Network virtualization began several years ago with software-defined networking, and it quickly moved on to higher layers of the stack. SDxCentral has been covering SDN and network functions virtualization (NFV) from nearly the beginning. Daily, we grapple with the non-material, conceptualized world of software to keep readers up-to-speed about next-generation networks.
But now, there’s revived interest in the lower layers of the network: that includes commodity hardware and the silicon that drives the hardware.
For instance, in December 2017 AT&T announced its Open Architecture for a Disaggregated Network Operating System (dNOS) — its network operating system for white box. And in March AT&T open-sourced the dNOS project with the Linux Foundation, which renamed it DANOS.
In speaking to SDxCentral at the time of the dNOS announcement, Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture, explained that for AT&T “white box” is something that doesn’t use standard CPU for the data plane. “It’s using some kind of network processor for the data plane,” said Rice. He said an x86 processor from Intel or AMD is meant to do many tasks pretty well. Whereas a programmable network processor from companies such as Barefoot and Broadcom can do some things really well.
If AT&T is giving network processors some serious, new attention, we felt like we should too.
This special series of articles is meant to bring readers up to date on the biggest semiconductor companies involved in network virtualization, cloud, and 5G. We’ve kicked off the series with stories about Broadcom, Qualcomm, Intel, Arm, Barefoot, and Marvell. And there’s also a story about a group — RISC-V — that’s working to create a free and open instruction set architecture for chips.
Enjoy the stories and stay tuned for further coverage of network programmability at the silicon level.