COVID-19 has created a hyper-accelerated digital era, with new ways of working. Huge growth in demand for network capacity and scale is driving service providers to re-think their network architecture. They’re looking at how hyperscalers have solved similar challenges with a disaggregated cloud architecture, white boxes and virtualization. Now this kind of approach is gaining momentum with high-scale networks, among service and cloud providers – both on the mobile side and aggregation/core infrastructures. It offers similar benefits to the cloud – lower cost, efficient scaling and faster service innovation.
DriveNets is leading the network transformation to a cloud architecture, both in scale of network deployments as well as variety of network types. Last week, DriveNets closed a Series B at $208 million, with D1 Capital Partners in the lead. The funding will be used to expand the offerings of DriveNets Network Cloud – a software-based fully virtualized, disaggregated network solution that has already been deployed across AT&T’s network.
What Does It Mean To Build Networks Like Cloud
The idea behind building networks like cloud is about applying cloud architecture principles to network design. Some of these principles include separation (disaggregation) of software and hardware, use of standard white boxes, virtualization and the ability to run multiple applications over a shared pool of resources. All of which aim to lower infrastructure cost and accelerate innovation.
DriveNets applied these principles to our Network Cloud solution, in the following way:
- Software-based network – the network operating system and services are based on microservices and containers
- Disaggregation of hardware and software – the software-based network can run over standard white boxes, and can scale to support a single white-box router or a large router based on a cluster of 10s and even 100s of white boxes
- Fully virtualized and can support any service on any port sharing a pool of network, CPU and other resources
This Network Cloud solution is also called a Distributed Disaggregated router (DDC). The greatest value that these architectural principles bring is that they lower both CapEx and OpEx and can accelerate new service deployment. The lower cost white boxes and use of a shared physical infrastructure for multiple services substantially lowers the physical footprint and number of ports, substantially lowering the cost. The software-based innovation – deployment of more service containers over existing infrastructure, sharing network ports – accelerates service deployment and innovation.
“Disaggregated routers—white box hardware with independent operating system software—are set to capture meaningful market share in 2021,” said Shin Umeda, VP and an analyst covering networking infrastructure at Dell’Oro Group. “Early adopters are moving from trials to live deployments.”
In short, this means that disaggregated routing is now a thing.
“The big hope of most operators today is white boxes that can be paired with network software to create a disaggregated model,” said Tom Nolle, president of consultancy CIMI Corp.
We’re planning to use the latest funding round to extend more types of services and drive greater innovation in the network, from end-to-end.
Network Landscape is Changing
Networks will have to change. They will have to be more flexible, adaptable and economical to operate. We are excited about the opportunities the future holds for DriveNets and have plans to disrupt more areas in the market.
“Disaggregated routing and the consumption model associated with it will become a significant portion of the Router market over the next several years,” said 650 Group analysts Chris Depuy & Alan Weckel, “and create a significant opportunity for vendors that embrace the transformation.”
Service Provider networks today are just way too complex. They haven’t changed in decades, running a dedicated physical network for each type of service (broadband, enterprise, and mobile), with dozens of different routers, each serving a different network function and running a different software version. An operational nightmare. To drive such a massive change, you need big focus and experts. That’s what we are going to use our new investment for. Focus on continuous innovation in our portfolio, expanding networking use cases and scaling the deployment of Network Cloud globally.
Competing with the traditional router and switch vendors, we offer cloud-native software that can be deployed like building blocks in the network, and managed as a single, shared resource. “DriveNets sees itself as doing to carrier routing and switching what VMware did to data center storage and computing – changing the rules for how networking resources are managed, consumed and purchased and unseating some industry giants along the way,” said Light Reading’s Phil Harvey.
SPs desperately want to change their networks. With this funding, our goal is to expand our product offerings and our reach to more leading operators and cloud providers.
Multiservices on the Same Platform
DriveNets Network Cloud provides more than a routing solution. We can offer better resource utilization because we can have multiple services sharing the same hardware infrastructure, like in the virtualization of the compute space. Same concept.
DriveNets multiservice platform is the best hosting infrastructure for running any service, from the network intensive to latency sensitive. The DriveNets Network Cloud solution can provide a shared network infrastructure with tools for deploying, running and managing a variety of applications, opening our platform to third-party applications.
It gives operators access and control of networking and compute resources. So, what we call a ‘multiservice’ platform actually supports containerized or virtualized network-centric, third-party applications like AI, security, 5G, IoT, manufacturing, and gaming applications at the edge. The DriveNets Network Orchestrator (DNOR) enables the deployment, maintenance and monitoring of hosted applications from the core to the edge.
Reaching the Network Edge
The Telco Edge and the edge network is ripe for disruption. There’s a lot of talk. A lot of headlines about the Telco Edge.
We’ve seen the announcements from the big players like Microsoft, Google, AT&T, Verizon, etc. I believe that this is a transition. The Telco Edge is where service providers and hyperscalers can process data in near real-time, gain substantial operational efficiencies and grow revenue.
With routing, DriveNets started at the core. It’s moved into the peering and aggregation layers of the network and out to the edge. Expanding the cloud to the edge of the network simplifies the telco infrastructure. It’s a huge opportunity to expand hyperscaler revenue by offloading more workload to Telco, and to build the next generation of cloud providers, for low latency applications. It’s a win-win for the cloud and Telco providers. A software-based network and cloud-native technologies (microservices, containers) can have a major impact on this new Cloud Telco Edge
Addressing NFV Challenges and Solving Real Networking Problems
Network Function Virtualization (NFV) fell short of expectations. It promised to lower CapEx, improve service agility and reduce vendor lock-in. Deploying an NFV architecture had so many problems and challenges that many telcos have abandoned the approach already. Overall, I think that NFV failed to live up to the demands of telecom.
NFV was designed for compute, not networking. We started to develop our solution based on x86 servers and SmartNICs and were able to get from one server: 400 Gigabit/sec of routing capability. The main challenge was the cost per bit, it was very high.
We knew that we needed very fast data paths. We decided to start from scratch. So we took Broadcom’s chipset. We detached the data path from the control. If you think of what happened with virtual machines, then you get better utilization running multiple services on the CPU. This is exactly what we’re doing in the networking space.
Networks are Changing and Bringing New Opportunities
Service Provider networks did an excellent job of adapting to (and driving) changes to how people live, work, learn, and play since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Going forward, they will serve as the foundation for the economy in 2021 and beyond—across industries.
Yet, a level of uncertainty is increasing around the networks – driven by rapid technological, regulatory, and customer demand changes. The opportunities are greater today than ever before for players that embrace disruption. Now is the time to reimagine network services capabilities, and really drive growth.
Our ‘Big Investment’ Powers Our Model – the Right Model
The game is about collapsing everything down into one infrastructure for service provider networks. Broadband, enterprise, mobile, and so on, can be run on a single infrastructure. Services can be configured on the fly. They have access to a shared pool of resources like CPUs, NPUs, memory and so on and can use what they need, when they need it over any port.
Our model is different from incumbent vendors that have built a business model around convincing customers to buy more expensive hardware. DriveNets’ business model is to use the lowest cost infrastructure and utilize resources in the most efficient way. We succeed when our customers spend less on network infrastructure footprint. “Our conversations with major players in both markets indicate that disaggregated architectures like DriveNets are appealing and aligns with service provider goals to go cloud-native,” said Roy Chua, analyst and founder of AvidThink. “The agility facilitated by a single horizontally-scalable architecture that can serve the continuum from an edge site to core backbone routers while reducing both capex and opex means it’s a matter of time before increased adoption.”
Redesigning the way networks are built from access to core, and turning networks to cloud-native software takes time. This funding round accelerates the transformation that DriveNets started, already adopted by AT&T and in global deployment.
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DNOR – DriveNets Network Orchestrator