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ONF’s Initial Reference Designs

Jun 18, 2018
Denise Barton
Denise Barton About the author

We shared with everyone the ONF’s new Strategic Plan back in March, and since then our community has been hard at work kicking off all the new initiatives called for in the plan.  Our operator leadership has been making great progress, and we want to take a moment to summarize where we are and how it is all coming together.

First off, ONF’s operator leadership, which includes AT&T, China Unicom, Comcast, Google, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica, NTT Group, and Turk Telekom, have agreed on a focused set of open source Reference Designs they communally plan to take to deployment in the near future as they begin to build out their edge & access clouds.  Reference Designs are “blueprints” for how to put common modular components together to create platforms based on open source to address specific deployment use cases for the emerging edge cloud.

The four initial Reference Designs announced today and to be pursued by the ONF are:

SDN Enabled Broadband Access
Lightweight reference design based on a variant of R-CORD.  Supports a multitude of virtualized access technologies at the edge of the carrier network, including PON, G.Fast, and eventually DOCSIS and more.
NFV Fabric-RDSDN-native spine-leaf data center fabric optimized for edge applications.
Unified, Programmable & Automated Network
Next generation SDN reference design, leveraging P4 to enable flexible data plane programmability and network embedded VNF acceleration.
Open Disaggregated Transport Network
Open multi-vendor optical networks leveraging open line systems and DWDM optics


Each reference design features a set of committed partners coming together to work on the RD specification and a related open source exemplar platform.  Each reference design has both:

Operator GroupONF board member operators planning to roll out production deployments based on the RD and investing significant resource to realize both the RD and deployments.
Supply Chain Partners:ONF supply chain partner companies committed to working with the operators to realize the RD and the Exemplar Platform.  Furthermore, these partners will then be positioned to provide solutions to the market based on these Exemplar Platforms.


For each reference design, these partner groups include:

SEBA Partners

Operator GroupAT&T, Deutsche Telekom, NTT, Turk Telekom
Supply Chain PartnersADTRAN, Ciena, Dell, Edgecore, Juniper Networks, Radisys


NFV Fabric Partners

Operator GroupComcast
Supply Chain PartnersDell, Edgecore, Radisys


UPAN Partners

Operator GroupChina Unicom, Deutsche Telekom, Google, NTT, Turk Telekom
Supply Chain PartnersCiena, Dell, Edgecore, Juniper Networks


ODTN Partners

Operator GroupComcast, NTT
Supply Chain PartnersCiena, China Unicom, Edgecore, Juniper Networks


Exemplar Platforms

Exemplar Platforms are open source platform implementations, one for each reference design, designed to make it easy to download, modify, trial and deploy an operational instantiation - and thus speed up adoption and deployment.  Each EP will leverage upstream open source projects (both hardware and software) from both the ONF and beyond.

Since the ONF’s platform work preceded the RDs, at this time the exemplar platforms are taking a leading role informing the RDs.  Reference Design relate to Exemplar Platforms in the following way:

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Here are details for each Exemplar Platform:

SEBA:  SDN Enabled Broadband Access

DescriptionLightweight platform based on a variant of R-CORD.  Supports a multitude of virtualized access technologies at the edge of the carrier network, including PON, G.Fast, and eventually DOCSIS and more.  Supports both residential access and wireless backhaul, and optimized such that traffic can run ‘fastpath’ straight through to the backbone without requiring VNF processing on a server.

Includes NEM - Network Edge Mediator, which leverages the XOS toolchain to provide mediation to different operators’ backend management/OSS systems and FCAPS support to operationalize the platform.

Reference DesignSEBA-RD
Component ProjectsVOLTHA, ONOS, ONOS SDN Apps, OSAM, OCP and NEM
Deployment StatusSmall pre-SEBA (R-CORD) deployments are already starting to modestly scale.  These will be realigned with SEBA over the next few months.


Pictorially, all the exemplar platforms assemble a specific collection of open source components to build a platform to address a specific use case.  For SEBA, this assemble can be visualized like this:

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Trellis NFV Fabric

DescriptionSDN-native spine-leaf data center fabric optimized for edge services and applications.
Reference DesignNFVF-RD
Component ProjectsONOS, ONOS SDN Apps, OF-DPA, ONL, OCP
Deployment StatusEarly deployment underway

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UPAN: Unified, Programmable & Automated Network

DescriptionNext generation SDN platform, leveraging P4 to enable flexible data plane programmability and network embedded VNF acceleration.
Reference DesignUPAN-RD
Component ProjectsStratum, P4, ONOS++, ONOS SDN Apps, Trellis, OpenConfig, gNMI, gNOI, ONL, OCP
Deployment StatusGoogle plans to take Stratum component to production in 2018, and an ecosystem of multiple white-box choices will be available in early 2019

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ODTN: Open Disaggregated Transport Network

DescriptionOpen multi-vendor optical networks, starting with point-to-point and expanding to multi-point ROADM networks
Reference DesignODTN-RD
Component ProjectsONOS, ONOS SDN Apps, TAPI, OpenConfig
Deployment StatusNTT and Telefonica are in lab trials

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Trailblazing Open Source Platforms

In addition to the Reference Designs and Exemplar Platforms that are all tightly scoped and on the verge of deployment, the ONF will continue to pursue open source platforms that lead next-generation activities for the industry.  These activities include:


M-CORD for next generation 5G mobile

Virtualized next-generation mobile core and RAN platform

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CORD for multi-access edge cloud

CORD is the summation of the ONF’s edge cloud work, integrating all the related projects and bringing together all the access technologies into a single edge cloud.  Furthermore, CORD’s forward looking R&D is looking at enabling third-party edge applications to run on the carrier’s network, creating the infrastructure for an ‘app store’ for the carrier’s edge cloud.

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The emphasis on reference designs and exemplar platforms is not intended to slow momentum on the more forward leaning work taking place within CORD, nor downplay its significance.  The ONF operators remain passionate about the full CORD vision, but recognize that 5G technologies and edge cloud applications are both still solidifying, and for that reason deployment will follow the initial exemplar platforms.  Ultimately, we believe that the opportunity for M-CORD and edge cloud is likely far larger than for the current exemplar platforms combined, and thus this remains critical to the work and mission of the ONF.


Welcoming new ONF Supply Chain Partners

This new strategic plan and the Reference Design activities outlined here have attracted new supply chain partners to the ONF initiatives.  We are very pleased to welcome ADTRAN, Dell EMC, Edgecore Networks and Juniper Networks as new partners.  They are joining and complementing our current supply chain partners Ciena, Intel, Radisys and Samsung.  Together this is a powerhouse team with all the necessary skills and experience to deliver next-generation solutions based on open source and white boxes for operators.

You can learn about the new partners in a related press release.

If you are interested in following this work as it progresses, please be sure you are subscribed to the ONF newsletter.

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Denise BartonMarketing Director