The deployment of white boxes and universal customer premises equipment has been a slow train coming, but that will change in 2020.
One of the key drivers for more white box deployments in 2020 is AT&T's decision to (finally) put its disaggregated network operating system (dNOS) software, or at least elements of it, into the Linux Foundation Networking Disaggregated Network Operating System (DANOS) project in November.
AT&T also named IP Infusion as the exclusive integrator and reseller of DANOS. While the IP Infusion version of DANOS may not be the entire stack, it does give equipment providers and integrators (and perhaps service providers) a chance to dig into the code, according to Roy Chua, founder and principal analyst at AvidThink.
AT&T has deployed white box switches, routers and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers in uCPE devices. Adva's Prayson Pate, senior vice president for solutions marketing and CTO Edge Cloud, wrote in a blog post that AT&T' FlexWare devices were just re-badged Juniper Networks' servers, but he expects that to change in 2020.
"I predict that in 2020 AT&T will add (or at least start to move toward adding) a truly open platform based on a COTS server from a major manufacturer," said Pate, who also believes that end-user applications will emerge as a key driver for uCPE in 2020.
The big benefit of white box routers, switches and servers is cost. Cloud providers started using independent network operating systems (NOS) on lower cost x86 hardware in their data centers in order to lower capex and create their own architectures. Large network equipment providers have leveraged independent NOS solutions for their network infrastructure deployments. Service providers and enterprises want those same benefits.
Because white boxes decouple the NOS from the hardware, enterprises and service providers want to deploy white boxes in tandem with software-defined networking in order to improve the reliability of their networks and isolate problems at a faster rate.
In 2020, it will be worth watching to see if Cisco's new Silicon One chip and new cloud-based IOS XR7 operating system will be used by OEM vendors for white box deployments on their hardware devices. Has Cisco fully embraced white boxes? Stay tuned.