Cloud CO ensures cloud control and multi-vendor interop for broadband networks
I miss face-to-face industry events and trade shows: while virtual conferences are here to stay, even after the COVID pandemic, the lack of networking opportunities is usually a drawback. At conferences I get inspired by the insight of operators and take home the opportunities and challenges they flag.
While Nokia’s Get to Fast Faster event did not happen in-person last year, the operators did take the opportunity to speak up and tell us how software-defined access should open up their networks. Operators (like Orange in the ARES project) are rapidly enhancing their understanding of SDAN to address the fundamentals of broadband automation, multivendor interworking, and extensibility, well beyond the capabilities of off-the-shelf solutions. Operators want solutions customized to suit their needs, but have expressed concerns about the lack of open standards.
Hey, wait a minute… How can one deliver multivendor interworking if standards are missing?
What are open standards?
I have heard time and time again that open and standardized are two different terms. Open APIs do not necessarily need to be standardized. In theory, it’s possible that open API solutions can provide a de facto standard when they become globally adopted. In reality, open APIs frequently lack the documentation rigor and backward compatibility needed to reach multivendor interoperability beyond the community that created the API.
I second the Internet Society’s call: open standards everywhere for the telecom sector. We deeply believe that open standards are the building blocks that enable compatibility around the world. Open standards ensure that hardware and software solutions from various suppliers can interoperate with one another.
The debate on open APIs versus standards is far from over. Telecom companies fear complete commoditization if everything is standardized, but standards are necessary to maintain a baseline level of service quality, network and interoperability, and end-to-end automation. Luckily, there is now a forward-thinking reference architecture that allows operators to start modernizing their central office infrastructure and define a feasible cloud-based network evolution to disaggregate network functionality.
Standards are good … a reference framework is better
This is exactly what the CloudCO framework offers. The architecture is defined in TR-384 and sets standardized interfaces for management, control and orchestration of access and edge functionality. CloudCO is important in that it allows interoperability for all solutions, traditional and disaggregated. Whatever the source, origin, color, vendor or pedigree. Whether it’s standardized or not.
Each function in the CloudCO architecture is implemented via an abstraction layer towards the SDN control framework. The CloudCO’s functionality can be accessed through a northbound API, defined in TR-411, released in April 2021. This allows operators, or 3rd parties, to consume access and edge functionality, avoiding complex OSS integrations. The CloudCO interface specifications define the interfaces and protocols for physical and virtual network functions and deliver the ability to create the multivendor ecosystem desired by the operators.
As you can see on the figure, the Nokia Altiplano Access Controller offers a lot of management and SDN control functions in line with the CloudCO architecture. CloudCO compliancy makes Altiplano a truly open platform that can connect easily to any type of access node: SDN-native nodes via FTTH/FTTdP YANG modeling, disaggregated access nodes, white boxes, traditional SNMP nodes, and basically any type of node via proprietary software adapters when the interfaces are not standardized. The compliancy also ensures that all adapters that are developed in the open source project of the Broadband Abstraction Layer will work with Altiplano as well. It allows every vendor to proactively fix interop issues independently and simplify the integration work.
The future is clearly open: where possible, through standardized interfaces and where the APIs are not widely adopted, via software adapters.
If you want to learn more, Nokia will be talking at the Broadband Forum’s Base series webinars about the state of software-defined access. Registration is free for staff of service providers and Nokia.