University. There, she orchestrated their webinar program across college campuses and covered research projects such as the center's smart solid-state transformer.

Kelsey enjoys reading four (or 12) books at once, watching movies about space travel, crafting and (hoarding) houseplants.

Kelsey is based in Raleigh, N.C.

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