Embracing Innovation and Scaling Software-Defined Networking

Chris Rice, AT&T’s senior vice president of Network Cloud & Infrastructure, recently explained how software-defined networking (SDN) is transforming the way we plan, design, develop, and deploy our network.

And, scaling SDN platforms presents a world of opportunities and challenges for our engineers. It is like changing out the engines of a 747-jumbo jet midflight.

Data traffic on our mobile network is up 360,000% since 2007. Plus, we transport more than 222 petabytes of data each business day. For reference, 1 petabyte is 4x as much data housed in the Library of Congress.

We’re constantly enhancing the customer experience. From how to connect to the network to how to use the content over the network, we’re rethinking how people connect. This includes experiences like online gaming, augmented reality, virtual reality, the Internet of Things and M2M apps. All these new capabilities function best with SDN.

Scaling SDN is like building an electrical car comprised of thousands of new components using leading-edge technologies from concept to incubation, to field trial. And then mass producing it with end-to-end performance, resiliency, and security. It means we move quickly from greenfield deployment to brownfield deployment with full inter-operability using existing physical networks.

At AT&T, our innovative engineers and developers are positively disrupting this space. Open-source projects are unleashing the innovation power of the global developers’ community. And we’re using industry implementation expertise to accelerate the changes.

We’re using and adopting new technologies at an unprecedented pace. Years and months are turning into weeks and days to introduce new technologies. Automation helps us manage costs. And it’s now speeding AT&T’s transformation with emerging artificial intelligence and machine learning analytics.

For example, network service chaining capability would let customers or operation users change the service chain architecture flow without a single line of code change. With a few simple clicks, the data model representing that service chain will self-adjust and self-update, delivering the close loop automation in minutes rather than needing weeks or months of creating code.

Scaling SDN also creates a need to transform and retrain our people. We invest about $200 million a year in training, providing nearly 18 million hours of it. The continuous learning has brought huge benefits in our transformation journey.

Finally, the software design, a virtualized infrastructure and network fully integrated with the physical network greatly increase reliability.

Stay tuned to hear from Jen Yates, assistant vice president at AT&T Labs. She’ll explore AT&T’s efforts in end-to-end service management to deliver the best customer service experience.

Kevin Hollander
Kevin Hollander Director - Fleet Asset Management