Software Defined Networking (SDN) is revolutionizing how we create and manage networks and services. With it, our operations are more efficient. We can quickly introduce new and innovative customer services. But that’s just the beginning; the benefits of SDN technologies for a network operator and its customers are boundless.

One of the most important jobs of network operators is to maintain a high level of network service quality. Operators must address hardware and software issues from natural and un-natural disasters to constant network change as new technologies, features and services are rolled out. And now, thanks to SDN technologies, the way operators manage the customer experience is transforming.

Virtualization offers more ways to quickly resolve issues without dispatching a vendor or replacing hardware – both of which can take time. Greater automation means fixing issues impacting customers faster. And, advanced analytics and machine learning enable more intelligent decision making.

Near real-time problem solving with Virtual Network Functions

Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) can be spun up on demand in just a matter of minutes or less. Compare that to legacy, physical equipment that require costly and time-consuming technician trips to deploy new elements and repair hardware.

Now, we’re working to quickly expand network capacity to address traffic load. This will allow us to repair or even replace physical assets on the spot. We’re moving from days and weeks to minutes.

Relying on automation and machine learning for SDN control

Software-based platforms, like ONAP and ECOMP, combined with analytics and machine learning (ML), let operators reach a whole new level of automation of lifecycle management for virtual and physical network functions.

In a nutshell, the network now has the capability to fix itself. And much faster than the typical time it would take operators to do so manually.

Now, enter the power of VNFs and SDN controllers combined with AT&T Service Quality Management (SQM) – a suite of ML and analytics tools, used widely within AT&T today, that efficiently detect and diagnose service issues. They can also quantify the effect of network issues on customers, so operators can prioritize the repair of issues with the greatest impact.

Applying this technology to better connect your world

TLDR: ECOMP can lean on VNFs to dynamically turn up network capacity based on near real-time demand, while having the ability to immediately reduce customer impact even before the root cause of the issue is fully diagnosed. Our SQM tool monitors the customer experience throughout. We can detect the service impact of the overload, correlate that with the underlying overload. And we can then check that the service issue has been fixed through the automated repair actions.   

So, how can we better connect your world? What will improve your experience and enable seamless connections? SDN is helping us answer these questions and redefine service management. Next up, Amy Wheelus, vice president of Network Cloud, will explain the technology required to deliver our network infrastructure and services. Stay tuned.

Jen Yates is the assistant vice president of Inventive Science in Bedminister, N.J.

Jen Yates
Jen Yates Assistant Vice President at AT&T Labs