CORD Project Aims to Bring Cloud Agility to Service Providers


The CORD Project recently became an independent project hosted by The Linux Foundation. CORD (TM) (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter), which began as a use case of ONOS®, brings NFV, SDN, and commodity clouds to the telco central office and aims to give telco service providers the same level of agility that cloud providers have to rapidly create new services. Major service providers like AT&T, SK Telecom, Verizon, China Unicom, and NTT Communications, as well as companies like Google and Samsung, are already supporting CORD.

As an open source project, CORD can have its own board, governance, steering teams, and its own community, to help achieve its goals and deliver value to service providers, vendors, and industry.

In advance of the first CORD Summit, which will be held July 29 at Google, we talked with Guru Parulkar, executive director of ON.Lab, about the launch of the new open source initiative and the overall goals of the project. You recently announced the CORD Project as its own independent initiative. Why did On.Lab decide to do this? What are the mission and goals for CORD as its own project?

Guru Parulkar: CORD started as a use case of ONOS, which is creating an open source software defined networking (SDN) OS for service providers with scalability, performance, and high availability. ON.Lab and our partners and collaborators designed a few proof of concepts (PoCs) and demonstrations of CORD during 2015 and early 2016. They were very well-received by the community, and we believe CORD captured the industry’s imagination. It quickly became apparent that CORD represents a compelling “solution platform for service delivery” and can bring a lot of value to service providers. So, we decided to make CORD a separate open source project with the mission to bring “datacenter economy” and “cloud agility” to service providers by building an open reference implementation and nurturing a vibrant open source community.

Guru Parulkar, Executive Director of ON.Lab What is the market problem CORD is trying to solve? Why is CORD needed?

Guru: CORD essentially aims to reinvent the service provider central office and thus has the potential to reinvent the future access networks and services for tens of millions of residential, mobile and enterprise customers.

A central office represents very important infrastructure for a service provider. It is essentially a gateway to three important segments of customers: residential, mobile, and enterprise users. These central offices have been evolving over the past 40-50 years and have hundreds of different types of devices, which are closed, proprietary, and not programmable. As a result, service providers are looking to transform their infrastructures with platforms and solutions that offer the same type of economies that data center operators have been enjoying with merchant silicon, white boxes, and open source software platforms. They are eager to achieve the same level of agility that allows a cloud provider to rapidly create new services — maybe every week. The CORD project delivers an integrated solutions platform for service delivery that service providers need to be competitive in the market and meet their customers’ rapidly changing demands. You recently announced some major new collaborators — Google, Radisys, and Samsung. Why are so many companies investing in CORD right now?  

Guru: We are delighted to welcome Google, Radisys, and Samsung to the ONOS and CORD partnerships. They all bring unique value of their own to our projects. Given Google’s track record as a provider of cloud and access services, we anticipate it will play an important role in strengthening the CORD architecture, implementation, and deployments. Radisys plans to provide turn-key CORD pods that will accelerate development and adoption of CORD, while Samsung is a leader in mobile wireless and will help us accelerate adoption of CORD in this important market segment.

During this past year, ON.Lab and our partners and collaborators have demonstrated a few CORD PoCs for residential, mobile and enterprise customers. We demonstrated how CORD can be an integrated solutions platform that leverages merchant silicon, white boxes, and open source software and delivers a range of services including traditional connectivity and cloud services. I believe the players in the industry see the potential of CORD and realize that this is the right time to participate, contribute, and create real solutions and services using CORD to reinvent the access networks and services. CORD started as a use case for ONOS, so there is already a community, PoC, and field trials that exist. Can you summarize CORD’s traction to date?

Guru: Besides our existing service provider partners, we also have 20 companies that are active collaborators and many other service providers around the globe that are also interested and want to use CORD. Our developer community is also growing quickly. We are very pleased with the traction. At the same time, we have lot of work ahead of us before CORD can become the mainstream solution for service providers. The first CORD Summit is coming up July 29. What can attendees expect to learn? Any exciting keynotes and presentations? Why did Google agree to host the event? What role will they play in the event?

Guru: We are expecting a very productive inaugural CORD summit. We have a packed agenda and a sold-out event with 300 participants. Craig Barratt from Google will present one of the keynotes — this is the first time we will hear from Google about CORD in a public setting and so that should be interesting for the community. AT&T and China Unicom will also give keynotes, sharing their perspective and assessment of  CORD progress. Finally, Jim Zemlin, executive director of Linux Foundation, will do a keynote on CORD as an open source project.

Beyond the keynotes, we will have several presentations that will provide an overview of CORD platform and how it can be used for residential, mobile, and enterprise domains of use. We will also have presentations on the first open source CORD distribution — how to get it, use it, and contribute to it. Finally, we will have breakout sessions where we will present and discuss the roadmap — what is next for CORD and various domains of use. We will also have a breakout session on community building. These breakout sessions will also provide an opportunity for the community to provide input and shape the roadmaps and indicate how they plan to participate and contribute.

We hope the summit will help the engage and unite the community to accelerate development and deployment of CORD. On.Lab has been working with The Linux Foundation via ONOS for a while. Describe the nature of that relationship and the services and guidance you receive from the organization. How does the partnership benefit ONOS?

Guru: The Linux Foundation is a very important partner for us. ON.Lab has lot of expertise in distributed software and networking especially SDN. We need a partner that can guide us and provide help in creating open source platforms and communities — this is where The Linux Foundation excels and has a tremendous track record. Thus ON.Lab and The Linux Foundation have complementary strengths. Together we have an opportunity to shape the future of service provider networking. Specifically, we have been working with The Linux Foundation on how to set up open source governance, IT infrastructure, community building, and evangelism of our projects with media and analysts. What technical features differentiate CORD from competing solutions in the market?

Guru: I cannot think of any open source projects or platforms that can be thought of as a direct competition to CORD. The key differentiators of CORD include the following:

  • Unique and strong partnership.  

  • Integrated solutions platform for “service” delivery.

  • A common platform for three critical and big domains of use.

  • Leverages merchant silicon and white boxes.

  • Built with best in class open source platforms.

Each differentiator by itself represents significant value, and together they do make CORD a very compelling platform and open source project. These differentiators are not meant to suggest that CORD is done. Actually, we have lot of work on many fronts ahead of us. CORD needs to mature to be deployable in a production infrastructure at scale. Once this happens, it will be ready to go mainstream. How can business and technical leaders, developers, network administrators, and engineers get started with CORD?

Guru: CORD is an open source project, and we want to follow the best practices of open source projects to make it easier for developers and users from service providers and vendors to use and build on CORD.

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. We also provide excellent documentation in terms of white papers, design notes, videos, and demos to make it really easy for developers and users to get started. Moreover, we are using Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) to help make the developers productive. Our goal is to create a positive experience for new and existing developers and users.