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Huawei’s Open Central Office

Huawei’s Central Office initiative is an architectural model now realized in proof-of-concept demonstrations to bring data center economies-of-scale to telecommunications operations. This novel Central Office solution is founded on the use of open source software and open standards to build a scalable and extensible platform for virtual Customer Premise Equipment (vCPE), virtual IP Multimedia Subsystem (vIMS), virtual Broadband Network Gateway (vBNG), and services such as Content Delivery Networks (CDNs) and 4K television. Huawei’s Central Office enables new functionality to be gradually phased into systems to support the business needs of each user organization.

Problems and Opportunities

The explosion of unique service types mandates better resource utilization and more freedom to orchestrate network services. Traditional Central Offices are complex collections of hard-wired switching equipment, which makes the introduction of new services a complex and lengthy process. A primary goal of the Huawei Open Central Office is the flexible control of network resources and services.

Key problems faced by Telco service providers include agile service creation, and reducing Operating Expenses (OPEX) and Capital Expenses (CAPEX). One purpose for the Central Office prototype is to demonstrate that combining Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) is an optimal solution for these problems. SDN offers programmability, while NFV separates monolithic functions into sets of agile services. The Central Office initiative is using SDN and NFV to move the traditional telephone company functionality to cloud-enabled data centers. The result is the transformation of switching to a hosted service that, in turn, enables the reallocation of strategic assets. Together, SDN and NFV provide cloud elasticity for local and regional business customers; i.e., dynamic service function chaining, virtualized functions, support service agility, lower time-to-market, and access to new revenue streams.

Architecture

SDN and NFV enable the delivery of scalable, flexible, and extensible functionality by implementing virtualized infrastructures under the management of the SDN. The NFV component separates traditional monolithic network functions into agile services based on context-aware policy rules.

The bottom two layers connect “Physical and Virtualization Interfaces” infrastructure through a set of “Cloud System Interfaces” to the “Model-driven Autonomic Framework,” which is the “brains” of the Central Office. The autonomic framework — modeled after established data center methods — contains an abstraction of all physical and virtual processing, storage, and network entities that opens the interface to all upper-level applications and services.

The Cloud System interfaces are an explicit example of Huawei’s commitment to open software systems. Open standards, such as Open Networking Laboratory’s carrier-grade SDN network operating system, ONOS, and OpenDayLight (ODL), are combined with cloud operating systems, such as OpenStack, to provide a comprehensive and holistic solution. The “southbound” interfaces of the Cloud System enable different types of virtual systems (i.e. bare metal Kernal-based Virtual Machines (KVM) systems or packaged solutions such as Huawei’s FusionSphere) to be used. Central Office enables either an ONOS or OpenDayLight controller to be used without changing any other components in the architecture. Similarly, the “northbound” interfaces of the Cloud System connect the raw functionality provided by physical and virtual components to a cloud system, such as OpenStack.

The heart of the Central Office system is the model-driven autonomic framework that uses a common syntax and semantics for different operational, management, and performance data types to be understood by a unified controller. Big Data analytics are integrated into the system control loop to track service degradations and proactively re-initialize application instances before preset Service Level Agreements (SLAs) are violated. The rate at which resources can adapt to changing user needs, traffic loads, business goals, and environmental conditions is improving. Huawei will provide core value-added services, such as service orchestration, real-time traffic analysis, and other Operations Support Systems/Business Support Systems (OSS/BSS) functions. And, because the Central Office architecture is open and modular, operators will be able to purchase or develop their own third party solutions.

The “Network Services and Components” and “Business Service Applications and Components” layers create resource and service building blocks from the framework model. These building blocks form re-usable templates for building system-level services — i.e. load balancing, firewalls, Deep Packet Inspection, and traffic steering. Policy rules orchestrate how these building blocks create higher-level business services, such as Level 3 Virtual Private Networks (L3 VPN), virtual Enterprise-Customer Premises Equipment (vE-CPE), vCDN, and 4K television for internal and end-user consumption.

The “Application and User Interfaces” layer of Central Office provides graphical and textual access to all functionality through the RESTful API. New policy language interfaces will be added to provide traditional as well as intent-based policies in the near future.

Business Benefits

Huawei is combining open-source software and open standards with modern operations practices to provide an extensible platform that will drive network resources and business services, contextually — time-to-market accelerations, resource and functional agility, and OPEX reductions addressed dynamically in a coordinated and scalable manner.

Huawei’s Central Office platform design goals include support for gradual, step-wise transformations from traditional central offices into dynamic cloud data centers. Central Office is built to allow developers to seamlessly integrate legacy, NFV, and SDN technologies under an orchestrated, policy-driven management framework.

Huawei plans to demonstrate progressive use cases over the next few months, starting with L3 VPN and vE-CPE on Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) servers using Open Standards and Open Source.

Looking ahead, Huawei remains committed to open innovation across the business development ecosystem to create greater value for our customers, advance the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) industry, and contribute to building a better connected world.

By John Strassner Ph.D.

CTO, Software Laboratory, Futurewei Technologies, Inc.

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