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ONS: Driving Open Networking Standards

At the recent Open Networking Summit, leading service providers, standards organizations, and technology providers proclaimed 2016 as the year of open source networking. Proponents believe open source will provide the innovation and cost benefits to networking that have already been provided to the compute and storage industries.

ONS (and its associated standards body sponsors) has been instrumental in the disaggregation of network hardware and software. ONS provides a forum for a wide range of buyers, suppliers, and standards bodies to exchange new ideas on how to drive open, software-based networks. Here are some highlights from last week’s event in Santa Clara, Calif.


The major announcement at ONS 2016 was the promotion of CORD by some of the world’s largest telecom service providers. CORD stands for Central Office Redesigned as a Data Center. Its goal is to provide reference design architectures for SDN and NFV implementation in the telecom network. CORD leverages a number of existing standards, including OCP hardware and ONOS software.

The goal of CORD is to bring data center simplicity and cloud flexibility to telecom networks that currently feature tightly coupled hardware and software. The CORD architecture is intended to speed up the pace at which network operators and their equipment vendors are able to test and deploy NFV systems. At ONS, SPs designed a number of CORD configurations, including those targeted at residential broadband, business services, mobile networks, and analytics. 

AT&T, Verizon, SK Telecom, and China Unicom were among the leading SPs that talked about their support for CORD at ONS. A number of suppliers, including Radisys and Ciena, announced their support for CORD implementations.


One of the highlights at ONS events has been the keynote by AT&T’s John Donovan and this year was no exception. Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president at AT&T, provided an update on the company’s migration of its network towards NFV and SDN (Domain 2.0).

During 2015, AT&T hit its target of virtualizing 5% of its network functions, he said. This year, the company aims to increase its NFV rollout to 30% of network functions. This includes some 39 VNFs going into the production infrastructure. Currently, 14 million wireless customers are on AT&T's fully virtualized mobile packet core. Donovan said that AT&T received over 50% CAPEX and OPEX savings from its virtual network software deployments.

ONS 2016 AT&T John Donovan


Donovan also introduced AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy (ECOMP) architecture. ECOMP is positioned as the architecture for AT&T’s software-centric network and the most sophisticated software project that AT&T has ever undertaken. Based on OpenStack and commodity hardware, its goal is to increase the utilization of network resources by combining dynamic, policy-enforced functions for workload placement, execution, and administration.

Over the past 18 months, a team of 300 AT&T developers has assembled 8 million lines of codes. ECOMP is critical to AT&T’s ability to achieve its Domain 2.0 objectives and impacts AT&T’s network design across hardware, software, services, and OSS/BSS.

Dueling NFV orchestration efforts

At ONS, two rival service provider groups discussed their efforts to advance NFV management and orchestration (MANO). China Mobile introduced its Open Orchestration project (Open-0) and Telefonica discussed its Open Source MANO (OSM) initiative. Both projects hope to bring innovation, low cost, and eliminate vendor lock-in for the all-important NFV MANO layer.

SDN in enterprise

At ONS, numerous presentations by telecom SP largely over shadowed cloud and enterprise SDN discussions. However, presentations by Google, Microsoft, and Facebook, disclosed further detailed on their (largely) homegrown open networking efforts. PayPal provided details on its use of SDN to enhance the performance, scale, and security of the network running its large deployments of OpenStack-based data centers.

The bottom line

The IT industry has been significantly impacted by the rapid adoption of open source software (e.g. Linux and OpenStack). As shown at ONS, the networking industry now has a wide range of open source options, all running on standard hardware platforms (e.g., x86 servers or Broadcom switches). ONS promoted a plethora of open source projects, including SDN, NFV, CORD, ONOS, and open MANO. Look for further details on open source networking implementations as their various technologies mature in the coming years.

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