As we enter the next phase of broadband deployment and cloud services become more widely distributed, the industry as a whole is making promises of higher performance and rapid availability of new revenue-generating services. But can cloud technology deliver on this vision or is the industry pursuing a pipe dream?
A major industry initiative currently being undertaken by the Broadband Forum aims to ensure the huge potential the cloud holds for broadband networks is realized, by enabling new services and bringing cloud services and access networks closer together.
Cloud Central Office (Cloud CO), an open interface and cloud-based broadband framework, is located at the heart of the broadband network and serves as a unifying framework for new technologies and important service developments.
This provides a single agile, scalable and dynamic network with all varieties of access technologies, meeting several key service provider requirements including reduced capex, migration and opex costs, as well as fast time-to-market for innovative new value-added services to allow innovative new business models. Cloud COís functionality can be accessed through a northbound API, allowing operators or third parties to consume its functionality, while hiding how the functionality is achieved from the API consumer.
A new era of connectivity
To achieve the agility, scalability and dynamism service providers crave, Cloud CO leverages a number of design principles such as software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization techniques, commodity compute and networking platforms, virtual network functions (VNFs) and cloud-like APIs.
It also encompasses various Broadband Forum initiatives, including virtualization projects like the Virtual Business Gateway, Fiber Access Network Sharing (FANS) and the User Services Platform which expands the TR-069 specification beyond gateways and into device control, the Internet of Things (IoT), YANG modelling for access network management and carrier-grade on-premises WiFi. Additionally, Cloud CO is a focal point for converged networks, enabling the new generation of hybrid wireless-wireline services that will be key to the success of 5G.
From a structural perspective, Cloud CO reference architecture combines SDN and NFV over a hybrid physical and NFV infrastructure, which addresses the twin issues of coexistence and migration from existing networks. The latter orchestrates and manages the virtual functions and infrastructure, while the former controls data plane interactions among the Physical Network Functions (PNFs), VNFs and switch fabric. At the center of the whole architecture (and home to the northbound API), is the Cloud CO Domain Orchestrator, orchestrating across the southbound SDN Controllers and the NFV management and operation functions.
The CloudCO User Managed Objects Framework project creates a cloud-based user interface framework and a user-managed oriented objects template that any provider can use. This aims to satisfy customer requirements such as SD-WAN, where the customer wants WAN resource telemetry in the user browsers, portals and for use by their applications.
The second key project is Broadband Access Abstraction Open Source, which addresses the requirements, architecture, design and software required to support virtualization of access device functionality to enable an open and interoperable unified management interface for access equipment from different vendors. This project will be managed under the Forumís agile Open Broadband software initiative, allowing for member and non-member participation to create a fast feedback loop between the specifications and the source code reference implementation that supports them.
The two software projects are spearheaded by groups of key operators and their manufacturer partners. With this sort of collaboration and standards-based approach, we are confident the possibilities of the new era of broadband can be realized for the benefit of the whole industry.
— Robin Mersh, CEO, Broadband Forum