Disaggregated Routing: Why CSPs Need to Address Long-term Network Issues

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted how difficult it is for telecom networks to adapt to sudden traffic increases. Although this issue is not new, the solution can be found when adopting open networking technologies.

Many Communication Service Providers (CSPs) have had a difficult few years as they’ve struggled to adapt to the approximately 20% increase in traffic caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Most of the increased traffic was related to communications technologies, such as teleconferencing and remote work applications.

Whether back at the office or embracing a hybrid work model, CSPs are still facing the challenge of maintaining a high quality of service while the demands on their networks continue to increase. Internet peering is a critical part of this challenge.

So, how can CSPs respond?

Many providers are still using the chassis model and manually deploying new routers and switches to slowly but surely scale up services. However, this approach can either overutilize an insufficient network or underutilize a too extensive network. Moreover, it’s notoriously difficult to estimate network usage and plan accordingly.

Another approach is to embrace the CLOS spine-and-leaf structure that makes scaling much more manageable but requires large bundles that can be inefficient. Congestion can still occur in this networking model due to difficulty with load balancing.

So, what’s the best way for CSPs to proceed? Disaggregated routing has emerged as a new method that delivers the benefits of both the chassis model and the CLOS model. CSPs use cloud technologies and white box hardware to create ultra-reliable and wildly scalable networks.


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Carrier Grade Disaggregated IP/MPLS Routing Solutions

May 2023

What is Disaggregated Networking?

Disaggregated networking is an architecture that separates the routing hardware from the routing software. A white box router is designed on an open standard to work with any routing software also developed on an open standard. The software is often referred to as the network operating system(NOS).

For example, a single white box router might handle four terabits per second, but a cluster of hundreds of white boxes can reach speeds up to hundreds of terabits per second, acting as a single routing entity.

It’s easy to see why disaggregated networking has gained popularity among Tier 1 providers. The model doesn’t altogether remove networking hardware, as many network virtualization models have attempted, but also doesn’t require manual configuration and deployment of each new router.

How the Disaggregated Model Solves CSPs’ Challenges

CSPs need to accept the long-term network issues facing the chassis-centric model. Traffic will likely increase as more users come online, and new applications demand more resources. As a result, the chassis model that helped us get this far needs to be reimagined.

The disaggregated networking model solves many of the CSPs’ network issues. It’s more scalable, prevents vendor lock-in, and it may even cut your total cost of ownership (TCO) in half.

Improved Scaling Efficiency

Every disaggregated router is built on an open standard designed to work with cloud-native networking software. As a result, adding a new white box router requires minimal configuration to become part of the broader network.

The network routing software is also developed on an open standard. You can mix and match different white box vendors to scale your network, with each cluster being treated as a single routing entity.

Disaggregated networking can also cover access, edge, and core routing in the same solution. It’s only a matter of adding enough white box routers and configuring the routing software to handle each location in the network. White box routers can even serve as peering routers to connect to other networks.

Essentially, this networking requires significantly less manpower to expand and manage the network. Of course, new skill sets may be required, but disaggregated networking is actually a simpler network model.

An Open Standard Circumvents Vendor Lock-In

Vendor lock-in has historically been a significant problem for CSPs. For example, in the chassis model, a CSP is locked into a networking vendor that provides hardware and software. If the vendor increases its prices, the CSP must pay the new price or switch vendors entirely. This presents a major long-term issue that can make scaling services difficult to predict financially.

Fortunately, disaggregated networking makes vendor lock-in a thing of the past. White box hardware can be purchased from various vendors due to the open standard. CSPs can buy a disaggregated open router from one vendor and place it right next to another white box router from a different vendor without worrying about interoperability issues.

Potential to Substantially Reduce Total Cost of Ownership

Disaggregated networking has been shown to reduce initial capex costs and lower opex costs. One study found that the TCO of a disaggregated network is 52% less than traditional chassis-based networks.

Why are there substantial savings? First, the study considered the capex purchase cost of the white box hardware and network software licenses. Then, the study examined operational maintenance costs along with power consumption. The conclusion was that disaggregated networking is less expensive based on those factors.

The study didn’t cover other benefits that are more difficult to quantify, such as increased flexibility, the potential for expanded automation, and sidestepping vendor lock-in.

Discover a New Approach to Networking

Networking overall has relied on the chassis-centric approach since the beginning. While data centers have embraced cloud technologies for years, communications networks have struggled to adopt cloud computing to their services.

It’s time to discover a new networking paradigm that blends the time-tested chassis model with the benefits of cloud computing. Disaggregated networks allow CSPs to expand their services and reduce costs while avoiding vendor lock-in.

Exaware has created a carrier-grade network operating system to operate disaggregated networks. Our solution allows CSPs to embrace this new networking model with a high-quality operating system that will work with white box hardware to create a flexible and scalable network. Contact us today to discover how we can transform your communications services.

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