AT&T field trials open source white box switches

AT&T has successfully completed a field trial of open source, multi-supplier white box switches, according to a recent blog on the company's site. The trial, conducted March 28, tested implementation of the white box switch carrying customer traffic between Washington, DC, and San Francisco. The platforms provided telemetry into AT&T's ECOMP platform for monitoring purposes.

AT&T has successfully completed a field trial of open source, multi-supplier white box switches, according to a recent blog on the company's site. The trial, conducted March 28, tested implementation of the white box switch carrying customer traffic between Washington, DC, and San Francisco. The platforms provided telemetry into AT&T's ECOMP platform for monitoring purposes.

The Tier 1 service provider collaborated with a variety of technology suppliers on creation and implementation of a pair of white box switches. They include Barefoot Networks, Broadcom, Delta Electronics, Edgecore Networks, Intel Corp., and SnapRoute. In one implementation, Delta's Agema AGC7648A switch used Broadcom Qumran chips and the SnapRoute network operating system (OS). The other switch was an Edgecore Wedge 100BF system with Barefoot's 6.5-Tbps Tofino chip. SnapRoute's open network operating system FlexSwitch was used as the control plane and unifying OS. Meanwhile, Intel architecture-based processors ran the SnapRoute OS that managed the Barefoot and Broadcom chips and the interfaces on the switches.

"We're in the early stages of this process, but already we see huge potential for increasing the speed of innovation, lowering costs and, most importantly, staying ahead of the needs of our customers," said Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO of AT&T via the blog. "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. We think white box will be a big part of the future of the wide area network."

AT&T notes that the ECOMP platform used in the trial is now in the hands of the Linux Foundation for release into open source as the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). The carrier says it is using its TORC packet network control software on the switches as well.

The white box switch development parallels AT&T's work in open routers and its OpenROADM initiative, which the company says will help it support deployment of 400 Gigabit Ethernet (400GbE). The company says its 400GbE trial plans include use of white box routers (see "AT&T completes 400GbE first phase trial, ready for OpenROADM phase"). The operator says it also is pondering the use of white box routers on its cell towers.

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