CALIENT Technologies

Move the light, not the fiber

OCS and Its Role in the CORD Initiative

There’s been a shift in customer expectations for telecom customers who are more technologically savvy and want better control of what and how they want their services delivered to them and their end customers.

They are looking for cost-effective solutions that offer them the flexibility that enables rapid deployment of new services or increases in service levels to match their end-user demand. Service providers can meet this requirement by offering XaaS – Everything-as-a-Service. In addition to bread and butter access and transport services, they can add complementary services like caching as a service, DNS as a service, firewall as a service, etc.

Unfortunately, these service providers are encumbered with a static, rigid and siloed hardware-based network, making them anything but nimble to meet both a growing and constantly evolving set of customer demands.  Central offices (CO) that worked really well 10+ years ago have become more of a liability. Central offices are huge CapEx and OpEx sinkholes, with some COs hosting more than 300 different types of equipment.

Much of this equipment consists of fully integrated, vendor proprietary solutions that are typically controlled using that vendor’s interface. The agility problem that this proprietary equipment causes is exacerbated when the service provider now faces competition from more nimble data centers and content providers.

To stay competitive and also to take advantage of customer incumbency and their investment in these COs, service providers are looking to transform their COs into data centers. This industry-wide initiative is called CORD – Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center – and it’s working its way through the IEEE standards process.

The idea behind CORD is to use virtualization, software-defined networking and other data center technologies to transform the CO to a white-box, bare metal, software-centric architecture for layer 0 thru layer 7 data services, so service providers can compete better with traditional data centers.

Some of the advantages of CORD are:

  • Economics of a data center – Infrastructure built on open source software and white box switches – replacing the proprietary legacy systems. Or, at least, minimizing proprietary hardware and software.
  • Agility of a cloud provider – Software platforms that enable rapid creation of new services. This lets service providers offer new services in weeks and days instead of months and years.
  • Quick deployment – Providing the ability to rapidly install or scale the network.
  • End-user control – Let end users scale or otherwise customize the services that they purchase.
  • XaaS – Provide Everything-As-A-Service so that enterprises can outsource any IT function they want to the service provider.
  • Network Aware Applications – Offers virtualization, delivery diversity, analytics and intelligence.
  • Build it once – Use the same network to provide enterprise (E-CORD), residential (R-CORD) and mobility (M-CORD) services.

Fig1: This diagram shows the IEEE suggested CORD architecture with OCS overlays.*

Making CORD More Agile with OCS

CALIENT’s S-Series layer-0 Optical Circuit Switch (OCS) is perfectly positioned to help for the CORD initiative. As shown in the CORD reference architecture, service providers can benefit from the S-Series OCS in the following ways:

  • Providing software-defined network (SDN)-based optical transport and data center interconnect (DCI). More information on this topic can be found here.
  • vPOD/vCluster – disaggregate key hardware resources and use the low-latency OCS connection to use resources more optimally. More information on this topic can be found here.
  • Disaggregated Reconfigurable Optical Add-Drop Multiplexer (ROADMs) – Operators are looking for flexibility to separate transponders, wavelength selective switching (WSS) and the backplane to connect to these from a traditional ROADM. On the add/drop side, an OCS allows for operation in multi-vendor environments. This allows the operator to separate the function of capacity allocation from optical transport for a true “best-of-breed” network design.

CORD offers telecom service providers a new ability to be competitive by re-architecting their data centers by moving away from fixed-function network gear and embracing today’s more flexible data center environment. OCS adds additional network connectivity flexibility to this initiative. More information on CORD is available at CORD and IEEE.

*Architecture Ref.: Larry Peterson, Nov 2015 – a collaborative effort between AT&T and the Open Networking Lab.

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