The Open Networking Foundation (ONF) today released 4.1 of its Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) code. CORD has only been around as an independent project within ONF for about a year and a half, but with this release a couple of things have gelled for the project. First, it has merged its residential-CORD, mobile-CORD, and enterprise-CORD into one overarching project. Secondly, the ONF has realized CORD’s relevance in edge computing and edge cloud data centers.

The typical operator might have 50 core sites and 5,000 edge sites, said Timon Sloane, VP of marketing with the ONF. “The central office is in the edge. The central office is the vast majority of what’s out there. But CORD can also run in a radio tower, in a car, or even a drone. Edge is where CORD plays. CORD is the de facto platform choice for edge computing.”

It’s a bit ironic that a project named “Central Office” Re-architected as a Data Center is now claiming to be the de facto choice for “edge” computing. But CORD isn’t the only group that’s struggled with naming conventions for edge computing. ETSI’s Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) standard’s group was originally named the Mobile Edge Computing group. But it quickly realized that “mobile” was too restrictive for its work.

Asked if CORD is working with MEC, Sloane said it was not. ONF is driving edge computing forward via an open source approach as opposed to a standardization approach. “CORD gives you all that natively; you’re going to get the equivalent of edge computing,” he said. “We believe open source is moving at a pace unlike anything seen. Open source is having a dominant impact.”

A Unified CORD

With CORD 4.1, a single distribution supports all subscriber types, including residential, mobile, and enterprise. Prior to this release, CORD was available as a base distribution with residential support (R-CORD) and with separate virtual network functions (VNFs) available to support either mobile or enterprise subscribers.

“Cord 4.1 is a milestone for us, simplifying consumption,” said Sloane. “This breaks it open and makes it consumable more easily by operators and vendors. It’s now a unified platform.”

CORD 4.1 comes with software-defined networking (SDN) control, leveraging Trellis, which is built on ONOS. And CORD uses the XOS orchestration software to build services.

“The high-level vision is that these service elements will run where most appropriate on the infrastructure, not just on x86 servers, but also using SDN-controlled fabric,” said Sloane. “Over time, a P4-enabled switch fabric will be much more capable.”

Sloane explained earlier this year how the P4 language makes the chip layer programmable. From CORD’s perspective, P4 can enable functions to be programmed onto the hardware itself.

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