March 16, 2021

Director of Product Marketing

Analysys Mason: Network Disaggregation is a Reality for CSPs IP Networks

“CSPs should consider disaggregating their IP networks to achieve more open, cloud like network architecture,” concluded Gorkem Yigit in a new report from Analysys Mason, Network disaggregation: reshaping CSPs’ IP networks for 5G, cloud and edge. I want to review and highlight both the needs and the challenges of IP network disaggregation, as it becomes a reality in many CSPs networks.

Analysys Mason: Network Disaggregation is a Reality for CSPs IP Networks

Yigit concludes in this report that CSPs should:

  • Consider disaggregating their IP networks to achieve more open, cloud-like network architecture.
  • Identify the use cases and deployment models that are the most suitable to their disaggregation goals.
  • Adopt a new operational model for disaggregation that is based on automated processes and economies of scale.

Different Types of Network Disaggregation

IP network disaggregation comes in several flavors. On the one end, there is the most basic form of vertical disaggregation, where no architectural change is made, other than replacing the proprietary hardware chassis with a COTS white box. On the other end, there is the Distributed Disaggregated Chassis (DDC), which creates a pool of hardware resources, that reside in multiple white box elements, and virtualized into a shared resource that can be used by multiple network functions, running as microservices in this cluster.

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What’s Driving the Move to Network Disaggregation

The same set of needs drives all these types of disaggregation:

  • Cost reduction: as demand for capacity grows unproportionally to the revenues the network yields.
  • Supply-chain flexibility: avoids vendor lock and allows for optimal scaling of the network.
  • Operational paradigm shift: adds flexibility and makes the network a software-based architecture.
  • Innovation: creates a software-paced environment, resulting in very quick time-to-market for new service offerings.

DDC: The Best Network Disaggregation Strategy for CSPs

While the vertical-disaggregation option provides some benefits and values as per the needs listed above, it is suitable for specific domains in the CSPs IP network (such as cell site gateways). When it comes to disaggregation of IP-core, peering and IP-Edge domains of the network, it is evident the only the DDC flavor of disaggregation can provide the desired value and benefits to the CSP.

“AT&T adopted the distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) model for its core routing with DriveNets, which creates a cloud based environment using white boxes and CaaS/Kubernetes like orchestration,” explained Yigit.

Challenges of Implementing Network Disaggregation

While the needs for disaggregation, and the benefits it brings to the CSP are clear, the CSP needs to also consider some of the challenges related to the disaggregated networking approach.

Gorkem Yigit says, “Network disaggregation is a major paradigm shift that disrupts the way in which networks are designed, procured, built and operated. As such, there are several challenges that CSPs must overcome when preparing to adopt disaggregation.”

Those challenges include the allocation of inhouse resources to the implementation of this move to disaggregation and some concerns about the maturity and scalability of this new type of solution.

Addressing the Challenges of Choosing Disaggregation

Resolving those challenges is a must for making a successful migration from the current, monolithic architecture, to a disaggregated, cloud-native networking architecture. The challenge facing internal resources can be resolved by a combination of management decisions, assigning resources to this strategic initiative and external resources, provided by vendors and integrators which are experienced with such a process.

Gorkem Yigit shared, “Disaggregation gives CSPs more options, control and flexibility in their supply chain. It enables them to standardise and simplify their network architecture using a common, shared pool of cost efficient hardware with cloud native software and network resource orchestration.”

While concerns regarding maturity and scalability are valid, they should not be examined in the wide context of the disaggregation concept or technology (very well field-proven by now), but in the specific context of the already evaluated solution. There is, for that matter, a significant difference between a solution that was already deployed, as the Analyst Mason report mentions, in the heart of AT&T’s core network, and one that was only proven in the vendors lab (or, worse than that, on just slideware).

It’s Time for CSPs to take on a Disaggregated Networking Strategy

Which brings me back to the conclusion  that this research arrived at: CSPs should consider and evaluate a disaggregated, cloud-native solution for their IP network. They need to identify the right use cases in their network, as well give their operational model an update.

This will serve as the cornerstone for a successful migration process, creating significant benefits for the CSP.

Read the full research report from Analysys Mason, Network disaggregation: reshaping CSPs’ IP networks for 5G, cloud and edge.

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