Coinciding with the Open Compute Project’s European regional summit this week, AT&T is releasing detailed specifications for a cell site white box gateway router. This white box blueprint is a reference design that any hardware maker can use as a guide to build these routers.
In March, AT&T announced its plans to install more than 60,000 open source, software-powered white boxes across its network in support of its 5G plans. And today’s announcement advances that goal. AT&T plans to deploy white box routers at cell towers over the next several years.
“We’re on track to meet the commitment made earlier this year to begin first field applications this calendar year and in time refreshing our entire base of over 60,000 cell site routers to this new white box implementation,” said Ken Duell, assistant vice president of packet edge development at AT&T Labs, in a statement.
Rather than using proprietary solutions from a few vendors, AT&T is releasing these specs as open designs to all interested hardware manufacturers.
The cell site gateway router is designed to address the changing needs of backhaul transport requirements as mobile service providers make the transition from legacy technologies toward 5G RAN technologies. The open hardware specification allows hardware to be decoupled from software, so providers can choose the best software to support their needs.
The hardware spec features the Broadcom Qumran-AX switching chip with deep buffers to support advanced features. In December 2017 Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture, indicated that silicon would be an important part of the open source hardware specification.
White Box Makers
AT&T has been working with several original design manufacturers (ODMs), and it said it expects several ODMs to submit detailed hardware designs that are compliant with the spec at this week’s OCP meeting.
AT&T is developing its own network operating system software to control and manage the white box hardware. Its router software is based on the technology AT&T acquired through its Vyatta acquisition in mid-2017.
“The Vyatta Network Operating System (NOS) stack is production-hardened and an excellent match for the demanding functional and reliability requirements of the cell site gateway router,” said Robert Bays, assistant vice president of Vyatta Development at AT&T Labs, in a statement.
For a timeline:
- AT&T acquired the Vyatta assets of Brocade Communications, including the Vyatta vRouter in June 2017.
- In November 2017 AT&T introduced it’s Open Architecture for a Disaggregated Network Operating System (dNOS). And the service provider wrote a white paper about it.
- In December 2017 Rice explained that the dNOS operating system would require collaboration among various stakeholders, including merchant silicon companies.
- In March 2018 AT&T said it planned to install more than 60,000 open source, software-powered white boxes across its network over the next several years in support of its aggressive 5G plans.
- And also in March 2018 AT&T open-sourced dNOS to the Linux Foundation, which changed the name to Disaggregated Network Operating System (DANOS).
Today Bays said, “Consistent with our previous announcements to create the DANOS open source project hosted by the Linux Foundation, we are now sorting out which components of the open cell site gateway router NOS we will be contributing to open source.”