AT&T finds home for dNOS in Linux Foundation

data center (pixabay)
AT&T said that historically, creating a Network Operating System has been challenging due to the magnitude and complexity of hardware and software requirements. (Pixabay)

That was fast. AT&T earlier this year was hunting for a home for its open source project dubbed Disaggregated Network Operating System, or dNOS. At the time, it sounded as though a likely candidate might be The Linux Foundation. Lo and behold, that’s exactly where it’s landed.

The intention of the dNOS project is to provide a software framework to speed the adoption and use of white boxes in a service provider’s infrastructure. The term “white box” refers to a multifunction device like a router or switch created without an OEM.

White box hardware is a critical component of AT&T’s network, and it’s been discussing its deployment for a while. Being able to mix and match standardized hardware configurations with different software protocols is a critical element of white box—according to AT&T, it’s how you get a more open, flexible and cost-effective alternative to traditional proprietary, integrated networking equipment, which is what it’s all about these days.

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But AT&T pointed out that each individual device in the network needs its own operating system, which is what the dNOS project does. And while other efforts have been tried before, there was a feeling that those didn’t quite meet the needs of operators, according to Chris Rice, senior vice president of AT&T Labs, Domain 2.0 Architecture and Design.

Rice told FierceWirelessTech earlier this month that those other efforts “were just not quite there for what we would need, and we’d like to put something out that is more fully encompassing of what our needs might be and we believe other service providers’ needs would be.”

The dNOS project will support existing network protocols, but it also will offer expansion capabilities to support new tools, like the open source programming language P4. Resources from AT&T Labs and AT&T Vyatta will be key contributors to the project.  

“Our goal with open sourcing the dNOS project is to create a community around an open framework to software-enable industry-standard white box hardware designs, such as those contributed to the Open Compute Project,” said John Medamana, vice president of Packet Optical Network, AT&T, in a press release.

No doubt, AT&T is hoping its dNOS project will be as well received as ONAP, which was the result of AT&T’s ECOMP being combined with Open O; ONAP also found a home at The Linux Foundation last year. And ONAP is gaining acceptance, with rival Verizon recently signing on.

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“The Linux Foundation welcomes the dNOS project to the open source community," said Arpit Joshipura, general manager of Networking at The Linux Foundation, in the release. "The dNOS project will help create a network operating system community that will benefit existing Linux Foundation projects like FRRouting and OpenSwitch, and pave the way for future projects to help drive innovation at the lower layers of the network stack.”

The aim is to get hardware and software vendors, open source developers, service providers and others behind it. Expect more information on the dNOS project to be released in coming weeks. Plus, there are plans afoot to share details at The Linux Foundation’s upcoming Open Networking Summit in March.

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