AT&T on Sunday detailed its plans to use open hardware designs as the carrier virtualizes its network on the road to 5G.
The company said it will deploy more than 60,000 “white box” routers in cell towers across the U.S. over the next several years — a transition from traditional proprietary routers to open hardware that can be upgraded more quickly.
“White box represents a radical realignment of the traditional service provider model,” said Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs, in a statement. “We’re no longer constrained by the capabilities of proprietary silicon and feature roadmaps of traditional vendors. We’re writing open hardware specifications for these machines, and developing the open source software that powers these boxes.”
Since the white box equipment will use open hardware designs, Fuetsch added that anyone can build to AT&T’s specification.
“This means faster hardware upgrades … and software upgrades that move at internet speed,” Fuetsch said. “We’re doing this all while keeping costs low so we can focus on expanding our nationwide mobile 5G footprint for our customers as quickly as possible.”
The network operating system for white boxes is what AT&T calls dNOS, or Disaggregated Network Operating System. The platform was built, in part, using technology from Vyatta’s virtualized network platform, which AT&T acquired from Brocade Communications Systems last year.
The carrier said it plans to release the open source software through the Linux Foundation and hopes to see it adopted across the industry.
Network cloud operating platform ONAP is orchestrating dNOS-powered machines, a tool AT&T said is “vital” to managing its mobile 5G network slated to launch later this year.
AT&T previously committed to virtualizing 75 percent of its core network functions by 2020, and on Sunday set a 2018 target of 65 percent. By the end of 2017, the carrier said it had virtualized 55 percent of its network. AT&T intends to provide additional context at the Open Networking Summit in Los Angeles this week.
White box routers and other hardware will help edge computing run more smoothly and enable the promised super-latency of 5G. 5G, software-defined networking and edge computing, AT&T said, “all work together.”
“ONAP, dNOS and white box will help make them a reality,” the company said.
Filed Under: Infrastructure