Sep 19, 2018

Reimagining SDN with Next-Gen White Box Technology

Since 2011, software-defined networking (SDN) has revolutionized how data centers, service providers and other enterprises manage and control their networks. By separating decisions about where traffic goes on the network from how it is forwarded, network administrators can control traffic directly from a centralized console without manually reconfiguring individual switches or routers. As a result, SDN can provide flexible and scalable network architectures for companies needing to adapt to the changing demands of modern applications.

Besides being a game-changing technology, SDN adoption has also paved the way for the rise of open standards, open source software and open source-design products such as white boxes. Together, the push toward openness is diminishing the traditional vendor-lock over network equipment. Thanks to work done by the Open Compute Project(OCP) and the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD), consumers now have much more choice in how they meet their network’s unique requirements.

Industry Demand for White Boxes is Growing

Because white boxes can deliver open source information between different brands of networking equipment, they are set to provide major cost savings and network flexibility to telecommunications companies across the OSI stack. For us at PrecisionOT, we strongly believe that white box technologies will aid in the operability of 5G/cellular networks, Metro Ethernet, residential PON, Hybrid Fiber-Coax networks (HFC) and more.

The industry has caught on, and demand for white boxes is growing. Initially backed by internet giants like Amazon, Facebook and Google, big-name carriers such as AT&T are now beginning to use white box technology as a solution to eliminate dependence on legacy networking equipment from traditional vendors. 

In March, AT&T announced it will deploy over 60,000 white box routers across its wireless network. With an eye to our 5G future, the carrier will deploy these routers in its 5G-equipped towers and small cells. As Andre Fuetsch, CTO and president of AT&T Labs, asserted, “We’re no longer constrained by the capabilities of proprietary silicon and feature roadmaps of traditional vendors.” By going open source, AT&T can now take advantage of new equipment that uses open hardware designs that any vendor can match. It is a true success story for the open source SDN movement, but, as we all know, there’s always room for improvement.

Pushing White Box Technology into the Future

While white boxes have multiple benefits for their users, current white box software does have its limitations, especially throughout the optical network layer. As well, with IoT and AI applications already coming over the horizon, the industry is seeing a move toward using open source technology to make SDN smarter and more agile. 

For example, open source framework that can help network administrators gather, process and share network telemetry data through software has been developed. Whereas traditional SNMP-based network monitoring has operated as a pull model where network telemetry data is gathered by administrators, the new trend is a push model, with data forwarded by the software in real time. 

Several companies are recognizing the future of optical transport as a function of both capacity and software intelligence. Open SDN can ease network complexity, thereby assisting network operators in implementing future 5G deployments and meeting the demands of their end-users.

Where PrecisionOT Comes In 

So where do we differentiate? The answer is simple – where other companies concentrate on specific applications for their own networks and equipment, we are focusing specifically on software that anyone in the global telecommunications sector can use. Our expert engineers are developing a multi-faceted set of applications that monitor and analyze the physical layer of your optical software-defined network. Key features of the proprietary software include:

  • Real time optical monitoring
  • State and integrity of the optical network (ability to view from high level down to individual optical links)
  • Wavelength density monitoring for CWDM/DWDM networks (which channels are currently in use)
  • Compatible throughout a large variety of white box networking equipment and off-the-shelf SDN controllers 
  • Integration with legacy networking equipment 
  • Live management and configuration of what optics are deployed in the software-defined network (inventory, tuning, etc.)
  • Machine learning for predictive analytics to forecast optical failures and anomalies before they cause network downtime (once an alarm or error occurs, it is already too late) 

Whereas most software companies concentrate on higher layers of a network, our product will be the first software developed to address data at the optical level. Here at Precision we feel that the optical layer is the foundation of your network and the key to a reliable, low latency communication system. Our goal is to help you manage and automate the logistics of monitoring your optical network as well as ensure you have the transceiver information you need on demand. As experts in optical equipment, we have the experience and knowledge to deliver a best-in-class software that will provide you with a good ROI.

Our product is currently in development so stay tuned for upcoming announcements, including our launch date. We’re very excited about continuing to push SDN and white box technology into the future and look forward to sharing more specifications and demonstrations with you in the coming months. 

If you would like to learn more about what we are working on or any of our other products and services, contact us. We’d love to hear from you. 

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