Rise of the Disaggregated Router

By Jeremy Ladner 6 min read

Disaggregated Open Routers (DOR) create enormous potential for innovation while driving down prices.

The Challenge

Do more with less – it’s the challenge we’re all facing. The constant call to cut costs and tighten budgets is making the promise of ever-expanding 5G network capacity and coverage far more difficult to deliver. Now more than ever, the ability to quickly learn, adapt and remain flexible separates winners from wannabes.

The same can be said of the next generation of routers we’re adding to our networks. They need to have the flexible functionality to handle today’s tasks and adapt to tomorrow’s challenges, plus play their part in pushing down CAPEX and OPEX. That’s no easy feat.

Traditional Router Lock-Ins

For far too long our router options were limited. A handful of large vendors offered monolithic closed routing packages of proprietary hardware and software that locked us into their ecosystems for the lifespan of the units. Solutions were difficult to scale and no significant attempts were made by vendors to make their devices futureproof friendly. The resulting lack of competition kept costs high and slowed innovation. Routers were stuck in a rut.

Dawn of Disaggregation

While disaggregation is relatively new to the world of routing, it’s existed for some time across multiple industries that utilize a mix of hardware and software. Put simply, disaggregation decouples the physical device from the Network Operating System (NOS) and applications that run on it. Vendors are free to create and innovate using nonproprietary open standards that allow easy interoperability between compliant hardware and software.

Hardware vendors that want to be competitive are encouraged to develop families of devices with various port densities along with futureproof features that lengthen the lifespan of their devices. Software vendors in turn, continuously push updates out the door that improve functionality, quality of service, and ROI.

Freedom & Flexibility

Disaggregation brings a buffet of benefits to the table. Like a wider array of router options, the subsequent downward pressure on prices, more rapid rollout of innovations for software and hardware, and the competitive incentivization to include future-friendly solutions that help to extend the lifespan of routing-focused infrastructure investments.

With all of that said, the biggest benefit of router disaggregation may be the freedom and flexibility it gives to network operators to continually assess their router’s performance and make easy upgrades without needing to do a full rip-and-replace. Want to swap out your Network Operating System and use one offered by a competing vendor with the latest and greatest functionality? No problem. Notice a substantial long-term traffic increase in your network and want to upgrade your router hardware to something with more switching capacity AND keep your current NOS? Now it’s easy.

Choosing the Right Router

According to global research firm Omdia, Disaggregated Cell Site Gateways (DCSG) already accounted for around 10% of all new CSGs in 2021 and are expected to grow rapidly to 25% by the end of 2024. Every network operator is looking for a Disaggregated Open Router (DOR) that checks all the boxes. That said, different networks have different needs and priorities.

Mobile network operators may want to deploy routers with integrated radio-aware In-Door Units (IDU). Enterprise network operators may be more cost-conscious, with a focus on finding routers with a flat licensing fee that covers all features and ports to avoid future OPEX surprises. Network operators in the world of critical infrastructure are hyper-aware of potential security risks, while smart city network operators may care more about scalability. Even with this vast variety of network needs, there are a few key qualifiers at the top of everyone’s router shopping list.

1. Cost-effective

2. Type-C Synchronization

3. Operational Flexibility and scalability

4. Segment Routing for Network Slicing

5. Top-of-the-line Network Operating System

6. Options to Meet Port Density Requirements

Ceragon’s IP-50FX family of Disaggregated Open Routers (DOR) check all the boxes, easily beating the major competitors when it comes to value thanks to a totally transparent flat pricing fee for all ports and features. IP-50FX delivers the Type-C synchronization and segment routing that makes network slicing possible for modern 5G networks.

Add to that, Ceragon’s partnership with IP Infusion that puts the power of a best-in-class custom OcNOS® environment inside every IP-50FX. OcNOS® delivers the scalability and flexibility you would expect from a fully containerized architecture.

But Ceragon’s IP-50FX router doesn’t stop there, in terms of hardware, the family covers a full spectrum of switching capacity and port density requirements taking you from the edge of your network right to the core.

If that were all the IP-50FX had to offer I would be mightily impressed but there are still a couple of massive differentiators that set it apart from its competition. Starting with the fact that it’s officially recognized by the Telecom Infra Project (TIP) as a Disaggregated Cell Site Gateway.

Looking for even more functionality? Well, the IP-50FX happens to come loaded with Ceragon’s Radio Aware Open Network (RAON) software allowing it to function as a cell site virtual In-Door Unit capable of controlling all the outdoor radios connected to it… if the need ever arises.

All this amounts to great news for any network operator in the market for a modern disaggregated router.

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