White-box CPE (customer premises equipment) has become one of the major game-changers in the network communication segment. The software-defined characteristic of white-box CPE to be deployed as uCPE (universal CPE) or vCPE (virtual CPE) has been the integral element to run SDN (software-defined network) and NFV (network function virtualization). In fact, many global leading operators and CSPs (communication service providers) have turned to white-box CPEs from proprietary, dedicated CPEs for economic and technological incentives.
Therefore, it is worthwhile to discuss the characteristics of white-box CPE, regardless of being deployed as vCPE or uCPE.
White-box CPEs are deployed to run software, and in many cases, third-party and open source software. Therefore, it makes sense for operators and CSPs to implement standardized, commercially off-the-shelf computing devices that can host all the mainstream operating systems, like Windows, OpenStack, and various versions of Linux, without compatibility issues. As witnessed in the recent popularity of SD-WAN networking, white-box CPEs provide technological and cost-efficient shortcuts when software is the key element for the success of deployments resulting in operators and CSPs saving huge investments in hardware.
Economical for NFV
In NFV applications, white-box CPE (frequently deployed as uCPE) can run multiple VNF (virtualized network functions) from open source software or any commercial third-party software, so that service providers and operators can implement and integrate the VMs they need, to aggregate their QoS (quality of services). In other words, they are no longer tied to a specific vendor for dependence on hardware and software integration. This is indeed an economical incentive as enterprises in all scales are free from vendor-specific hardware and software to add or upgrade application and services. All they need to do is to implement a software virtual machine onto a white-box CPE.
Zero-Touch Deployment and Provisioning
The zero-touch feature is another driving force for the wide adoption of white-box CPE. The hardware device can be provisioned and configured automatically and remotely via recognized protocols. This means, all the VNFs, software and services can be implemented on the device, making it an instant installation. Manual configuration is no longer required, saving deployment time and costs.
From the discussions above, it is apparent that white-box CPEs are all based on open architecture, and mostly Intel x86 platforms. The open architecture allows wide compatibility with third-party VNFs and open source software. Developers can leverage standard APIs and SDKs to implement their virtualized application and services without excessive compatibility tests. In addition,
White-box CPE are widely used in SDN and NFV architectures, and offer operators and service providers a way out from being locked-in by a vendor. In fact, white-box devices are favored for their drop-in installations. Therefore, it is recommended to select white-box vendors with pre-validations for major VNF vendors in the market.
For instance, Lanner’s white-box vCPE/uCPE appliances are pre-validated with major VNF makers and build in an open architecture for wide compatibility. Suggested appliances offer Intel® x86 multi-core CPU for running multiple VNFs, hardware acceleration like DPDK, Intel QuickAssist, and AES-NI, rich LAN port configurations including both RJ-45 and SFP ports, as well as wireless connectivity with Wi-Fi/3G/4G/LTE.