October 21, 2020

Talking about Disaggregation

There’s a lot of talk about network disaggregation, especially after AT&T announced that they are deploying a disaggregated network based on DriveNets Network Cloud. But what is DriveNets’ approach to this type of architecture. “We’re a disruptive technology, but we do not disrupt the network,” Amir Krayden, Vice-President R&D of Customers at DriveNets, recently related to host and technology expert, Ray Mota, on The Deep Edge Podcast.

Talking about Disaggregation

More Than Just Disaggregation

There is no question that disaggregated networking represents a major market transformation. However, while this approach is disruptive from architectural and economical perspectives, there is no reason for it to be disruptive to network operations. “When it comes to disaggregation, there could be other vendors that say that they disaggregated the router, but essentially what they did is they are mainly disaggregating the pricing model,” explained Krayden, “so you are kind of separating between the pricing model of software and pricing of the hardware.”

DriveNets is taking a very different approach.  It didn’t only disaggregate the pricing of the router, but completely disaggregated the router to its elements, opening the architecture and breaking the traditional hardware-centric approach and monolithic software. DriveNets’ model did a few things. It created a completely new cloud-native approach to the network, allowing multiple containers of network services to share a common physical infrastructure, increasing the infrastructure utilization. It created an open white box hardware design which attracted several leading hardware manufacturers to build it, giving customers greater vendor choice. And it implemented a scalable cluster approach where white boxes can be clustered together to create a flexible router entity that can grow as needed.  “This allowed us to come and disaggregate in not only a single box, but essentially something that ties linearly between one box and a 192 white boxes acting as a single router,” said Krayden. In essence, the new model brought all the benefits of a software-based model — greater network and service scale, greater hardware vendor flexibility, and virtualization of the physical resources for greater efficiency and resource utilization. All this, without negatively impacting the operational model.

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Introducing DriveNets Network Cloud

The New Operational Model for Disaggregated Networks

When a new network model is introduced, especially an open and software-based one after many years of a closed, hardware-centric one, it can bring concerns for how disruptive the transition may be to the architecture and operational model. “What you don’t want to have here is disaggregation of responsibility,” said Krayden, “One of the things that we understood is that we needed to come with an ecosystem.” DriveNets realized early on that we need to deliver the benefits of the disaggregated model while maintaining the benefits of the closed one. Not an easy task.   It required taking a much wider perspective than just bringing the software, having another vendor bring the hardware and then putting services into play. It required a new integrated operational model that will simplify and automate the multi-vendor environment. And if possible, bring new benefits and great visibility into the network. “I think we bring all of that. I think that when the software comes in, the distraction to their ops is not really that big, because we give them the holistic view of something which looks like a single network entity,” said Krayden. While the network operator installs the white boxes and ties them together, DriveNets software takes care of deployment. “There OSS, BSF system does not know that now they’re speaking with something which is disaggregated, it’s our kind of trick to give this facade of looking at a single router, even though the internal behavior is based on disaggregated boxes.”

How Network Buying Criteria Changes for the Disaggregated Model

With traffic patterns shifting from enterprise networks to broadband, service providers are starting to re-examine their network’s scale and cost structure. This raises the question, what buying criteria do network operators apply to new technologies, like DriveNets. “I think that the service provider that adopts us, has a holistic view of how they see their network and what is disaggregation in the network, with and without regards to DriveNets,” said Krayden, “I think AT&T is a good example. The fact that we were able to prove that we know what we’re speaking about, that we understand big routers and that we understand scale.” Recently, in his keynote speech at the Open Networking & Edge Summit 2020, Andre Fuetsch, Executive Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, AT&T Services, announced,  “We chose a disruptive supplier, DriveNets, to provide the network operating software for this core use case.” Fuetsch explained that “Having a much more software-centric network allows us to respond much more rapidly to any new demand on the network, even those caused by worldwide pandemics. It enables a much more agile, dynamic network and elastically scale to meet our customers’ demands.” While lowering costs for network operators is significant, it may not be enough to separate incumbent vendors from the disruptive innovation around disaggregation. “Someone could ask: ‘what is the purchase cost of a router?’ and then compare us to someone else,” said Krayden, “We’re a pure software company. We’re not there to sell more white boxes. So, I think, taking all of this is important for them, and also has room for innovation: growing more services, growing multiple services on top of our technology.” The disaggregated model gives network operators the opportunity to speed up innovation, by scaling services better and simplifying the overall network architecture, which also lowers the cost of service delivery.  All these benefits can be passed directly to the end users.

Looking to the Future

Network operators turning to the disaggregated model really have a holistic view of what they want to do, and how they want to virtualize their networks.  They now want to be software-centric, and deploy services much faster. “I think we give them all these possibilities,” summed up Krayden, “but all in all, where we fit best is for when someone that says: ‘I don’t want my network to reflect the router anymore, I want the router to reflect the network.’” When network operators have this kind of state of mind, then DriveNets fits in very well.

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Introducing DriveNets Network Cloud