Network disaggregation has been a hot topic for the better part of two decades. Despite the promise of lower costs, the concept has never really taken off, because the first wave of products was plagued with performance problems. Recently, an Israeli startup, DriveNets, achieved unicorn status when it closed its Series B funding round of $208 million.
So how did DriveNets reach this billion-dollar valuation when so many before it have failed to make a significant market impact?
To understand what DriveNets is doing differently and what the future of disaggregation is, I had the chance to interview Run Almog, Head of Product Strategy for DriveNets, in my latest ZKast thought leadership video, done in conjunction with eWEEK. It’s an excellent interview and I encourage anyone involved in networking to watch it.
Highlights of the discussion
- Disaggregation enables routing to be done in software and operate on white-box network devices, driving the cost down when compared to the traditional vertically integrated hardware and software.
- This also helps avoid vendor lock-in and increases network agility, enabling changes to be made significantly faster.
- DriveNets revolutionizes disaggregation by establishing the network as cloud infrastructure.
- In service-provider networks, traditional routers were designed for an era when services ran in the network. Today, most services run over the top, changing how they are monetized.
- The changing way networks are consumed is mandating that the building blocks, including routers, also change.
- This is similar to the transition servers went through as the industry shifted to cloud computing. Computing is more efficient, flexible and scalable in the cloud, and that’s what DriveNets is aiming to do with service providers.
- This should enable network operators to be more profitable, which will allow them to build new services faster and offer better services to their customers.
- Building networks like clouds have the following principles:
- software and hardware are decoupled;
- hardware is a virtual, consumable resource for the software versus a rigid monolith;
- cloud-native software is built to dynamically scale;
- every software element can consume exactly the hardware it needs to scale as performance requires; and
- this leads to a better total cost of ownership for network operators as well as faster innovation.
- Cloud computing has led to unprecedented innovation. Building networks as clouds will have the same impact on network services.
- DriveNets differentiates in three ways:
- it decouples hardware and software and runs on white boxes;
- disaggregates the actual hardware chassis into smaller elements and creates a virtual chassis leading to rapid scaling; and
- the software is cloud-native and can run on multiple devices as containerized workloads.
- AT&T has embraced disaggregation and is using DriveNets to build its core network.
- DriveNets currently has trials with approximately 30 other service providers.
- Older disaggregation solutions did not perform as well as vertically integrated hardware. DriveNets performance is on par or better than monolithic routers because it’s using the underlying hardware more efficiently.
- 5G will place unprecedented performance demands on networks, accelerating disaggregation
Disaggregation: Its promise may finally be here
The concept of disaggregation has been long on promise and short on delivery for decades, but DriveNets has seemed to have closed the gap. Although disaggregated routers are currently aimed at service providers and cloud companies, it will eventually make its way to enterprise networks.
A couple of decades ago, cloud and virtual computing had many skeptics, but now they are used by companies of all sizes. Networking is going through the same transition. Network professionals should become familiar with the concept, because it will enable the network to do so much more than ever before.