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CORD - An Interesting Use Case for Virtualized Aura Licensed CDN and AnswerX Name Controls

One of the important, and more interesting, use cases of Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networking (SDN) is CORD.

CORD stands for Central Office Re-architected as Datacenter.  It "combines NFV, SDN, and the elasticity of commodity clouds to bring datacenter economics and cloud agility to the Telco Central Office" according to the CORD website.  It is an initiative that was started by AT&T and Open Networking Lab (ON.Lab) almost two years ago now.  

Akamai participated in the first public demo of CORD by AT&T and ON.Lab at the Open Networking Summit (ONS) in June 2015.  And we are participating again at this year's ONS event, March 15-17, in collaboration with AT&T, ON.Lab and Open Network Operating System (ONOS) project for the CORD demo.  The demo will again include Akamai's virtualized Licensed Content Delivery Network (LCDN) and virtualized AnswerX Name Controls as third party services running on the CORD platform.  In addition, Marc Fiuczynski, Akamai's principal architect for the Aura LCDN, will be presenting at the CORD Mini Summit being held in conjunction with ONS on Tuesday, March 15. 

So, what is CORD?  At the very basic level, CORD brings virtualization and cloud technologies from the data centers into the telco central offices.  It thereby brings the benefits of NFV, SDN and cloud to the new central office - lower CapEx, lower OpEx, superior service agility, dynamic allocation of resources and elastic scalability.

Why would telcos be interested in it?  The logic goes something like this:

  • OTT video (and soon 4K video) is driving the need for higher bandwidth to homes.
  • In order to deliver higher bandwidth to homes, many operators are considering expanding their fiber-to-the-home infrastructure. 
  • Some countries or regions have a mandate to deliver significantly higher bandwidth to households for Internet connectivity by 2020.
  • So, telcos are faced with two options for building out FTTx: (a) deploy what they have been deploying for many years (conventional GPON equipment); or (b) leverage NFV, SDN and cloud technologies and commodity hardware.  The latter is what CORD is based on, and it seems to be substantially cheaper.

Why is Akamai interested in it? If a telco adopts CORD (or a similar architecture), it would make it much easier for it to deploy virtualized caches with Akamai's virtualized Aura LCDN solution deeper in its network to deliver high-bandwidth services such as IP video.  The deployment of virtualized caches in telco central offices would deliver a number of benefits:

  • Lower CapEx and OpEx through the use of commodity and shared hardware for multiple services
  • The ability to dynamically scale out and scale in caching capacity in minutes instead of weeks or months; this could be very valuable for high-audience peak events (such as live streaming of popular sports events) that require significantly more bandwidth for a finite duration of time
  • Higher traffic offload at the edge of the network that saves last-mile bandwidth
  • Better quality of experience for the end user subscribers

As for the AnswerX Name Controls solution, CORD makes it much easier to deploy device-level parental controls by integrating the service with the virtual subscriber gateway or virtual CPE functions of CORD.  This service allows the "head of the household" to set different levels of access for each IP device in the household (computers, tablets, smart phones) for protection against certain types of content, websites or malware based on a series of user and device profiles.  This is a great service that telcos can bundle as a value-add to basic Internet access.

Whether CORD takes off or not remains to be seen, but it certainly has momentum behind it: Verizon, NTT, China Unicom and SK Telecom have officially joined since AT&T's launch in June of last year, and it would not be surprising to see other major players join the fray.  If it does take off, Akamai is in the right place to take advantage of it for our virtualized LCDN and AnswerX Parental Controls solutions.