By Amy Wheelus

We’ve talked a lot about software-defined networking (SDN) over the past few weeks – the opportunities, the challenges and the benefits for consumers. But, let’s dig deeper.

What enables these SDN technologies? Enter AT&T’s Network Cloud. It’s the hardware and software that supports all the applications and SDN services.

Network Cloud – previously called AT&T Integrated Cloud (or AIC) – is the next evolution of our cloud software journey. Our hardware experts are building towers and small cells as well as installing radios and routers to meet our goal of launching mobile 5G by the end of this year.

But 5G is as much about software as it is about hardware. In fact, without software, there is no 5G.

One of our biggest learnings is that we need to quickly adapt and change as the requirements change. To do so, we’re building Network Cloud using standardized building blocks. This streamlines the time it takes to deliver capacity for our SDN functions to carry our customer traffic.

A modular approach provides 3 key benefits: speed, efficiency, and predictability.

The Network Cloud design enables fast deployments and virtually seamless upgrades. Software upgrades can be deployed in days rather than weeks and even minutes instead of hours. And, it’s all being done without affecting the existing customer’s service.

With Network Cloud, we’re continuing our focus on security and providing greater visibility and control designed to neutralize threats before they can impact our customers. Network Cloud is the ideal home for our SDN functions. It’s prepared to handle network workloads, allowing for more performance and lifecycle management.

If you take Network Cloud a layer deeper, you’ll find what we call our undercloud platform or AirShip. This new open infrastructure project is the foundation for our network cloud that will fuel our 5G core.

We worked with SKT, Intel and the OpenStack Foundation and recently debuted AirShip. It lets you build a cloud more easily than ever before. The declarative platform delivers on the important, but maybe “boring” part of work, freeing up our teams to research, explore and innovate what’s next. In short, we can now deploy our network infrastructure as code.

Building a network now isn’t just about climbing poles or building towers. With 5G, software will be just as critical as hardware, and Network Cloud is the platform on which it all runs.