The Building Block Approach: Using Microservices to Lead with Speed

February 13, 2018
By Pam Parisian

Technology is evolving faster than ever. That’s no secret.

As president of our Technology Development organization, I take pride in AT&T’s tech leadership. We’re helping push our industry forward to the next digital frontier. But this isn’t optional. We must embrace smart change and be the first to the future if we want to succeed in it.

So how are we transforming our technology for the future?

One way is a shift in how we build business applications – from the old to the new. We’re taking them from monolithic apps, all developed in one piece, to an architectural style called microservices. This new way of designing applications will speed our software journey, so we can deliver new functions and upgrades to customers quickly, and at scale.

What this looks like

In a nutshell, we’re breaking up many of our traditional, massive enterprise applications into individual functions. This creates microservices. Think of them as building blocks. When you build an enterprise app with individual “blocks” or microservices, it’s easier to upgrade, replace or reorganize the functions within the application.

Similarly, we can combine microservices in multiple ways to create specific, tailored solutions for our customers. The result? Time and cost savings in 2017. This is why microservices will be our foundation for delivering technology systems going forward.

Working with other top players

You may have seen that we just announced Accenture joined IBM in our Microservices Supplier Program. Accenture and AT&T teams will focus on using microservices to transform and improve the ordering system used by internal customers for all kinds of products and services, including AT&T fiber and security solutions. This changes the game. It will mean a faster and more efficient process. 

Our work with IBM centers on breaking apart legacy applications into microservices covering sales, ordering and enterprise data. This will enhance and streamline our back-end systems. 

The goal of our supplier program is to boost business functionality across industries. It’s bringing key suppliers along to help design and develop microservices that can eventually be used by our global customers who span so many different markets. We also plan to deploy thousands of microservices across strategic AT&T platforms.

Microservices at work today

We’re in the early stages of our work, but we’ve already implemented microservices. At the end of 2017, we had deployed more than 300 microservices on our network – 22% more than our goal for the year. By the end of 2018, we expect to deploy hundreds more.

Here’s just one example of microservices in action today. We have a set of microservices that formed a single solution to create, manage and track contracts across business products. This set of microservices eliminated the many long and difficult processes that were previously used for this task. The microservices we’ve deployed across ATO, so far, have led to a savings of millions of dollars a year.                                         

Microservices tomorrow

We’re living in an on-demand world that requires agility – and things aren’t slowing down. With Technology Development, we have a huge opportunity when it comes to speed, cost and quality. The competitive landscape is changing. We know that we have to make a huge pivot to meet our internal partners’ and customers’ needs.

Microservices have played a huge role in our process and tool changes. They resulted in about a 30% improvement in our speed to market on projects that started in 2017. We expect that to improve even more this year.

Expect to hear a lot more from us on this architecture and the technology it enables in the months to come.

President, Technology Development

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