This article was published in Fierce Telecom on April 14, 2023. You can read the original article here
The concept of disaggregating hardware from software was first implemented by innovators in Silicon Valley for compute and storage use cases. It’s taken a little longer for disaggregation in networking use cases, due to their complexity.
One vendor, DriveNets, has had success with network disaggregation in core routing. Its marquee customer is AT&T.
Another company, RtBrick, is also doing network disaggregation, but rather than core network routing, RtBrick focuses on edge routing in networks.
Richard Brandon, VP of strategy at RtBrick, said that disaggregation in networking requires white-box switches. And those weren’t available until relatively recently.
He named two Taiwanese manufacturers — EdgeCore and UfiSpace — that have traditionally helped the big vendors, such as Cisco, manufacture switches and routers. But in the past, these Taiwanese manufacturers didn’t offer their own brands.
“For years the only way you could make routers for telcos was to build your own chips,” said Brandon. “That’s what Cisco and Juniper had to do. That situation changed three to five years ago with some of the Broadcom chips.”
With the availability of some Broadcom packet-processing chips, EdgeCore and UfiSpace decided to make bare-metal switches (also called white box switches) under their own brands. This, in turn, provided an opportunity for companies such as RtBrick to create networking routing software to ride on that bare-metal hardware.
Brandon said that RtBrick focuses on the broadband network gateway (BNG) within wired networks. He said the BNG is essentially a network router that knows all the other routers on the internet, and it also does service termination, meaning that it talks to the router at a customer’s home. It enables a telco to constantly make sure the end-user is a customer in good standing.
RtBrick is a five-year-old company headquartered in California. It has about 50 employees with most of its developers in India and some employees in Europe.
Brandon said it competes with the well-known BNG vendors such as Juniper, Nokia and Huawei. “In my experience I’ve never seen a 50-person company successfully compete with these companies,” he said. “One problem starting in that world is that you have to make your own chips. And that suddenly changed.”
RtBrick’s biggest customer is Deutsche Telekom.
DT was one of the first Tier 1 operators to express interest in network disaggregation and to become involved with the Telecom Infra Project (TIP).
Both DT and RtBrick are involved with TIP’s Open BNG initiative. Brandon said TIP’s Open BNG group is working with both EdgeCore and UfiSpace for hardware as well as a number of software vendors, including RtBrick, Casa Networks, Ciena and Capgemini.