Radisys open sources its evolved packet core in an industry first

Ian Scales
By Ian Scales

Nov 11, 2016

  • Radisys donates EPC to CORD
  • Hopes EPC will form the basis of a virtualized 5G network architecture - M-CORD
  • M-CORD framework to be available in March 2017

Radisys has contributed its  EPC to the CORD open source project (Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter) where it’s being earmarked as the basis of a ‘Mobile’ Central Office for 5G (M-CORD - just to add one more acronym to an already very long list).

Radisys wants its Evolved Packet Core (EPC) to form the basis of a virtualized 5G network once the software, is eventually disaggregated into its constituent bits within the M-CORD project.

Radisys is putting its money on M-CORD as the “emerging platform of choice” for enabling 5G in a virtualized world and figures that virtualizing its EPC will give it a good-sized stake in the ground for influence over the shape of the telco data centre.  

Does 5G need NFV?

While it’s certainly possible to start deploying 5G networks without recourse to virtualisation (and some of the early starters will probably do this), the industry consensus is that SDN/NFV is a natural enabler for 5G deployment since such a network will, amongst other things, be able to handle network slicing (so that different services can get different treatment through the network) and will offer the prized agility and low operational costs  that virtualization is supposed to bring in its wake.

By making its EPC software available under an open source license, Radisys claims it’s lowering the barrier to entry for service providers wanting to deploy next gen 5G wireless networks while, of course, getting its own foot in the door to win integration and other work in the future - classic open source motivation for a vendor.

Radisys claims the three key components of the M-CORD framework include mobile edge services, a disaggregated/virtualized Radio Access Network (RAN), and a disaggregated/virtualized EPC. Radisys’ EPC, it claims, will provide disaggregated and virtualized core services of the Mobility Management Entity (MME), Serving Gateway (SGW) and Packet Data Network Gateway (PGW) elements.  

Radisys’ strategy

Joseph Sulistyo, Radisys’ senior director of open networking solutions and strategy, told me the rationale behind the move. “The business model is changing,” he says. “And right now the whole value chain model is changing too. It’s very difficult for people to make flexible aggregations of useful functions and basically build another set of abstractions.  

“So we’re not trying to make the case that this 100 years of effort [embodied in the EPC] be thrown away. We think we want to build 5G capabilities, not by building the services from scratch, but by working out what we can take from that 100 year effort.

“We’re not trying to rebuild the data center but we are trying to re-imagine the data centre architecture in the central office.”

Radisys’ open source EPC contribution, including completed integration with the M-CORD framework, will be available in March 2017.

About the CORD Project (according to the CORD Project)

CORD (Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center) brings datacenter economics and cloud flexibility to the telco Central Office and to the entire access network. CORD is an open source service delivery platform that combines SDN, NFV, and elastic cloud services to network operators and service providers. It integrates ONOS, OpenStack, Docker, and XOS—all running on merchant silicon, white-box switches, commodity servers, and disaggregated access devices. The CORD reference implementation serves as a platform for multiple domains of use, with open source communities building innovative services for residential, mobile, and enterprise network customers.

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