AT&T divulges Open Disaggregated Network Operating System vision

AT&T gave a glimpse into its vision of a Disaggregated Network Operating System (dNOS) in a recent white paper titled “Toward an Open, Disaggregated Networking Operating System” with a push toward software-defined networking (SDN) and white box hardware.

As part of its vision, AT&T coined the term dNOS to refer to the beginning of “an industry discussion on technical feasibility, build interest in participating in the formulation of technical detail, and determine suitable vehicles (standards bodies, open source efforts, consortia, etc.) for common specification and architectural realization.”

According to AT&T, its global network is made of more than 100,000 interconnect IP/MPLS routers, equipped with varying levels of network functionality and scale. “These OEM routers were designed, developed and sold as monolithic router platforms with vertically integrated proprietary hardware and software components,” the authors of the whitepaper wrote.

The company also noted that breakthroughs in software, such as Intel’s DPDK and the predominance of YANG models, in addition to hardware from vendors like Broadcom, can enable service providers like AT&T to migrate away from proprietary hardware, thereby fostering “an ecosystem of networking applications of unprecedented quality and accessibility.”

The authors of the paper suggest AT&T wants to cultivate and propel its white box router vision. The business advanced a similar initiative with its ECOMP platform, an open source project hosted by the Linux foundation. Eventually, ECOMP joined forces with the Linux Foundation’s Open-O project into a single group dubbed ONAP, working to harmonize the open source network automation space. With respect to dNOS, AT&T appears to be reaching out to a broader community for feedback.

AT&T said a new approach is needed for router platform development and procurement to enable: faster introduction of technologies, designs and features through an ecosystem of hardware and software component vendors; flexibility in network design and service deployment via plug-n-play hardware and software components that can be economically scaled up and down; and unit-cost reduction through use of standard hardware and software technology components with large economies-of-scale.

This isn’t the first time AT&T has pushed white boxes as a means of achieving greater control over its network. Earlier this year, for example, the company said its engineers completed a successful, live field trial of a multi-supplier, open source white box switch carrying customer traffic, which included partners Intel, Delta Electronics, Broadcom, SnapRoute, Edgecore and Barefoot.

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