Today, telecoms service providers are facing a growing gap between the demand for bandwidth, and revenue. To stay competitive and gain new subscribers, service providers must invest in new services and additional network capacity, but the cost-per-bit has not been falling as quickly as traffic has been growing – so the gap continues to widen.
So what can be done to reduce cost, both CapEx and OpEx? In an effort to create new revenue streams, service providers are looking to the virtualization of network functions; NFV enables a reduction in costs and new service development. The CORD initiative (central office re-architected as a data center) offers a framework for implementation – here we’ll explore further, including its applications and the benefits it offers.
The historic compartmentalization of functions whereby high-performance networking equipment was dedicated to a specific function – such as switching and routing, firewalls and session border controls – has worked well in the past, but it also has its drawbacks. It often came hand in hand with vendor lock-in and the need for specialized knowledge and training, which come at a high cost. Also, to relieve congestion, building faster links and over-dimensioning were reliable, but expensive, solutions.
In recent years, to meet these challenges and realize more agile, cost-efficient networks, a cloud computing-based virtualization approach has been adopted. Virtualization replaced functions normally performed by dedicated physical hardware, with virtualized software applications that run on general-purpose commodity hardware. Software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) are the technologies that enable virtualization in the data center and central office environment, and help service providers break through the “service silo” model.
Using the combination of SDN/NFV lowers the relative cost of capital assets as it utilizes commercial off-the-shelf hardware and software, resource pooling, network visibility and analytics.
CORD enables service providers to bring data center best practices to the central office. There are many similarities between a virtualized central office and a data center so optimizing data center architectures and functionality in the central office is the logical next step.
CORD is an integrated, open-source platform combining NFV, SDN, and highly flexible, scalable commodity “clouds” that bring cloud agility and data center economics to the central office.
By utilizing commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and open-source software, central offices can mirror the functionality of data centers, while the pooling of resources allows dimensioning for aggregate versus peak demand, also reducing costs. Using commodity servers and switches to run a CORD software stack, operators are able to manage central offices using declarative modeling languages.
SDN, NFV, and CORD allow access network unification and multi-access edge computing (MEC). Indeed, the emergence of edge data centers is forecasted to service a huge increase in network traffic from mobile devices, the IoT (internet of things), and streaming media.
The CORD configuration meets the demand for low latency that is required for augmented reality manufacturing and autonomous vehicles – which can be delivered only by computing resources located in close proximity to the user. While a traditional data center might be located far from the systems’ users (potentially on another continent), resulting in an unacceptable response time, or latency, in processing information requests and delivering content, the use of edge data centers will solve this challenge. 5G will also drive numerous use cases and business models given that MED is an essential enabler for more intelligent applications delivered with lower latency.
CORD offers a multitude of benefits to service providers:
The fact that no dedicated hardware is required for a CORD configuration brings down costs and means there is greater uniformity in the bill of materials. Crucially, CORD provides end-to-end visibility of the network.
Ultimately, CORD efficiently enables demand-based, value added cloud services, increasing flexibility and offers operators a more cost-effective model.
Locating data centers closer to end users doesn’t just improve customer experience, it can also save significant amounts of money in transport bandwidth costs and enable new latency-sensitive revenue services. Implementing CORD has implications for many areas of a service provider’s operations, including hardware standards, deployment and maintenance processes and procurement practices. By replacing purpose-built switching hardware with flexible and cost-effective off-the-shelf components and open-source software, CORD enables SPs to rapidly introduce competitive services. With this flexibility, they can completely innovate their business models.
You can learn more about CORD, and the advantages it provides here.