Google lending SDN expertise to Airtel, SK Telecom

Google office (Google)
Google's SDN framework provides a way for network operators to adapt to a whole new way of delivering services. Image: Google

It’s not all that surprising that Google is offering to help telecom operators develop a better platform for offering network services--but it's notable that more operators are embracing what Google's offering. 

Google announced this week that it’s partnering with mobile network operators Bharti Airtel of India and SK Telecom of South Korea, building a platform for operators to run their network services. It makes sense, given that operators around the world are moving to SDN and NFV, the very principles on which Google built its massive infrastructure.

“This platform brings to partners a set of powerful building blocks that we have developed over time,” said Ankur Jain, principle engineer at Google, in a blog post. “Our SDN framework enables networks to adapt to new services and traffic patterns. Fast user space packet processing on commodity hardware increases the ability to deliver new features quickly while reducing costs.”

The platform also builds on Google’s existing efforts to jointly experiment with mobile operators on richer APIs. “These APIs will enable new operational models and help operators bring new features (such as Smart Offline) to people,” Jain said. 

In addition to partnering with more operators for this platform, Google is bringing its design and operational experience to the open-source project CORD, which stands for Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center.

Jain was instrumental in bringing SDN and NFV concepts to Google’s traffic engineering and edge networking infrastructure, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he’s on the board of CORD, which aims to bring data center economics and cloud agility to the telco Central Office. 

It’s worth noting that entrenched telecom operators typically don’t have a reputation for quickly changing their ways, especially when it comes to their legacy networks, and it’s taking time. AT&T, of course, has been leading the charge in its own ranks, embracing the SDN world in ways that might have seemed unimaginable a few short years ago.

“We’re excited to see Google bring their expertise in SDN, NFV and cloud to the carrier ecosystem. By working together, we can accelerate the transition to 5G and enable new use cases such as the application of machine learning to optimize network operations,” said Alex Choi, CTO at SK Telecom, in a prepared statement.

“It’s great to see Google bring the benefits of their networking technologies to carriers. This will bring greater efficiencies and capabilities to mobile networks and enable us to rapidly innovate on new user experiences,” said Shyam Mardikar, CTO Wireless (India and South Asia) at Bharti Airtel.

The CORD initiative was announced last July when the Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) and The Linux Foundation declared it as a new, independent open source project. At the time, Google, Radisys and Samsung Electronics joined CORD and ONOS Projects as new partners.

Google hosted the first CORD Summit last July at its Sunnyvale Tech Corner Campus in California in an attempt to unite industry leaders, network architects and administrators, developers and engineers interested in building and using CORD, which represents a whole new way to doing things for most established telcos.

RELATED: Sprint not yet ready to link SDN/NFV with 5G

During a briefing Monday with media at Mobile World Congress 2017 in Barcelona, Spain, Sprint executives were asked about their virtualization plans and reiterated they’re in no big hurry. Sprint COO Gunther Ottendorfer said Sprint's vision is clear that virtualization will be a growing part of Sprint’s network and the company will talk more about it this year.

“We will not have a big bang where we replace legacy hardware,” he said. Ottendorfer previously has described it as a journey that must be inclusive as it’s a big change for the traditional telecom industry and employees.