Spotlight is on DriveNets with AT&T's deployment

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AT&T confirms that it is deploying DriveNets' Network Cloud in its next-generation core network. (Pixabay)

After working behind the scenes with AT&T for more than three years, the spotlight was on DriveNets on Monday. AT&T acknowledged for the first time that DriveNets is indeed providing core-networking routing software for its next-gen core network.

About a year ago, AT&T put its specifications for its distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) white box architecture into the Open Compute Project (OCP.) On the same day last year, DriveNets announced its Network Cloud routing software was first on the market to support the DDC model, which even the most casual observer could reason meant it was working with AT&T.

“I’m proud to announce today that we have now deployed a next gen IP/MPLS core routing platform into our production network based on the open hardware designs we submitted to OCP last fall,” said Andre Fuetsch, AT&T’s CTO of Network Services, in his keynote speech at the Open Networking and Edge Summit (ONES). “We chose DriveNets, a disruptive supplier, to provide the Network Operating System (NOS) software for this core use case.”

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Network Cloud can run any network function as a microservice on the same distributed hardware infrastructure. Its cloud-native capabilities include zero touch provisioning, full life cycle management and automation as well as diagnostics.

By taking cloud features to the network, instead of vice versa, Network Cloud can run the routing data plane on white-boxes and the control plane on standard servers, which separates the network cost from capacity growth.

In addition to AT&T, DriveNets CEO Ido Susan said his company also worked with Broadcom and UfiSpace, which provides the white boxes, on the DDC specification. In a Sunday morning interview with FierceTelecom, Susan also said DriveNets was the first vendor to get its hands on Broadcom's Jericho2 chipset, which has port interfaces for both 100G and 400G for performance up to 768 Tbps.

AT&T has deployed the Jericho2 DDC design at the provider network edge and in the core routers that make up its global IP backbone, which is the core network that carries all of AT&T's IP traffic. A spokesperson for AT&T said in an email to FierceTelecom that it had deployed the next-gen IP/MPLS core routing platform.

"AT&T has a rigorous process for introducing new technologies into our production network," according to the A&T spokesperson. "We completed lab certification of our next-gen core routing platform that combined technologies from Broadcom, DriveNets, UfiSpace, and others in mid-August. We have deployed the platform into our production network and begun the process we refer to as First Field Application."

Susan said DriveNets was in various stages of discussion with about 20 Tier 1 service providers around the world to deploy Network Cloud. DriveNets was founded in 2015 by Susan and Hillel Kobrinsky. Kobrinsky, who had a career stop at AT&T, serves as the company's chief strategy officer.

"Most of our activity is in North America, but we are seeing really nice activity in Europe and Japan," Susan said. "I believe that over the coming months we will announce more and more customers."

DriveNets' customer win with AT&T was the spear point for disaggregation brought about by improvements in merchant silicon by companies such as of Broadcom, Innovium, Intel, Marvell and Nvidia. DriveNets' Network Cloud can help service providers and cloud hyperscale providers disaggregated their networks from the core to the edge.

"Having AT&T reveal that DriveNets' Network Cloud is working in production on their core network is a significant breakthrough for the new breed of the disaggregated cloud-native networking software stack," said Roy Chua, analyst and founder of AvidThink. "It's testament to the viability, reliability and scalability of the disaggregated, multi-vendor open architecture, and kudos to the members of the ecosystem: DriveNets, AT&T, Broadcom, UfiSpace and the OCP for achieving this milestone.

"I expect to see further developments in this space, both other major carriers adopting this architecture in their core and access  networks, as well as an expansion of this approach beyond Layer 3 routing."

Chua said DriveNets' competitors include Arrcus, IP Infusion and Volta Networks on the white box, disaggregated approach as well as Palo Alto Networks for DDC.

DriveNets has said that its customers' test results were superior to any alternative chassis-based solutions both in terms of scale (192 Tbps) and in terms of convergence (sub 1 milliseconds) times of the protocols, although the results could vary based on customer configuration. 

RELATED: DriveNets tunes in DDC in a live TV test with European Tier 1 service provider

Susan said DriveNets was working on a 5G solution for timing and synchronizations, as well as a consumer solution.

"My goal is when you are sitting at home you will be able to do whatever you want to do with your network like you're doing today when you're connected to AWS or to Azure," he said. "Up to now we have three milestones behind us; core aggregation, the provider edge function and multiple provide edge functions. Now we are going to move to the metro and to multi-services for consumer customers."

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