Setting the Pace with Our Next-Gen Network

December 16, 2014
By John Donovan

After a solid start earlier this year, we’re planning to kick our transition to a software-centric network into high gear in 2015.

In fact, I’m putting a line in the sand today: our goal is to virtualize and control over 75 percent of our network using this new architecture by 2020.

It’s an ambitious target for the transformation we announced in Barcelona earlier this year. And it’s not just talk.  We have the right innovators and communities in place to hit our mark. We have collaborators on board with a shared vision. And we’re already seeing the first customer benefits.  

Here’s a quick checklist of what we’ve accomplished since we first announced our vision:

  • We launched a first-of-its-kind capability called Network on Demand. In just 80 seconds, using a self-service app, customers can adjust their network speeds as needed, and dial back down when traffic recedes.We launched AT&T NetBond to help businesses connect to their preferred cloud services through our highly-secure, high-performance VPN.
  • We’re also building systems that don’t just respond to customers’ needs, but anticipate them. Software-defined networking helps make this happen. Last month, our AT&T Labs Advanced Technologies team launched quality-of-service technology in our data centers that detects which applications a customer is running and intelligently allocates bandwidth for the most critical tasks.
    • For example, if you’re running a video conference and basic data analysis task in the cloud at the same time, the system will prioritize the video conference and reduce the data flow for the lower-priority analysis.

     

  • In another industry first using SDN, our Advanced Technologies researchers built a streaming cloud environment for our mobility network data centers. This means that we can deploy new functions into our network almost instantly with a software update. Previously, we had to install new hardware each time we added a new functionality. Today, we can upgrade in minutes rather than months.
  • Since our Mobile World Congress announcement, we’ve already begun to virtualize and put into production critical network functions such as Domain Name Service (DNS), Network Analytics, Intelligent Data Platform, and Virtualized Provider Edge Router, improving cycle time, elasticity, and operational efficiency. What this means is we are laying a foundation so that we can add new features to our services faster than ever before.

Moreover, we’re already laying the foundation needed to make this vision a reality.  Part of this includes a great team, including internal leaders and external collaborators.

  • Andre Fuetsch is our new Senior Vice President of Architecture and Design, reporting to CTO Krish Prabhu. Andre’s now overseeing the architecture of our next-generation network. His background in computer science and IT is critical because we’re taking concepts recently applied to data centers and cloud applications and bringing them to the wide area network (WAN) – all with the reliability and security our customers expect.
  • We’re collaborating with open source groups like OpenStack, ON.Lab, Open Daylight, OPNFV and others to develop the software that will be the lifeblood of our new network. Some of the brightest minds in networking and computer science theory and application are involved.
  • We recently hosted an SDN Summit in New York City, which attracted nearly 40 of the smartest experts and academics to brainstorm new visionary SDN and NFV concepts with AT&T Advanced Technologies researchers, network architects and operations planners.
  • Traditional network equipment vendors are also playing a huge role in our journey as they adjust to a software-centric world. We’ve already announced 10 vendors working with us, including the announcement of the most recent selections last week.
  • Just last week, AT&T won “Carrier of the Year” at the Carrier Network Virtualization conference, an award that recognizes a carrier that has made “a significant impact in facilitating the development of SDN and NFV, both through its own internal operations and its relationships with other carriers and vendor partners.”

We’re also looking to add people with unique skills to our team. People skilled in software, not afraid to test new ideas and open to being part of this exciting journey. Check out some of our job openings here.

These first steps are setting the stage for innovations to come. Some of those innovations will come from AT&T. Others, just as with the creation of mobile app stores, will come from outside sources who have yet to make their mark.

I’m proud of the leadership position AT&T has taken in this space. Expect more updates in 2015.

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