Major carrier AT&T has announced that it plans to deploy 60,000 open-standards based "white box" routers throughout the United States over the next few years. The new router boxes will run on open hardware standards, and use open-source software developed by AT&T. The point of the initiative is to make the boxes as modular as possible on both the software and hardware fronts, making them easy to upgrade once the carrier starts to roll out 5G, and onward into the future. The open hardware and software used by the boxes not only makes it easier for AT&T to upgrade and update them, but also means that anybody can build the same design and use it to build out their own network with whatever software and spectrum they want.
The boxes will run AT&T's very own Disaggregated Network Operating System. dNOS will be fully open-source, and is essentially a fork of the Vyatta network operating system previously employed by AT&T. The company bought Vyatta and the team behind it from parent company Brocade Communications Systems not long ago, and is enlisting the help of the Vyatta team to develop and maintain dNOS. It is worth noting that DNoS will be released via The Linux Foundation to the open-source community, which means that anybody can use it, fork it, modify it, and even put improvements into it that AT&T can approve and use in its commercial deployment. AT&T has already published a white paper about dNOS.
In order to manage all of this equipment and optimize its network, AT&T will be using a cloud operating system it's calling Open Network Automation Platform in order to virtualize its network maintenance functions. The goal is to have 75% of the company's core network functions virtualized by 2020, building on the 55-percent it reached in 2017. The goal for the company by the end of this year is to virtualize at least 65-percent of its core network functions virtualized. Another goal of the white boxes is to enable 5G Edge Computing, wherein intensive applications will be run on decentralized servers, then pushed to users' devices via local access points, rather than directly from faraway data centers. The first successful trial of the white box routers took place last year, and the trial is set to expand this year as the company works toward deploying enough of these access points for commercial use.