White Box Systems

Adtran Is Developing White Box GPON Tech

Broadband access infrastructure vendor Adtran may have had a setback at AT&T this week but it has a new access product in development that, in the future, might open new doors at the Tier 1 operator. (See Adtran Loses Out at AT&T.)

Responding to a question on the vendor's Q1 earnings conference call, Adtran Inc. (Nasdaq: ADTN) CEO Tom Stanton noted that the company is developing a "white box" GPON product as part of its long-term evolution strategy.

"The thought is to simplify line card designs and move out things like functional pieces that can be somewhere else in the network. It makes sense architecturally. It's a long-term [project]… it will have little effect in the next few years," said the Adtran CEO.

"It's an approach that a handful of carriers have adopted and logically it makes sense. We are at the front edge of that and we are working [with carriers] on the definition."

That's as far as Stanton went and Adtran declined to comment any further, saying only that we should "stay tuned" for further developments.

For the latest on fixed broadband developments, visit Light Reading's dedicated Gigabit Cities content channel. And be sure to register to attend Light Reading's Gigabit Cities Live event on May 13-14 in Atlanta.

Other likely developers of such technology are also keeping schtum for the time being. "This is something that Alcatel-Lucent is looking at, but unfortunately we can't talk to you about what we're up to," said an Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) spokesman in response to our questions.

It's likely these vendors are keeping their powder dry until at least June, when AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) is expected to show off a white box GPON proof of concept along with partners ON.Lab and PMC-Sierra Inc. (Nasdaq: PMCS): It would be surprising if Adtran and Alcatel-Lucent weren't involved in that project too.

While actual white box GPON products are some years away from commercial reality, network operators will be keen to figure out now how their central offices will shape up in years to come and will no doubt be interested in how they can maximize their space and power resources in these valuable locations while including their fixed broadband networks in their network virtualization strategies.

For Adtran's investors, of course, the question will revolve around what impact this move will have on its revenues and margins in the medium and long term.

— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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[email protected] 7/20/2015 | 12:26:46 PM
Re: ...and everyone else We need to separate the topic here. Virtualizing is one thing while "white-boxing" is something else. The MAC problem referenced here is a problem with virtualizing certain network functions. However, "white-boxing" is simply selling a practially the same hardware (i.e. it is all built in Asia in the same set of fabs) without "ADTRAN" or "Juniper" or 
"Cisco" or "Lucent" labels and proprietary software that locks you in with that vendor, but rather with open-source/Linux software.
brooks7 4/27/2015 | 5:11:25 PM
Re: ...and everyone else Yeah - I agree. And as far as I have seen essentially all the GPON OLTs are off the shelf Ethernet switches that have hooked up GPON MACs to ports.

The rest of it can be done virtually - of course it makes 0 sense if it has to be tied to the MACs.  See what I mean?  Well maybe not.   Okay, building software on a VM allows you to port it to platforms that have different capability and can be shared with other things that want the same hardware.  The problem is that the moment you require specific hardware then almost all the value of virtualization disappears.  All that you have is that the new hardware is cheaper than the old hardware.

This is the problem.  Speciifc hardware like that is going to be deployed where you need it.  Which means moving it makes almost no sense.  Now, if you can remote process some parts and make it cheaper than that is fine.  But the problem with specific hardware is that you have to deploy it.  That means that there is none of this sharing or turning up when needed.  The software and hardware are deployed on a 1 - 1 basis.

When we talk about White Box in general I always ask...so can I turn it up on AWS or Rackspace.  If not, then what am I doing.

Duh! 4/27/2015 | 1:36:49 PM
Re: ...and everyone else It depends on how "generic" you mean by "generic", doesn't it?

No reason why there can't be a reference design for generic OLT line card, with all the PHY and MAC stuff in commodity SPFs and ASSPs.  We've reached a point that ONT PHY and MAC functions are packaged into an SFP;  it's likely that the same will ultimately happen for the OLT (and yes, it is much harder).  As I understand it, open source, real-time software on a generic board isn't prohibitied the white box model. 

And there is certainly a lot of non-real time software that goes into an OLT that could be virtualized.

Damn it, you've given me a brain worm.
thebulk 4/26/2015 | 1:50:49 PM
Re: ...and everyone else @brooks7, I have to think about that for a moment..... Regardless of the fact that there will be some hardware requirments for white box, I still think the apeal is going to be that you can put the software on just about any hardware, as long as it meets the requirments. 
brooks7 4/26/2015 | 1:47:28 PM
Re: ...and everyone else Except that the software needs to run on hardware with a GPON MAC...so no it can't run on any hardware.  So, again all that is happening is that it might be possible to create a product that is a lower cost than any other way.  Today most of these products are essentially Ethernet Switches with GPON MACs instead of Ethernet MACs.  

That is sort of the BS associated with all of this stuff.  Once you need to have a specific piece of hardware then poof you can't Virtualize it.  Does make a great argument to move to Ethernet based Access Networks and away from GPON or anything else including EPON.  

So, if you want to say that Adtran is building something on a "White Box" Ethernet Switch with a GPON MAC then you are describing all the GPON products out there.




thebulk 4/26/2015 | 1:13:58 PM
Re: ...and everyone else I think the whole point of the white box is that its software driven and can run on just about any hardware. 
brooks7 4/26/2015 | 1:41:55 AM
Re: ...and everyone else Turns out that these products are software driven anyway.
thebulk 4/25/2015 | 2:38:54 PM
Re: ...and everyone else I think one of the keys to white box is that once the hardware is rolled out its more software driven and can have a longer life. 
brooks7 4/25/2015 | 12:08:45 PM
Re: ...and everyone else And you still have to have the MAC directly as part of the hardware.  Which means that you have deploy specific hardware to make this work.

This means that repurposing the hardware is a lot more complicated and one then is really just dealing with the direct costs as a comparison.



thebulk 4/25/2015 | 10:55:38 AM
Re: ...and everyone else @Duh!, You are right that ROI is a key indicator if a technology will take off. Though I think White Box tech offers some interesting featuers and possible solutions for a company, there are a lot of unknowns. As always, wait and see. 
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