Sprint joins CORD Project focused on SDN, NFV, cloud

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CORD is a platform for combining SDN, NFV and cloud technologies to build nimble in-line data centers at the edge of operator networks.

Sprint is the latest U.S. operator to join the CORD Project, the community working to advance the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) open source delivery platform that combines SDN, NFV and cloud technologies.

Deutsche Telekom is also among the newest collaborators, along with test solutions provider Ixia and live video streaming company Xpose, to support the CORD Project, which expects to have a significant presence at the Open Networking Summit in Santa Clara, California, this week.

“CORD combines the best of SDN, NFV and Cloud technologies, creating an integrated platform that enables agile deployment of innovative cloud-scale services,” Ron Marquardt, vice president of technology at Sprint, said in a prepared statement. “We are excited to work closely with leading ecosystem players to drive greater scalability and innovation. Through the contribution of our own open source code for CUPS and SDN, we appreciate the power of the community-driven co-development process and encourage its rapid adoption throughout the mobile industry.”

According to IHS, 70% of operators plan to deploy CORD in their central offices. The CORD community comprises service provider partners AT&T, China Unicom, Google, NTT Communications, SK Telecom and Verizon, as well as vendors Ciena, Cisco, Fujitsu, Intel, NEC, Nokia, Radisys and Samsung, and more than 30 collaborating organizations.

While AT&T and Verizon have been talking about shifting toward an SDN/NFV infrastructure at the same time they're moving to 5G, Sprint wasn’t as aggressive about linking the two. Sprint acknowledged last year that it was running a lot of tests and proof of concepts in its labs, but it also noted the monumental change occurring in the industry by moving to a mostly software-driven model and the need to get folks on board.

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

Indeed, operator attitudes seem to be changing. Timon Sloane, vice president of standards and membership at the Open Networking Foundation, said the organization learns about new activities almost weekly in which a Tier 1 operator might have a 30-person team working on CORD that they didn’t even know about previously.

“I think every operator is a little bit different but most or the most forward-leaning are working on retraining their staff and building internally and they see it as critical,” he told FierceWirelessTech. Others will lean on partners, like big vendors, for solutions. “You do see a continuum,” but universally, there’s a recognition that this is the wave of the future and it’s a matter of how fast you get on board.

As operators move to 5G, SDN and NFV are widely seen as essential components. Mobile CORD (M-CORD) is described as providing the capabilities needed to unlock 5G innovation across the open networking system. 

“We believe that M-CORD is ideally positioned to be the platform for innovation now,” as everybody is looking at the standards for 5G, Sloane said, adding that that’s being confirmed by the industry and partners.

“We actually have now an open source solution that goes all the way from the radio, the software defined RAN, all the way through to the mobile core,” or the EPC, and everything in between, he said. “It’s very exciting and really groundbreaking.”

The biggest challenge right now revolves around having the people with the skill sets to bring these cloudlike skills to market.

“We are conquering the technical challenges here and making this available,” he said, but to make it deployable, it’s about having people with the right skills to take it to the next level or scale it out. “That will take a little bit of time, but it’s happening fast,” he said, adding that more training and certification programs are coming in the pipeline.