Linux Foundation's Joshipura: Disaggregation is at the heart of open source, cloud-native and edge

While disaggregation's roots in the telecom industry are deeper than shiny new concepts such as cloud-native and ORAN, it's foundational to open source and those new technologies, according to the Linux Foundation's Aprit Joshipura.

During a Wednesday keynote address for FierceTelecom Winter Blitz Week, Joshipura defined disaggregation as the separation of hardware and software, as well as the separation of horizontal layers of software.

Network disaggregation is "kind of old news," he said.

"It's old news, but the benefits are real, and you can see them across end-to-end solutions in the RAN, edge, and core," said Joshipura, general manager, networking, edge and IoT.  "It has led to this whole open source revolution that we see today, and where we are heading next is clearly the cloud-native world.

"Look at the wonderful, valuable things that just a simple concept like disaggregation has allowed us to do. Innovation has sped up exponentially."

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Across the RAN, the network core and edge, disaggregation enables use cases such as augmented reality classrooms, connected vehicles, autonomous industrial process control and retail, Joshipura said.

"It could be predictive maintenance for turbines, transformers and pumps," he said. "Think of this not just in the context of being served by a disaggregated router or switch sitting on a gateway or on prem, but all the way into an end-to-end system. And that's why I wanted to elevate this message of how disaggregation has really led to a wonderful world of open source, and it has led to a wonderful world of production readiness for all these applications and use cases that has really spurred up this revolution."

By separating the data plane and control planes in a cloud-native, multi-cloud environment, disaggregation is helping to enable 5G network slicing, virtual and universal customer premises equipment (CPU) and white box deployments and closed-loop automation.

While disaggregation is all about splitting up hardware and software into various pieces and parts, the end game is to create end-to-end network solutions, or cloud markets, for telcos and cloud providers.

"Everything starting from site routers, to virtual CPUs to core; it's all built on standard disaggregated hardware," he said. "And we at the Linux Foundation are hosting the O-RAN Alliance software entity to create the software that will utilize the building blocks of disaggregation. You come into (Linux Foundation) projects like Akraino and LF Edge were disaggregation is fundamentally built into the various blueprints of edge solutions.

"And then, of course, the core stack, whether you're running it on a public cloud all the way into controllers and into the network automation layer. So these sets of open source projects are critical for creating a fundamental building block for an open ecosystem."

As another example, Joshipura cited The Linux Foundation's Dent project, which is creating a network operating system (NOS) for disaggregated network switches in campus and remote enterprise locations. Dent, which kicked off just over two years ago, announced its first code release last month.

"So this is taking advantage of this disaggregation technology, and allowing a Linux kernel based NOS for a distributed enterprise edge, which is really retail, remote offices and enterprises," Joshipura said of Dent. "But the point is, each of these software projects are enabling disaggregation directly and then allowing our end users to build the entire stack."