AT&T trials open switches for better future services


A coast-to-coast network trial by AT&T last month, using open-source “white box” switches, pointed toward an imagined future of more reliable services that may come quicker than some people think.

The carrier ran a trial on its core network earlier this year using switches based on chips from Intel, Broadcom and startup Barefoot Networks. The latter only started shipping in sample quantities in December, making the trial deployment a remarkably quick turnaround.

Like other carriers and cloud providers, AT&T is aggressively shifting its network toward SDN (software-defined networking). As these changes are carried out across more infrastructure, they should give both service providers and subscribers more flexibility and higher performance.

AT&T called its trial the first of its kind in the telecommunications industry. It set up white-box switches from two different manufacturers, using processors from the three merchant-silicon vendors, and ran an open network OS from SnapRoute on all three. The trial involved carrying customer traffic across the U.S. on the carrier’s core network.

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