CORD Project Will Help Service Providers Build Cloud-Like Networks

The new Linux Foundation project will enable telcos to use SDN, NFV and cloud-based technologies along with white-box servers and bare-metal switches.

cloud infrastructure

Service providers and telecommunications companies have a new tool they can use in their efforts to transform their networks into highly scalable, agile and affordable infrastructures similar to those run by cloud providers.

The Linux Foundation and the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) recently spun out what had been a use case within the ON.Lab's ONOS open-source software-defined networking (SDN) operating system into its own project that proponents said will give service providers the platform they need to create and deploy services to customers and employees a cloud-like speed.

The CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center) Project launched last week, and Google days later hosted the first summit around the technology. At the same time, Google, Samsung and Radisys joined the ONOS and CORD projects, both of which are operating under the auspices of the Linux Foundation.

"CORD has the potential to significantly improve the economics and agility of access networks globally," Ankur Jain, principal engineer at Google, said in a statement.

The goal of CORD is to take advantage of merchant silicon, white-box servers, bare-metal network switches and open-source software to create infrastructures that bring the flexibility, agility and affordability of cloud environments to the central offices of telcos, which traditionally have comprised closed and proprietary products.

Service providers are turning to open technologies to enable them to more quickly spin out services and applications to end users, which include enterprises, residential and mobile customers, according to Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation.

"Service providers are eager to leverage new open source technologies and platforms to transform their infrastructure," Zemlin said in a statement. "CORD provides service providers with a framework to re-architect their traditional central offices into next-generation data centers, using new technologies like SDN, NFV [network-functions virtualization] and cloud technologies that are going mainstream."

Radisys President and CEO Brian Bronson in a statement called CORD a "revolutionary architecture that uniquely exploits the best of SDN, NFV, and cloud technologies, creating cutting-edge connectivity and cloud-scale services."

Telcos are transforming their infrastructures into cloud environments, and "this transition will result in transformational TCO [total cost of ownership] savings while enabling untethered agility to better handle and monetize the ongoing explosive growth in data and video traffic," Bronson said.

Members of the CORD community include service providers like AT&T, Google, Verizon, SK Telecom, China Unicom, NTT Communications and Radisys and such tech vendors as Intel, Cisco Systems, Fujitsu, Nokia, Samsung and Ciena.

At the Google-hosted CORD summit July 29, the group released the first CORD reference implementation, delivering a single platform designed to enable telcos to create new customer services, group members said. It not only includes SDN, NFV and cloud technologies, but also such open-source software platforms as ONOS SDN operating system, the OpenStack cloud suite, Docker containers, Trellis open-source SDN fabric on bare-metal switches and XOS everything-as-a-service paradigm.

"Our first open-source distribution is much more than a pile of code on Github," Larry Peterson, chief architect of ON.Lab and board member of the CORD Project, said in a statement. "We have created a distribution in standard repositories that a developer or user can download and auto-build CORD on a single node very quickly, hopefully in an hour or so."

It also comes with everything from white papers, design notes, video and demos, Peterson said. There also is a hardware blueprint that offers information on Open Compute Project (OCP) servers, assembly instructions for switches and access blades, auto-configuring software and testing infrastructure, as well as open APIs and built-in security.

As a use case for ONOS, CORD saw a lot of adoption by service providers and vendors over the past year, according to officials. Many service providers are making moves to bring network virtualization and other technologies to their infrastructures to make them more agile and affordable.

Verizon in 2009 launched a project to transform its network in 2009 by offering bandwidth on demand, and last year officials announced the carrier was adopting SDN for its network. Full-scale SDN deployment is scheduled for 2017 and 2018. AT&T officials have said that by 2020, 75 percent of the provider's network will be virtualized. Since AT&T launched its Network on Demand last year, more than 1,200 businesses have adopted solutions from the platform, officials have said.

Both vendors have introduced programs offering business customers virtualized network services that can be deployed and managed easily in their data centers.