Israel-based DriveNets has further burnished its standing in the telecom industry by announcing a raft of vendor partnerships on Tuesday that included UfiSpace, Edgecore Networks and Delta.
By announcing the white box vendors, DriveNets is showing that it's getting down to the brass tacks of creating an open ecosystem for disaggregation using flexible software and lower-cost white boxes. White boxes and disaggregation also hold the promise of breaking up vendor lock-in by traditional integrated vendor offerings.
DriveNets has deployed Broadcom's merchant silicon Jericho2 chipset on its routing software that supports packet-forwarding white boxes and also supports Broadcom's Ramon chip.
"We're seeing a new wave of disaggregation brought about by improvements in merchant silicon from the likes of Broadcom, Innovium, Intel/Barefoot, Marvell, Mediatek/Nephos and nVidia/Mellanox," said analyst Roy Chua, founder and Principal at AvidThink, in an email to FierceTelecom. "The first wave was primarily focused on data center switching, where we saw a combination of white-box pizza-box switches with spine-leaf architecture replacing large chassis switches like the venerable Cisco Catalyst 6500. Now, with players like DriveNets, as well as others, we are seeing cloud-native networking software architectures being combined with more capable merchant silicon. As a result, there's a new wave of disaggregation targeted at routing in data centers, as well as across carrier core to edge infrastructure.
"DriveNets is primarily focused on a scale-out architecture for the service providers, providing an elastic platform that serves to replace the existing proprietary routers from carrier core to access to edge. With their disaggregated architecture, we're seeing the possibility of enormous scale without relying on a proprietary and traditional chassis approach. They've made a big bet in their software development and we'll be closely watching the results of the PoCs (proof-of concepts) they have at major CSPs."
In April, DriveNets announced its 400G virtual router was being tested and certified by an unnamed Tier 1 telco, and that it was in proof-of-concept trials with other Tier 1 providers. According to DriveNets, DriveNets' Network Cloud software-based disaggregated router is the only router on the market designed to scale 100G/400G ports from a single box router running at 4 Tbps to a cluster of white boxes that operate as a single router at speeds of up of 768 Tbps, which it says forms the highest capacity router on the market.
Network Cloud uses cloud-native routing software to support new functions in the underlying white-box hardware. DriveNets, which emerged from stealth mode in February with $110 million in Series A funding, said the vision behind Network Cloud was to simplify and scale service providers' rollout of 400G, 5G and other new services.
While DriveNets has yet to announce a customer, AT&T seems like a good bet. In September, AT&T announced it had put its specifications for a distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) white box architecture into the Open Compute Project (OCP.)
AT&T's DDC design, which was built on Broadcom's powerful Jericho2 family of merchant chips, aims to define a standard set of configurable building blocks on less costly service-class routers ranging from a single-line card systems, known as "pizza boxes," to large, disaggregated chassis clusters.
AT&T said it plans to apply the Jericho2 DDC design to the network edge and core routers that make up its global IP common backbone, which is the core network that carries all of AT&T's IP traffic. Around the same time, DriveNets said its Network Cloud software was the first on the market to support the distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) model.
“The release of our DDC specifications to the OCP takes our white box strategy to the next level,” said Chris Rice, SVP of network infrastructure and cloud at AT&T, in a statement. “We’re entering an era where 100G simply can’t handle all of the new demands on our network. Designing a class of open and flexible routers that can operate at 400G is critical to supporting the massive bandwidth demands that will come with 5G and fiber-based broadband services. We’re confident these specifications are driving an innovative ecosystem for DDC white box architecture that other service providers can adopt and embrace.”
Last month, AT&T announced a 400G optical connection carrying live traffic between Dallas and Atlanta. The 400G connection was notable for being deployed using a low-cost white box router from UfiSpace that's compliant with the Broadcom Jericho2 Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC) design.
UfiSpace demonstrated its open routing solution with AT&T during the Open Networking Summit (ONS) in April. At ONS, AT&T's Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and AT&T's chief technology officer, said his company had internet white boxes in production on commercial traffic in Toronto and London with a goal of having them in 76 countries by the end of the year. Those open white box systems allow AT&T to run 10 times as much traffic as the proprietary routers it previously bought at the same price, said Fuetsch in a blog post.
Using Broadcom's Qumran chipset, Fuetsch said AT&T planned to update 65,000 cell tower sites with UfiSpace boxes.
Given its work with Broadcom and now UfiSpace, AT&T appears to be the likely candidate for DriveNets' first large-scale deployment. DriveNets, which was named to FierceTelecom's 2019 disrupter list, has the potential to pose a threat to traditional vendors such as Cisco, Juniper Networks, Nokia and Huawei.