What’s Next at AT&T Labs? AI Set to Revolutionize the Network
Dr. Mazin Gilbert has been appointed Vice President of Advanced Technology at AT&T Labs.
AT&T Labs is one of the most vital research and product development centers in the industry. To lead this elite group requires superior technical expertise– in areas like artificial intelligence (AI), networking and data analytics – as well as top-notch management skills.
Mazin Gilbert, our new vice president of Labs, embodies all those qualities.
He’s one of the renowned technologists in the world. And he’s a tremendous leader. Now I’ve known Mazin since 2006, but he’s been with AT&T for more than 20 years.
Mazin has played a critical role in developing many cutting-edge digital creations we take for granted. And he’s the right guy to help AT&T and the industry leap forward and continue innovating.
I spoke with Mazin about his plans for the future of innovation at Labs. He shared how his team is revolutionizing how AI plays in the network.
Andre: To begin, what are your priority areas as the new VP at AT&T Labs?
Mazin: Absolutely. It’s an honor to lead our work in AI, software-defined networking (or SDN), and ECOMP, which you can think of as the operating system for our software-centric initiatives. It stands for Enhanced, Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy. As you know, I’ve been working at AT&T Labs for more than two decades. And these are initiatives we’ve been working for years.
Looking ahead, here’s what we’re focused on:
- First, we need to deliver a world-class ECOMP platform for SDN and storage. We plan to meet our target of over 75% virtualization by 2020.
- ECOMP will go into open source early in 2017. Then, we expect global service providers to drive adoption.
- Extreme automation and optimization will take off. (Think using data-powered algorithms and platforms to enable model-driven services design.) This will result in a secure, more self-healing and self-learning network.
- Coordination of ECOMP and next-gen 5G access will enable ultra-fast network, video and entertainment apps.
- Then, we can utilize ECOMP and development of machine learning and massive data modeling platforms to support emerging intelligent services.
Andre: How will your previous roles and experiences help you accomplish these goals?
Mazin: I first joined Bell Labs as a contractor in 1990 and fell in love with the place and the people. I came back as a member of the technical staff in 1993. I was conducting research primarily in the areas of speech and machine learning. Then, I managed speech and language processing research at AT&T Labs.
Most recently, I worked in multiple intelligent service areas. That included data analytics, digital customer care, autonomous technologies and video processing. For example:
- Our previous research and development in speech processing is part of an external thriving company supporting large businesses.
- Our pioneering work in AI technologies is currently processing all of our online chat interactions to improve the customer experience.
- Our work on data management and analytics is now part of ECOMP, becoming the lifeblood of how data flows and is analyzed in our network.
We’ve always been an innovation leader. We scale business challenges and marry that with the latest tech. We do this to save money while increasing the top line.
My goal is to continue this legacy, working with the brightest minds in the industry.
Today, we’re focusing on what I consider the “Holy Grail challenge.” It’s the foundation behind all our applications and services – the network.
Andre: What makes AT&T Labs work in AI different and how does this impact the network?
Mazin: The kind of problems AT&T Labs is trying to solve and the data the team is dealing with is dramatically different than others in the industry. AT&T Labs is transforming our network to a software-defined network. This virtualization and intelligent automation will let us meet the huge growth of data flowing in our network. It will also help provide a highly secure and universal customer experience. The transformation will enable a connected world that will impact everyone’s life. It’s already making an impact in many ways:
- Our software-defined network is empowering enterprises to be in the driver seat. Business customers can now activate and customize their network services, and adjust their desired network bandwidth completely autonomously.
- In 2015, ECOMP virtualized more than 5% of our network functions. We’re on track to reach 30% later this year.
- AI is also helping us to predict a customer’s desired bandwidth.
- Our AI platform is learning patterns to respond to cyberattacks before they cause issues.
- For consumers, AI in our network along with our next-gen 5G access will enable wide-scale adoption of drones, connected cars, and connected appliances and robots.
Across all these applications and services – for consumers and businesses alike – the network is the central brain. It manages and secures the flow of traffic. Together, SDN and ECOMP are creating a foundational network transformation. One no other service operator company is undertaking today.
It’s an honor to have the opportunity to be part of this historical transformation. I’m also delighted to lead such an elite group of scientists and engineers.