Undoubtedly, 2020 has been the strangest, and what has felt like the longest of my 40 years so far. Together, we have experienced the worst recession since the 1930s, and a global pandemic which has touched the lives of every person, in one way or a another. The EPS family is no different in this and I want to extend my greatest sympathies to them, and anyone reading this, who has experienced a loss this year. “Ar dheis Dé go raibh a n-anamacha”
Even though at times it did feel like the fabric of society was unravelling thread by thread, we still had to get up each morning and get on to Zoom and WebEx, and somehow managed to get some really good work done in the process. One of the most vaunted aspects within open networking is the power of the community and it was that collaborative, creative spirit that was very much to the fore in 2020. New products, and companies, emerged for both the telecoms and datacenter sectors, and even the projects within the OCP, ONF, and TIP moved on unabated, and actually accelerated at lightspeed in some cases. The warp drive was unquestionably engaged with OpenRAN! Today, I am going to review the new kids on the block in each of the sectors I have mentioned.
New implementations of disaggregated solutions within the DC stagnated in 2020 and that was undoubtably due to the global pandemic. A large percentage of the hardware I sent out in EMEA ended up in engineers’ houses. I suppose we should pat ourselves on the back here as the spine and leaf topology using bare metal has proved a huge success. We have been saying for years that there are huge benefits to the scalability aspect and that if you are oversubscribed, add a spine switch, if you need more port density, add a leaf. These switches can be sitting on a shelf ready to go as the bare metal hardware is a lot more affordable than other branded versions.
The acquisition of Cumulus Networks by Mellanox/Nvidia also threw a spanner in the works. Cumulus would be one of the most well known of the NOS vendors and the subsequent fallout between Broadcom/Nvidia/Mellanox left a bit of a bad taste. The vacuum did not take too long to fill and within months a raft of new softwares, primarily based on Microsoft’s SONiC, stepped into the breach. Let us look at the new technologies that appeared in 2020.
SONiC – Software for Open Networking in the Cloud. Gifted by Microsoft to the OCP in 2017, this NOS is used in Azures datacenters, Alibaba, Tencent, LinkedIn, and more. Highly tested at scale, and production-hardened, to use their own terminology. There are multiple versions available now. Broadcom have released their own version, Edgecore, Dell, and Mellanox also. It feels like this will eventually replace all NOSs¬ within the DC and possibly further afield, with telecom use cases on the horizon.
Broadcom – The undisputed heavyweight champs of the switching ASIC world have released some new and improved chips this year. Only last week saw the release of the Tomahawk 4 chip, and earlier in the year we saw the release of the Trident 4 chip. It will be some time before we see products with these though and the main ASICs being sold were the Trident 3 in models like Edgecore’s 10G AS5835, or 25G AS7326 and the Tomahawk II in the 100G AS7816.
P4 – Programmable switching seemed all the rage for the DC in 2020 but with little to show for it. There are some really interesting software companies that are doing some great work in this area like Kaloom, and NoviFlow but to this point it does seem that success with P4 will lie outside of the Clos fabric and that altering pipeline behaviour is not required here.
400G Switch – First released by Edgecore Networks in March 2018, we saw the first real interest in the 400G Tomahawk III-based switches this year. Software vendors were initially slow to do the work here. This could be simply down to not having any demand for it, or alternatively that by the time 400G is a ‘thing’, SONiC will well and truly have a foothold in the DC. Check out 400G switches from UfiSpace and Edgecore here.
Edge - This was another expected large growth area that did not materialize in 2020. Gartner has predicted that by 2025, 75% of all enterprise-generated data will be processed at the edge to allow for autonomous vehicles, smart cities, 5G, IoT, AR/VR, CDNs (content delivery networks), gaming and more. With the present number somewhere just north of 10%, 2021 should see a steep curve in deployments here to make up for the curtailment of projects in 2020.
Data Center Interconnect
Data Center Interconnect – Open networking now has a nice range of products in this area with SmartOptics, the Cassini from Edgecore, and Pluribus Networks multi-site data center fabric. Again, each one has its sweet spot. SmartOptics have some very simple and effective solutions in this area and the CEO, Magnus Grenfeldt showed just how simple when he got his 12-year-old daughter Hedvig to set up their DCP-M open line system in less than 2 minutes! The Cassini would mainly be used for longer distances of over 100 kms and has many more use cases which we will look at in the telecoms section. Pluribus’ offering is a spin off benefit to the adaptive cloud fabric which will allow you to manage multiple data centers as 1 logical data center. They also have a lab automation use case that creates a virtualized patch panel for L1 cross connect. As the say themselves, wire once and never re-cable.
2020 was undoubtably the year of the telco within open networking. Tier 1s the length and breadth of the globe began implementing solutions based on designs from both the Open Networking Foundation (ONF) and the Telecom Infra Project (TIP), including one of our customers, Virtual Technologies and Solutions (VTS) in Burkina Faso. As I previously mentioned, OpenRAN has got the lions share of the attention but there has been a plethora of projects that have finally come to fruition which we will look at now. If you’re short on time you can view a 100 second whirlwind tour of the products listed below by way of a video demo in our Dublin warehouse here.
Open Optical and Packet Transport
Open Optical and Packet Transport – This project group brings different elements of the telecoms transport network architecture together like optical transponders, line systems, IP access devices, along with open API’s and network simulation and planning tools. 3 whitebox products have emerged from this group that have had an immediate impact on the sector, and they are:
Cassini – Designed by Edgecore Networks, the Cassini is the world’s first open modular packet/optical transponder. It was originally designed as a data center interconnect device, which we mentioned above, but it has proved to have extensive applications in other areas like service provider backhaul, metro, and in the network backbone. The software is provided by IP Infusion’s OcNOS and 2020 saw some large implementations with EPS involved with one at Mundo Pacifico in Chile being a particular highlight.
Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway
Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway – Sometimes called the DCSG or cell site router. 2019 saw AT&T announce their goal to install 60,000 of these boxes in their network over the next few years. This, along with cell site routers not being able to handle 5G traffic has led to a very successful year for this section of the OOPT project. There are multiple vendors in this area for the same basic design specifications, which is a good thing due to the demand for the product. We have worked with both the UfiSpace and Edgecore designs of this product and keep plenty of stock due to the demand for PoC’s. There is now a wide variety of software options with standouts from IP Infusion’s OcNOS and DANOS Vyatta, Exaware’s ExaNOS, and Volta Networks VERVE.
Disaggregated Router – We have had the physical devices for quite some time like the 5912 or 5916 series from Edgecore but had to wait a few years for the software vendors to catch up. Software is now available from Exaware, IP Infusion, DriveNets, Infinera, ADVA, Arrcus, and even Cisco! There are more use cases here than I can shake a stick at but some that have proved popular are peering, core, and broadband aggregation. 2021 should be a big year for disaggregated routing with everything now in place.
vOLT – This year saw the ONF push on with implementations within ODTN (similar to the OOPT from TIP), Comcast with TRELLIS, T-Mobile with OMEC and more. I will just focus on their SEBA and vOLTHA projects for this or you will be reading this blog all day. Software Enabled Broadband Access (SEBA) and virtual Optical Line terminal Hardware Abstraction (vOLTHA) are ONF projects to provide residential broadband using bare metal hardware and open source software. There are a lot of moving parts to these solutions from the whitebox OLT itself to aggregation, ONUs and OLTs, BNGs and more. 2020 saw some really big steps taken here with AT&T, Turk Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, and T-Mobile working with partners like Edgecore Network, Adtran, IP Infusion, and Radisys.
There is so much more in the telecoms area to talk about that I will probably now have to write a part II. We did not get to mention companies like RTBrick who have been working extensively with Deutsche Telekom and just released a vBNG with Edgecore Networks, or DriveNets and UfiSpace’s solution for disaggregated core routing using Broadcom’s latest Jericho 2 switching ASIC that AT&T are deploying or anything about CPE devices at all! So much to say and so little time!
To finish on a lighter note, I hope everyone who has got this far has a very, very, very, Happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. God knows we deserve it!
For more information on products and services related to Open Networking come check out our website at www.epsglobal.com or drop me a line on LinkedIn.
Slán go fóill,