Lee Doyle is Principal Analyst at Doyle Research
Traditional integrated router chassis struggle to meet the innovation, performance and cost requirements of their leading customers, large Communications Service Providers (CSPs), and Hyperscale Cloud Providers. The rapid emergence of alternative suppliers (both white box hardware and routing software) have created a viable market for disaggregated routers.
Leading CSPs are evaluating (and deploying disaggregated routers) to meet surges in traffic demand, as part of their 5G RAN solutions, in peering points and for network aggregation. Doyle Research believes that disaggregated routers have the potential to disrupt the $12B high-end and CSP router market.
Benefits of Disaggregated Routing
Leading CSPs have been widely deploying software-based virtualized network elements in their networks over the last 7+ years to provide innovative, cost-effective solutions. There are a number of potential benefits to disaggregated routing solutions including:
- Faster network innovation
- Ability to rapidly scale both network capacity and services
- Lower CAPEX costs
- Reduced power consumption
- Ease of deployment and operations
CSPs benefit from the ecosystem of hardware and software suppliers that reduces vendor lock-in and increases their flexibility.
Disaggregated Routing Use Cases
Disaggregated routing is applicable across a wide variety of use cases and places in the network including:
- Data Center and Data Center Interconnect (DCI)
- Broadband aggregation
- Network Core
- Access networks (Broadband and Mobile) and RAN
The new architecture required to implement the 5G mobile network is an especially interesting use case for disaggregated routing. 5G networks will offer approximately 5 times the performance of 4G and require 5 to 10 times more base stations. Distributed routing needs to connect this large number of base stations to each other and the network core. Optimizing the use of network resources at these points will have an order of magnitude saving and simplification across the entire network.
There is wealth of standards organization support for disaggregated routing – including the following:
- Open Compute Project (OCP)
- Telecom Infrastructure Project (TIP)
- Open RAN (O-RAN Alliance)
TIP is driving multiple disaggregation initiatives, such as OpenRAN, Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) and the Disaggregated Open Router (DOR) initiative by the Open Optical & Packet Transport (OOPT) Project Group. The latter is led by KDDI and Vodafone with several technology providers.
Both TIP and O-RAN Alliance are promoting disaggregation and virtualization of the radio access network.
A number of other forums including the Open Networking Forum (ONF) and ETSI also support disaggregated routing. Each standards organization offers a unique take on disaggregated routing and most focus on a specific use case or two. These standards bodies are critical to ensure interoperability between the various hardware and software solutions for disaggregated routing.
Tier 1 CSP Support for Disaggregated Routing
Disaggregated routing has significant support and growing implementations among the leading CSPs. Tier 1 CSP support includes:
- AT&T – a strong believer of disaggregated networking and very active at OCP. It has deployed disaggregated routing based on its Vyatta technology and is driving its DDC model
- Vodafone – supporter of Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) initiative and Open RAN and a co-chair of the Disaggregated Open Router (DOR) initiative
- Telefonica – announced deployment of disaggregated routers as part of DCSG and co-chair of TIP’s Open Optical & Packet Transport Project (OOPT) Group
- KDDI –supporter of disaggregated routing within TIP for multiple use cases (g. cell site gateway and core routers) and is a co-chair of the DOR initiative
- Rakuten – includes disaggregated routing as part of its open RAN solutions as it rolls out 4G and 4G
- Deutsche Telekom – supporter of the Open RAN and launched a European lab to test Open RAN solutions with TIP
NTT Communications, MTN, Telia and other leading CSPs support disaggregated routing, are part of the standards process and have plans to deploy various use cases.
Disaggregated Router Suppliers
Disaggregated routing has a strong group of suppliers – both hardware and software. Hardware is driven by advances in network silicon including Broadcom, Intel, ARM and Cisco’s Silicon One. Leading software routing providers include Drivenets, AT&T, netElastic, Stateless, Arrcus, RT Brick and 128 Networks.
Enhanced silicon performance and new routing software have combined to make the $12 billion router market ripe for disruption. Increasingly, CSPs are deploying disaggregated routing for a variety of use cases from access to core. There is strong support from standards organizations and a broad ecosystem of white box and software suppliers. Doyle Research expects strong growth in disaggregated routing over the next five years.