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China Unicom and Huawei Collaborate on SDN-ONOS

In January 2016, telecom operator China Unicom reached a commercial milestone with the debut of the world’s first leased-line service in Tianjin built on the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) architecture and a Software-Defined Networking (SDN)-based IP-Radio Access Network (IP-RAN).

Founding ONOS member Huawei has supported China Unicom throughout, using legacy Commercial-Off-The-Shelf (COTS) platform components and SDN- and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV)-based products for the construction of fixed, mobile, and public cloud-based services.

ONOS — the first open-source SDN control platform designed for carriers — was launched by Palo Alto, CA-based ON.Lab in 2014. This new relation-ship between carriers and open-source technology is a major trend in the ICT industry.

China Unicom and Huawei Collaborate on SDN-ONOS

Key Role

Legacy telecommunication carriers welcome the opportunities presented by SDN, NFV, and ONOS to ‘transform’ their legacy systems to Internet-oriented, advanced IT solutions.

ONOS has attracted the support of a number of the largest carriers in the world, including AT&T, NTT Communications, and SK Telecom. Additional support includes telecom vendors Ericsson, Huawei, and Ciena; Internet providers Internet2, CNIT, and CREATE-NET; and partners like Stanford Research Institute (SRI) and Infoblox. ONOS has also won the support of the Open Network Foundation (ONF), Open Network Service (ONS), and Open Networking Research Center (ONRC).

China Unicom’s conventional leased-line services usually involve long-term contracts with limited changes that often take weeks to deploy.

In September 2015, China Unicom released its CUBE-Net 2.0, SDN/NFV/cloud-based network architecture to counteract this problem. CUBE-Transport and CUBE-VPN programs are used to develop ONOS-based VPN services for the enterprise ICT market using the CUBE-Net 2.0 framework. The company says CUBE-Net 2.0 will force local broadband networks to update to the new cloud data center-oriented architecture. Installed SDN and NFV technologies will continue to provide on-demand cloud services.

Planning, Promotion, and Execution

China Unicom and Huawei worked together to explore different platform, service, and network construction models. Using an existing network to open an L2VPN leased-line service between two Tianjin central offices, China Unicom created an SDN-based ‘eCommerce-oriented,’ premier leased line.

First, an IP-based data center resource pool was isolated from pre-existing public-switched telephone networks; then, an SDN and NFV management platform was used to orchestrate the resource pool. The result was that the SDN/NFV management platform unified the transport of conventional telephony and Over-The-Top (OTT) Internet services over the upgraded network. The next steps set up application portals for launching new services.

The benefits to China Unicom include:

  • Rapid deployment and release of IP-RAN leased-line services
  • Policy-based, real-time bandwidth allocation
  • Ability to adjust user permissions as needed
  • Highly competitive enterprise leased-line services
  • Solid foundation for additional value-added services


This joint innovation in SDN was an important achievement for China Unicom, Huawei, and the ONOS open-source community. All three parties will continue to work together to replicate and expand their experience with SDN/NFV referral sites to establish their leadership worldwide.

By Huang Haifeng

Senior Reporter, Communications World Weekly, Xinhua News Agency

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