DriveNets Network Cloud: Fully disaggregated software solution that runs on white boxes

by Ofer Weill, Director of Product Marketing at DriveNets; edited and augmented by Alan J Weissberger


Networking software startup DriveNets announced in February that it had raised $110 million in first round (Series A) of venture capital funding.  With headquarters in Ra’anana, Israel, DriveNets’ cloud-based service, called Network Cloud, simplifies the deployment of new services for carriers at a time when many telcos are facing declining profit margins. Bessemer Venture Partners and Pitango Growth are the lead VC investors in the round, which also includes money from an undisclosed number of private angel investors.

DriveNets was founded in 2015 by telco experts Ido Susan and Hillel Kobrinsky who are committed to creating the best performing CSP Networks and improving its economics. Network Cloud was designed and built for CSPs (Communications Service Providers), addressing their strict resilience, security and QoS requirements, with zero compromise. 

“We believe Network Cloud will become the networking model of the future,” said DriveNets co-founder and CEO Ido Susan, in a statement. “We’ve challenged many of the assumptions behind traditional routing infrastructures and created a technology that will allow service providers to address their biggest challenges like the exponential capacity growth, 5G deployments and low-latency AI applications.”’

The Solution:

Network Cloud does not use open-source code. It’s an “unbundled” networking software solution, which runs over a cluster of low-cost white box routers and white box x86 based compute servers. DriveNets has developed its own Network Operating System (NOS) rather than use open source or Cumulus’ NOS as several other open networking software companies have done.

Fully disaggregated, its shared data plane scales-out linearly with capacity demand.  A single Network Cloud can encompass up to 7,600 100Gb ports in its largest configuration. Its control plane scales up separately, consolidating any service and routing protocol. 

Network Cloud data-plane is created from just two building blocks white boxes – NCP for packet forwarding and NCF for fabric, shrinking operational expenses by reducing the number of hardware devices, software versions and change procedures associated with building and managing the network. The two white-boxes (NCP and NCF) are based on Broadcom’s Jericho2 chipset which has high-speed, high-density port interfaces of 100G and 400G bits/sec. A single virtual chassis for max ports might have this configuration:  30720 x 10G/25G / 7680 x 100G / 1920 x 400G bits/sec.

Last month, DriveNets disaggregated router added 400G-port routing support (via whitebox routers using the aforementioned Broadcom chipset).  The latest Network Cloud hardware and software is now being tested and certified by an undisclosed tier-1 Telco customer.

“Just like hyper-scale cloud providers have disaggregated hardware and software for maximum agility, DriveNets is bringing a similar approach to the service provider router market. It is impressive to see it coming to life, taking full advantage of the strength and scale of our Jericho2 device,” said Ram Velaga, Senior Vice President and General Manager of the Switch Products Division at Broadcom.

Network Cloud control-plane runs on a separate compute server and is based on containerized microservices that run different routing services for different network functions (Core, Edge, Aggregation, etc.). Where they are co-located, service-chaining allows sharing of the same infrastructure for all router services. 

Multi-layer resiliency, with auto failure recovery, is a key feature of Network Cloud.  There is inter-router redundancy and geo-redundancy of control to select a new end to end path by routing around points of failure.

Network Cloud’s orchestration capabilities include Zero Touch Provisioning, full life cycle management and automation, as well as superior diagnostics with unmatched transparency.  These are illustrated in the figures below:

Image Courtesy of DriveNets


Future New Services:

Network Cloud is a platform for new revenue generation.  For example, adding 3rd party services as separate micro-services, such as DDoS Protection, Managed LAN to WAN, Network Analytics, Core network and Edge network.

“Unlike existing offerings, Network Cloud has built a disaggregated router from scratch. We adapted the data-center switching model behind the world’s largest clouds to routing, at a carrier-grade level, to build the world’s largest Service Providers’ networks. We are proud to show how DriveNets can rapidly and reliably deploy technological innovations at that scale,” said Ido Susan CEO and Co-Founder of DriveNets in a press release.




7 thoughts on “DriveNets Network Cloud: Fully disaggregated software solution that runs on white boxes

  1. Tier 1 network service providers (aka CSPs) known to have trialed white box switches include AT&T and NTT (see “AT&T field trials open source white box switches” and “NTT touts white box MPLS switching on virtual networks”). However, those CSPs have been touting OPEN SOURCE software rather than the proprietary software DriveNets provides in its Network Cloud.

  2. Drivenets is definitely an interesting play–I guess any company that raises more than $100M in a Series A round automatically qualifies as interesting. They are taking a bold approach to disaggregation coupled with use of merchant silicon and programmability. As merchant silicon becomes more capable, the marriage of an x86-based (or ARM or any CPU) control plane that is scalable and distributable with a high-speed programmable fabric becomes a feasible alternative to proprietary routing chipsets and chassis. If Drivenets approach can be deployed in carrier cores and succeed, then I see their next wave going beyond L3 and perhaps bring in L4-7 functions like NAT, ACLs etc.

  3. Thanks for posting this article.

    For your question about the support, DriveNets is committed to the need of our customers to have a single point of contact for all support needs. Based on customers’ business model and preferences, we support this need either directly or through our partners.

    Editor’s Note: DriveNets’ partners in this case are systems integrators rather than the white box (router and x86 compute server) vendors that run its networking software.
    DriveNets sells Network Cloud as a solution and the support is part of this solution. This is different from other networking software/hardware solutions where the telco is expected to serve as the integrator of the solution.

    1. The question I have proposed to all networking software companies that run on white boxes is how will they support the customer when a problem is encountered? The customer doesn’t want to be involved in “finger pointing” amongst different vendors and wants automated, rather than 24×7 voice support (which appears to be the norm up till now).

      If DriveNets is replacing core routers for large telcos, with their networking software running on white box routers and white box compute servers, they will need to integrate computer assisted tech support into the telco’s network management system (NMS) and their Network Operations Center (NOC). To the best of my knowledge, none of the new age network software on disaggregated white boxes has done this yet.

      In the conventional telco network management model, the network software and hardware are from the same vendor, e.g. Cisco, Juniper, Nokia, Huawei, etc and their Element Management System (EMS) manages all their network elements. The EMS’ are connected to the telcos NMS by a Northbound interface to a SEPARATE NETWORK, which depends on the telco’s deployment scenario.

  4. Ray LeMaistre, Editor in Chief of LightReading wrote this past April (after DriveNets 400G announcement):

    “DriveNets has the hallmarks of a market disruptor — experienced staff, technology already in the field, financial backing — that is targeting the sweet spot of a number of major industry players, most notably Cisco, Juniper, Nokia and Huawei.

    It’s not only keeping up the pressure on those established vendors with announcements such as today’s (400G router port), but it’s also reminding the world’s network operators, which are currently re-evaluating their network architectures and considering how they can design more flexible and “cloud-friendly” networks, that there’s an alternative for the routing needs.”
    Opinion: I don’t believe any CSP will deploy 400G this year. I’m surprised it has not yet been deployed for hyper-scalers (Google, FB, Amazon, MSFT, Alibaba, etc) DCI needs or even within the Cloud resident DC.

  5. DriveNets, the networking software company, today announced the high profile strategic investors who have joined their $117M Series A round: Steve Luczo, chairman of the board of Seagate and its former CEO, Mark McLaughlin, former CEO of Palo Alto Networks, and John Thompson, chairman of the board of Microsoft. Steve Luczo has also joined DriveNets’ Board of Directors. The new investors bring enormous business and industry experience that will help guide DriveNets as it pushes the boundaries of how CSPs build and pay for their networks and grow in profitability.

    Other key strategic investors include C4 Ventures, the fund created and led by Pascal Cagni, former GM and VP for Apple EMEIA (2000-2012), Doug Gilstrap, former CEO and COO of global data telecom companies and former head of strategy for Ericsson, and Benny Schnaider, a successful Israeli entrepreneur with six successful startup exits to date, two of which were sold to Cisco. This high-profile endorsement of DriveNets validates the industry’s respect for the software networking company whose technology has already been adopted by a tier-1 North American service provider.

    Communication service providers (CSPs) are now facing the greatest demand surge in their history, but their current network architecture has not changed in years and cannot efficiently accommodate this massive opportunity. They cannot scale up capacity economically and require long lead times to deliver basic services, which impacts their growth and profitability. DriveNets solves these challenges with a radically new way to build networks. Adapting the architectural model of hyperscalers to Telco-grade networking, it offers a software-based networking solution – Network Cloud – that radically simplifies the network’s operational model.

    Network Cloud is a fully disaggregated, cloud-native software that runs the routing data on carrier-grade white boxes with only two types of white-box building blocks, and the control plane on standard servers. It turns the network into a fully-optimized shared resource that can support many networks, with Telco-scale performance and a more profitable economic model.

    “Our investors are industry leaders in some of the greatest technology companies in the world. They have disrupted industries and built multi-billion-dollar companies. We are proud that they have put their trust in us. Their broad experience and business knowledge will guide us as we grow our company and scale our reach, as well as help us to better serve our customers,” said Ido Susan, DriveNets’ CEO and co-founder. “We are also delighted to have Steve Luczo join our board and we will benefit from his experience and hands-on involvement in our business growth.”

  6. May 26, 2020 Gartner assessment by Peter Liu

    Why Cool: DriveNets is cool because its Network Cloud solution is a cloud-native router software solution that supports the distributed disaggregated chassis (DDC) model based on standard white boxes. The solution simplifies the network’s operations and offers telco-scale performance at a much lower cost.

    DriveNets’ Network Cloud solution supports disaggregation at multiple levels:

    First, it separates hardware and software with a fully featured routing software stack. This stack supports key network services (core, aggregation or edge) and protocols (MPLS, LDP or RSVP, IS-IS and SR) on any port, running over standard certified hardware white boxes using merchant silicon chipsets. Its data plane scales out linearly with capacity demand. A single Network Cloud can scale from a 4 Tbps single-box router to a cluster of tens and hundreds of white boxes operating as a single router (supporting 768 Tbps with 7,680 ports of 100 Gigabit Ethernet or 1,920 ports of 400 Gigabit Ethernet).

    Second, it separates the control plane and data plane. Its control plane runs on standard servers and can scale independently from the data plane running over a single converged physical infrastructure of white boxes. In addition, its data plane is created from just two building block white boxes — Network Cloud Packet Forwarder (NCP) for packet forwarding and Network Cloud Fabric (NCF) for fabric. Consequently, operational expenses shrink by reducing the number of hardware devices, software versions and change procedures associated with building and managing the network.

    Third, the distributed nature of its software can scale network services to any port. Its cloud-native architecture is based on microservices and containers, and distributes the network operating system (NOS) across any number of white boxes. Therefore, it allows multiple networks and services (mobile and broadband, etc.) to be deployed in separate containers over a single shared physical infrastructure (data plane), thus enabling independent and easy scaling of routing control plane and capabilities.

    DriveNets’ software license business model decouples network cost from capacity growth, which allows CSPs to save on their TCO. DriveNets has not yet announced a customer, but claims that its solution has already been deployed in one of the Tier 1 networks, and is having trials with over 10 Tier 1 operators.

    Challenges: DriveNets competes with well-established vendors such as Cisco, Huawei and Juniper. As a relatively small vendor, DriveNets has limited sales, support and professional services resources. In addition, DriveNets is not immune to challenges that most emerging technologies face: cultural resistance to change and lack of skill sets in customer organization. To scale their business worldwide and increase awareness, DriveNets must strengthen its sales channel, marketing and service capabilities. Most importantly, DriveNets must enhance its system integration (SI) capability or its partnership with SI players like KGPCo.

    Who Should Care: Network planning and operation leaders at CSPs and hyperscale cloud providers that continue to seek more economical, flexible and scalable paths to developing networks should consider DriveNets. Network infrastructure providers that are especially looking for open networking and the transition to standard white boxes through disaggregated architecture should consider DriveNets.

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