CORD Connecting as ONOS Expands

Carol Wilson
News Analysis
Carol Wilson, Editor-at-large
3/14/2016



SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Open Networking Summit -- Open source project ONOS is using this week's Open Networking Summit to show off significant progress for its efforts and those of its top use case, Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center (CORD).

That progress includes new members, a new CORD reference design implementation and a new approach to simplify the management of virtual machines and containers. (See ONOS Passes 50-Member Milestone and ONOS Announces Open Cord Reference Implementation.)

Individually, several of the announcements are significant: Collectively they represent a major advance, particularly for CORD. On the verge of the first field trial of its Residential CORD applications with AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) supporting fiber-to-the-home, ONOS is also displaying proofs of concept for: a mobile CORD that can virtualize the radio access network and evolved packet core; and an enterprise CORD that can enable on-demand services and greater customer control.

"ONOS is very strong right now, the community is growing rapidly, we are seeing good diversity of contributions and global deployment is accelerating," says Bill Snow, VP of engineering. With its Falcon release, which became available last week, ONOS is production ready and Snow says its solutions, especially CORD, are gaining traction, with multiple vendors designing commercial products based on ONOS.

The star of the show right now is undoubtedly CORD, which is using ONOS to bring data center simplicity and cloud flexibility to a Central Office environment previously dominated by closed systems and tightly coupled hardware and software. The new CORD reference implementation is intended to speed up the pace at which network operators and their equipment vendors are able to test and deploy CORD by offering hardware specifications, platform software and services that are specific to each of the domains for CORD -- residential, enterprise and mobile, says Guru Parulkar, executive director of ON.Lab , which launched ONOS.

"The idea is to let others take and build on it and do interesting applications on top of it," he tells Light Reading in an interview. "When you buy CORD, you get it as an open service delivery platform -- all the connectivity and the service you need is there... it can be used for FTTH, all the way to software-as-a-service. There will be many configurations of CORD available for different contexts and different operators."


Zoom in on open source and SDN strategies in our SDN section here on Light Reading.

Two vendors, Ciena Corp. (NYSE: CIEN) and Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS), have already announced plans to offer a turnkey approach to CORD, providing the systems integration needed to knit together component parts of white boxes, open source software and domain-specific software, Parulkar says, and he says several other vendors are in the pipeline to become systems integrators. (See Ciena Offers Hardened ONOS for Next-Gen Central Office Conversions.)

Those developments address a key demand from the operator community -- the need for ongoing support for open source software. "That will be a game-changer," says Parulkar.

Next page: Mobile CORD and Enterprise CORD



Mobile CORD and Enterprise CORD
CORD uses the same SDN approach developed for data centers but adapts it for the CO environment, where there can be tens of thousands of connections, some residential, some mobile backhaul and some enterprise, Parulkar notes.

To generalize the CORD architecture developed for residential FTTH, ONOS has added access racks specific to mobile and enterprise services. For the mobile CORD, it is using Cavium Inc. (Nasdaq: CAVM)'s baseband unit, and will support disaggregated and virtualized Evolved Packet Core (EPC) and Radio Access Networks (RANs), he said.

Many operators are looking to virtualized RAN and EPC, especially as they look to scale their networks to support the Internet of Things and 5G mobile.

At this point, Enterprise CORD uses standard Metro Ethernet hardware, as merchant silicon is not yet available, though it is in development, Parulkar notes. Enterprise CORD will enable programmable wide area networks managed by SDN technology, plus other features as well. The idea is to bring to the WAN the kind of virtualization SDN brought to local area networks and give enterprises the ability to turn up their own services in an on-demand way.

"That will make enterprises happy and let service providers hang onto their enterprise customers," Parulkar says.

Everything as a service
CORD uses the ONOS SDN control plane, but ONOS also has developed its own NFV orchestration, which it calls XOS, which stands for Everything-as-a-Service operating system.

XOS creates a layer of abstraction that greatly simplifies the management of the virtual machines and containers on which virtualized network functions run, Parulkar says. Given that the number of virtual machines (VMs) or containers needed to support VNFs will be in the thousands, it is increasingly impossible to manage at that level of granularity, he notes.

"We have introduced the concept of a service, which is a higher level of abstraction, and below that abstraction we hide all of that complexity relating to managing VMs or containers or scaling up a service" he says.

In ONOS's view, XOS is where policies related to resources, scaling and customers reside.

In this approach, the virtualized optical line terminals, subscriber gateways, content delivery network elements and routers used to create Residential CORD are each considered a service and within that there may be one VM or tens of VMs, he explains. The controller for each service keeps track of all of the management needed, as well as any scaling that is required. Infrastructures such as Docker Inc. and OpenStack also fit into the same architecture and become a service that is managed by XOS.

So while ONOS is managing all the networking and network control apps, and OpenStack and Docker are being used for virtualization, XOS "sits on top and supports the paradigm of VNF-as-a-service, and then interfaces to the OSS and BSS," Parulkar explains.

Back on the ONOS side, Snow points to 50-plus members, deployments on five continents and a growing base of contributions to the open source project. ON.Lab's contribution percentage is down to 44% and continues to shrink, he notes. The next largest contributor is Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. .

ONOS is increasingly playing with other standards groups. IEEE joined as a collaborator, and there are new partnerships with the MEF and the Broadband Forum for CORD.

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

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