ONF announces CORD 4.1 for transforming the $300B operator edge market

The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) announced that Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) has undergone some significant enhancements, with CORD 4.1 now delivering a single open platform for multiaccess edge.

A lot of emphasis has been put on the “edge,” and ONF said CORD is here to make it possible for the wholesale transformation of the operator edge infrastructure, turning it into an “edge cloud.” CORD is open source, with no license fees associated with its use, and it’s expected that large segments of the $300 billion operator capex spend will shift to deploying CORD and its associated peripherals.

“CORD is really on a roll,” Timon Sloane, vice president of Marketing and Ecosystem at the ONF, told FierceWirelessTech. “It’s getting tremendous traction.”

More than 25 different open-source VNFs are now available, including residential broadband subscriber management, disaggregated mobile core and enterprise VPN services.

Until now, R-CORD was the Residential version of CORD; other VNFs for Mobile (M-CORD) and Enterprise (E-CORD) followed, but the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) lab was really the only place capable of pulling it all together, he said.

“Now with 4.1, we’ve merged everything back together,” including M-CORD and E-CORD. “We’re on the road to making CORD a universal platform that’s exceptionally easy to customize and can support any type of subscriber and can be very easily customized and extended.”

OpenFlow was the first protocol that was defined to enable SDN solutions and separate the control plane and the data plane in a standardized way, and that’s been a huge success, with products shipping worldwide that support OpenFlow, he said. Then came ONOS, which is the leading open source controller for SDN. The next big thing is CORD, which relies on those previous pieces. Some 70% of operators worldwide are planning to deploy CORD, according to IHS Markit.

ONF now has more than 160 members, and AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT Group, Turk Telecom and Verizon are on the ONF board of directors.

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AT&T has been a well-known leader in moving the industry to open source and virtualizing network functions; it famously said it plans to virtualize and control more than 75% of its network using software-defined architecture by 2020.

But as the ONF board and membership indicate, other operators are on the virtual bandwagon.

Last week, Verizon’s Ed Chan, senior vice president of Technology, Strategy and Planning, said it’s been a long journey but the operator has been moving a lot of functions to software, leading the network to look more cloud-like in the core and in the edge—all the way to the base station.

“You’re now starting to see us actually having these compute and storage capabilities all the way to the edge of the network,” he said during a Barclays investor conference. What’s really exciting is, “when you get to that 5G place and you add these kind of edge cloud capabilities, you start to see the fact that wow, isn’t it interesting that it feels like the cloud is right in your back pocket, when the latency is that short” and the bandwidth is so high.

“You all of a sudden move that to the edge and your latency characteristics where your phone can become more like a screen, and just a lot of processing being done there, AR VR becomes a real capability”—and you no longer have to basically wear a backpack to do it—your phone can handle it.