Comcast Cable today joined two open source projects: the Open Network Operating System (ONOS) and the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD). Both projects are hosted by the Linux Foundation and led by ON.Lab.
Comcast Cable paid $250,000 for participation in each group, or $500,000 in total.
This marks the first entrance of a cable company in these open source projects. U.S. cable companies have a reputation for secretiveness. Historically, they’ve collaborated amongst themselves on joint technology work through the membership organization CableLabs. But they haven’t often talked openly about their tech work. So joining two open source groups based out of Silicon Valley could be a culture shock for them.
When asked about Comcast’s reasons for joining ONOS and CORD, Guru Parulkar, executive director of ON.Lab, said, “Comcast doesn’t want to say too much about what it’s doing.”
No big surprise there.
Besides working openly, Comcast may have a culture shock working with its telecom competitors Verizon and AT&T, which are both active members of ONOS and CORD, along with Google, SK Telecom, NTT Communications, and China Unicom.
But Parulkar says Comcast has already been working with these two open source groups for a while. Comcast employees apparently attended the inaugural CORD Summit hosted by Google in July.
“Comcast is very progressive and aggressive in what they want to do,” he says.
Headends vs. Central Offices
Cable companies don’t really have central offices, so it seems a bit curious that Comcast would care about the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD). Instead, cable companies house much of their equipment at headends. And a lot of that equipment manages cable video.
But Parulkar says the access technology doesn’t matter as far as CORD is concerned. AT&T’s traffic may come in over GPON or DSL, while Comcast’s traffic may come in over HFC cable.
Joe Cumello, VP of marketing with the Blue Planet Division of Ciena, had explained to SDxCentral that the CORD software takes traffic from disparate technologies and converts it into Ethernet packets. Then, the packet switching that needs to be done at the central office (or headend) can be moved onto commodity hardware and controlled by one operating system: ONOS.
“Once you’re past these access technologies and inside the office, your needs are very similar,” says Parulkar.
CORD is focused on creating an infrastructure based on white box hardware and open source software to create a virtualization platform for speeding the delivery of services, whether a service provider is a telco or a cable company.