Coriant today announced a network operating system for white boxes, hoping to capitalize on the hardware disaggregation trend to expand the market for its routing technology beyond mobile backhaul.
The Coriant Network Operating System (NOS) appears to be the first commercial response to AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s push for white box routers and a disaggregated network operating system, made earlier this year when it first announced dNOS and later, the open sourcing of AT&T's software efforts -- built on its acquisition of Brocade's Vyatta unit -- into DANOS, a Linux Foundation-based open source effort. (See DANOS Fuels AT&T's White Box Binge , LF Launches DANOS Project for New Disaggregated Network OS and AT&T's Rice: White Box OS a Team Effort.)
That's not to say other major router vendors aren't engaged in the disaggregation of their software from their hardware. Nokia Nokia Networks has the Nuage Service Router Operating System, Juniper Networks Inc. (NYSE: JNPR) has its virtual MX router, and even mighty Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) is vowing to bow to customer pressure and sell its software on a disaggregated basis. (See Cisco Bows to Carrier Demand for Software Outside the Box.)
Coriant is hoping to beat the bigger players to the punch, however, and capture a larger market share than what it currently has in the mobile backhaul market by riding the disaggregation wave, says Rob Shore, senior vice president of global sales enablement. He also expects to see competition from the data center space, where companies like IP Infusion and SnapRoute are active today.
"I think the data center guys will struggle to add in all the features and capabilities to operate effectively in carrier style network," he tells Light Reading in an interview. "This is where Coriant has a huge amount of expertise, we have 400,000 routers deployed in carrier networks today and we have been doing this for about 25 years. The other half -- Cisco, Huawei, Juniper and Nokia -- they have the capability and experience to do that but what we feel like they are not going to have the willingness. Their whole business model is predicated on proprietary, they have big margins based on getting hardware and software sales together. We feel like they are going to be reluctant to embrace this openness because it destroys their business model, so they will kind of tiptoe through it."
Coriant, on the other hand, "doesn't have anything to lose," Shore says. And with 5G on the horizon, the company is ready to expand its market significantly.
"Coriant is a company that has been in the mobile backhaul and IP/MPLS space for 20-plus years and I view this as a logical evolution of their technology skills and the competencies that they have and are adapting to fit next-generation architectures, making capabilities available at the Layer 3 level the way the customer wants to buy it which is disaggregated and decomposed," says Tim Doiron, principal analyst of Intelligent Networking for ACG.
He notes that the push to become cloud-native is making software disaggregation as important as hardware disaggregation was in the first virtualization wave. Network operators don't want to buy a software package, they want to buy software that is decomposed into modular components.
According to Shore, the Coriant NOS is based on an open and modular software architecture, designed to run on commercial off-the-shelf white boxes but also on white boxes like Coriant's Vibe X90 Programmable Packet Platform, which has been optimized for carrier-grade and even more specifically mobile networking applications. The Coriant announcement says Coriant NOS supports standalone and multi-unit forwarding architectures and a broad set of carrier network and data center interconnect protocols and applications. It also features open APIs for integration into existing environments and programmability. (See Coriant Launches New Carrier White Box Series.)
This announcement is the latest in a series for Coriant, notes analyst Doiron, and the company's success will be in the context of that broader picture, not necessarily in head-to-head battles with existing router powerhouses.
"Coriant previously announced their Multi-Sided Platform Partner Program where they are augmenting their solution capabilities with partners like Adtran and Affirmed and others," he says. "They also announced this Hyperscale Carrier Architecture which they refreshed at MWC and they brought in a number of partners to help build out a larger ecosystem for service providers. I think Coriant is augmenting and acknowledging that, in addition to optical domain and controls and MANO, there is also a need for disaggregated and decomposed routing functions with the network. With this announcement they are making that functionality available and the net result is a net benefit for them and their customers."
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading