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AT&T Puts Open Source White Box to the Test

April 06, 2017

In 1996, First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote the book “It Takes a Village,” illustrating her vision for children in America. It is far more than Mom and Dad that play a part in the process— society, teachers, etc. all play a major role. While a key component of technology is proprietary, the innovation that will lead us into the future is an open source effort, gathering the village together to integrate components and create the next generation of networking solutions.

AT&T (News - Alert) is embracing this notion with arms wide open, as it announced today a successful trial that leverages open source white box switches. The telco utilized multiple vendors, leveraging a common open network operating system over various vendor silicon chips to construct a switch fit to meet its need. The project went from fabrication to live trial in three months.

“Just as open computer operating systems, like Linux, leveraged community contributions to create newly architected, high-performance operating systems, now the networking ecosystem has reached a similar inflection point,” stated Chris Rice (News - Alert), SVP network architecture and design, AT&T. “This allows us to build on a new networking paradigm, one that disaggregates the hardware and software to achieve greater simplicity, and deliver increased performance and speed of innovation.”

The white box switches ensured the safe passage of customer traffic from Washington D.C. to San Francisco, putting its ECOMP platform to work to monitor the traffic.

Vendors involved in the switches include SnapRoute, Delta Electronics, Barefoot Networks, Edgecore Networks, Broadcom and Intel (News - Alert). Each playing an integral role in the project: the Broadcom and Barefoot chips and interface were managed by the SnapRoute operating system, which was supported by Intel’s architecture-based processors.

Already integrated into the AT&T ECOMP Platform, next up is a Linux Foundation (News - Alert) open source release as the Open Networking Automation Platform (ONAP), which AT&T hopes will spur adoption as  the software-centric network standard.

“The transformation of the network to an open, programmable platform of innovation is key to meeting the demands of the digital services economy,” noted Sandra Rivera, vice president and general manager of the Network Platforms Group at Intel. “Through our contributions to open source, open standards and the enablement of broad ecosystems, we will continue to work with leaders like AT&T to bring new solutions and services to the market more quickly and cost effectively.”

For AT&T, this is a sizeable step; however, if ONAP does become the standard orchestration platform for software-centric networks, it becomes a giant leap. That would take a village.  

Edited by Alicia Young

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