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Disaggregated Routers Are Being Embraced by Leading Operators – Here’s Why

headshot of Paul Momtahan

August 21, 2019
By Paul Momtahan
Director of Solutions Marketing

Disaggregated Routers Provide A Cost-effective, Software-centric, and Flexible Solution for Network Routing

As with many trends, the leading internet content providers (ICPs) were the first to embrace disaggregated routers by building their own routers with merchant silicon and a combination of in-house or open source software. More recently, leading network operators have begun to embrace the concept of disaggregated routing. AT&T acquired the vRouter software from Brocade in 2017, and in 2018 announced plans to deploy 60,000 disaggregated cell site routers.

Disaggregated Router Projects by Leading Operators

The DANOS project, hosted by the LINUX Foundation and building on AT&T’s disaggregated router software (dNOS), is another proof point, while Telecom Infra Project’s (TIP) Open Optical & Packet Transport project also addresses the need for disaggregated packet and optical systems, with the Voyager reference design combining white box packet switching hardware and coherent optics.

More recently, TIP began a sub-group in collaboration with Vodafone, Telefónica, TIM Brasil, Orange, and BT to define the Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway (DCSG) that connects the base stations to the rest of the transport network, while AT&T released the hardware specifications of its disaggregated 5G cell site router to the Open Compute Project.

But why are these leading operators keen to adopt disaggregated routing?

Traditional routers provide a monolithic package of hardware and software from a single vendor. While in the past this model has provided benefits like guaranteed hardware/software interoperability and a single point of contact for purchasing, service, and support, today it creates several challenges for network operators.

The significant vendor lock-in of proprietary, closed routers and the small number of router vendors result in limited pricing pressure and high costs. Innovation is dependent on the capabilities of the single selected vendor rather than an ecosystem, which prevents network operators from leveraging different rates of hardware and software innovation or selecting best-of-breed hardware and software independently.

In contrast, disaggregated routers provide the following key benefits:

  • Reduced vendor lock-in: By lowering the barriers to entry for both hardware and software vendors, disaggregation has the potential to significantly increase price competition.
  • More choice: Disaggregated routers enable network operators to optimally mix and match the best hardware and software for a given use case.
  • Faster innovation: Innovation is key to driving down CapEx and OpEx, scaling performance, and enabling new services. The disaggregated router approach enables network operators to leverage the innovation capabilities of the entire ecosystem, selecting best-in-class vendors and upgrading based on the innovation cycle of each component of the disaggregated solution.
  • Cost-effective and flexible scaling: With horizontal scaling, disaggregated routing avoids having to choose between a fully utilized device that meets initial requirements but will not scale to meet future requirements and an underutilized chassis with high up-front CapEx, footprint, and power consumption. Disaggregated routing can also address the capacity requirements of different parts of the network, all leveraging a very limited set of individual white boxes and a common Network Operating System (NOS).

Disaggregated router benefits

These ultimately enable network operators to reduce CapEx and OpEx, as shown in table 2.

For more information on this important topic, download “The Case for Disaggregated Routing in 5G and DAA Transport Networks”.

The Case for Disaggregated Routers