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Broadband Forum backs open source SDN

There has been a stand-off brewing between the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) and OpenDaylight – two open source software defined networking (SDN) platforms pushing for network transformation at a massive scale – attracting membership signatures of operators hungry for next generation broadband services.

Adding to its growing list of supporters, ON.Lab has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Broadband Forum to extend its collaborative work to the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) Project community – an open source reference implementation combining SDN and NFV to bring datacenter economics and cloud agility to the Telco Central Office.

ON.Lab, founded by SDN experts from the Universities of Berkeley and Stanford in California, has the mission of creating an SDN platform driven by the needs of carriers, rather than vendors or enterprises – one which would enable more radical change than the more established OpenDaylight.

The Broadband Forum and ON.Lab say the MoU will enable the CORD Project community to broaden their understanding of what is required to develop next generation broadband services and how the CORD platform can contribute to this. What CORD does is allow for data processing and analytics to take place at the edge of the network to improve efficiency and reduce latency within a highly distributed platform. This paves the way for large service providers to make the most of open source technologies – reducing the cost of in-house developments, alleviating strains on networks, and accelerating deployment.

In a meeting in Atlanta, the two groups demonstrated residential, enterprise and mobile applications of the CORD infrastructure, as well as discussions on the emergence of the Cloud Central Office (Cloud CO) which will test use cases for CORD, such as broadband access by virtualized Optical Line Termination equipment (vOLT), virtualized Customer Premises Equipment (vCPE), and virtualized Broadband Network Gateway (vBNG).

ON.Lab first launched its Open Networking Operating System (ONOS) platform in November 2014, an OS which promises to allow for more rapid transformation of the network by enabling agile service creation and deployment, on any hardware, including white boxes. The ONOS Project has signed up AT&T, Verizon, China Mobile, NTT and SK Telecom, among others.

Verizon is the most recent to show support for ONOS, but has publicized that this does not reflect any reduced backing for OpenDaylight, and although the US operator is not a member of OpenDaylight, it claims it will use its SDN controller in transport networks.

Like OpenDaylight, ONOS delivers an SDN control plane with northbound APIs to policy engines, orchestration systems and so on; and southbound APIs to the networking devices themselves – combined with management, control and service applications.

AT&T has plans for CORD field trials this year, as part of its vision of seeing 75% of its networks controlled using SDN and NFV by 2020. At the end of 2015, this figure was just 5.7%, but AT&T expects this to hit 30% by the end of this year.

Many of the ONOS Project use cases were initially based on work done for Domain 2.0 and so ON.Lab supporters have had high hopes of its technology being a component of AT&T’s platform as it evolves. AT&T will be testing CORD on the first residential fiber broadband, rather than the mobile side. The two variants will use the same SDN controller, white box appliances and analytics elements, but with their own virtualized terminal units to support either fiber or RAN access.

The Broadband Forum is best known for its flagship TR-069 CPE WAN Management Protocol which it claims now has more than 350 million installations worldwide.

Alcatel-Lucent, now merged with Nokia, has claimed up to a 40% reduction in operating costs through virtualization of the broadband home gateway, which came out of the Broadband Forum’s WT-317 Network Enhanced Residential Gateway (NERG) initiative, an unfinished specification which virtualizes all types of home gateway, including DSL, PON, Hybrid Fiber Coax, and all the physical broadband types, fiber and copper including ADSL, VDSL and G.fast.

Huawei is one giant vendor that is working with various groups and operators to develop real use cases and tools around its framework, having recently announced an alliance with ON.Lab, as well as the MEF (Metro Ethernet Forum) and China Unicom to work on a set of proofs on concept, based on SDN, NFV, and lifecycle orchestration.

Broadband Forum CEO Robin Mersh said, “working with ON.Lab on CORD has been a very fruitful exercise and we’re pleased to formalize the arrangement with this MoU. The CORD project is an important example of the vast amount of work being done in this area and collaborating with projects like this one will be key for the Broadband Forum as we look to work more closely with open source projects to help our members feel the business benefits of SDN, NFV, Cloud and other new technologies.”

ON.Lab Executive Director Guru Parulkar said, “the Cloud CO as a concept is going to be a vital part of our work going forward and with it, operators will be able to quickly and efficiently deliver new technologies into the central office. With the help of the Broadband Forum, ON.Lab will continue to meet the challenges of re-imagining the telco CO as concepts and use cases emerge.”

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