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AT&T has been the headliner in the carrier race to software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV). But Sprint is putting its own stamp on the space this week with its debut of a new open source SDN/NFV mobile core solution.

Developed in collaboration with Intel Labs over the last four years, Sprint said its solution – dubbed C3PO – is designed to streamline mobile core architecture by collapsing multiple components into as few network nodes as possible. The carrier reported it was able to achieve 1.63 Mpps (million packets per second) throughput in lab tests conducted on Dell EMC DSS 9000 rack scale infrastructure with compute sleds running dual socket 14 core Intel Xeon processors E5-2680 v4.

Sprint indicated the configuration utilized just seven processor cores – one packet processing core and six processor cores supporting other tasks such as control plane, statistics, load balancer, operating system, and other operations, for 500,000 subscribers using a typical Sprint traffic model. A similar C3PO configuration yielded 2.2 Mpps with a similar traffic model for 50,000 subscribers, the carrier noted.

The system is designed to be used by global operators and other third parties as a reference for commercial applications, Sprint said.

“C3PO makes traditional mobility architectures and software designs more streamlined, efficient, and scalable,” Sprint VP of Technology Ron Marquardt commented. “By combining Sprint’s real-world operator knowledge with Intel’s research on optimizing software for standard high-volume servers, we’ve developed a single solution that provides seven functions previously located within separate physical elements.”

Marquardt indicated Sprint’s role in the collaboration with Intel Labs was to write the SDN piece of C3PO for a more efficient control plane implementation, which the carrier has now contributed to OpenDaylight. Intel Labs was tasked with developing the Evolved Packet Core control and user plane, and has reportedly contributed its code for the same to the CORD project.

Sprint’s decision to release its code on an open source platform is part of the carrier’s commitment to advancing the industry, Marquardt said.

“Open Source is a model that works,” Marquardt wrote in a Monday blog post. “Open source development allows for very rapid innovation, with a vibrant community providing a high volume of contributions at a relentless pace. The open source model streamlines processes and removes confusion on specifications and their interpretation because the actual implementation is what matters, not the verbiage of a written document … The lines between open source prototypes and normative standards are blurring, and Sprint will continue to contribute to these advancements in our industry.”

Moving forward, Marquardt revealed Sprint is working to “harden” the C3PO code and extend it to suit a variety of use cases, including the Internet of Things.

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