SANTA CLARA, California — At the Open Networking Summit (ONS) this week, AT&T executives talked about a live field trial the company conducted in late March with multiple suppliers where it tested an open source, white box switch carrying customer traffic.
For the March trial at one location, AT&T used Delta’s Agema AGC7648A switch with Broadcom Qumran silicon chips and the SnapRoute network operating system (NOS).
A second location used Edgecore’s Wedge 100BF systems built using Barefoot’s 6.5 Tb/s Tofino silicon whose forwarding plane is specified using the P4 open source programming language to perform standard switching and routing and In-band Network Telemetry (INT) functionality. SnapRoute’s open NOS FlexSwitch was used as the control plane and unifying OS.
(Barefoot Networks yesterday made a related announcement that AT&T has installed its Tofino-based white boxes running SnapRoute’s FlexSwitch NOS in parts of its existing MPLS-based networks.)
In addition, for the March trial, Intel architecture-based processors ran the SnapRoute NOS that managed the Barefoot and Broadcom chips and the various interfaces on the boxes.
“This team did all of this in less than three months,” said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO. “I’ve never seen us deliver something from chip to production that quickly.”
The white boxes AT&T tested also provided telemetry into the company’s ECOMP platform to monitor the traffic as it traveled from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco. AT&T recently handed off ECOMP to the Linux Foundation to release into open source as the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). However, it still refers to its internal platform as ECOMP.
“With this trial, we went from using traditional switches the size of multiple refrigerators to a chip that can literally fit in the palm of your hand,” said Fuetsch. “We think white box will be a big part of the future of the wide area network.”
The company is also using its internally-developed TORC packet network control software on these white-box switches.
And AT&T is exploring white box options for other network gear, as well. For example, it’s looking at replacing the proprietary routers on its cell towers with white box routers.
Photo: Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, speaking at ONS.