SANTA CLARA -- Open Networking Summit -- AT&T has been steadfast in its commitment to virtualizing 75% of its network by 2020, but this year's goal of 55% is a demarcation point, according to John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of AT&T Technology and Operations.
During a Tuesday morning keynote address at the Open Networking Summit, Donovan
gave an overview of his company's virtualization journey, as well as where it's headed with 5G on the horizon.
AT&T exceeded its 30% goal for virtualization last year, coming in at 34%, but this year's goal of 55% will be a milestone.
"When you get to 55% there's no turning back," said Donovan. "You're more software-defined than you are not software-defined. When you hit that tipping point you start to say, 'OK, now what? Now what do we do when we have a software-defined network and how to we capitalize on it?' "
The next step for AT&T is its Network 3.0 Indigo initiative, which was announced in January. Indigo is AT&T's plan for creating a platform that allows organizations to share data while also collaborating on analytics. Indigo taps into ECOMP, which was combined with OPEN-O earlier this year to form Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) , SDN, machine learning, automation, analytics, security and 5G elements. (See AT&T Waves Indigo Flag and Pacewicz: Indigo the Next Innovation Wave for AT&T.)
AT&T's John Donovan talks about Indigo during the Open Networking Summit.
"If we do this correctly, and we decompose our network into its primary functions and those functions are properly built, we have a vociferous capability to gather data out of our network," Donovan said. "To go into a loop to build automation and machine learning that allows our network to be the best that it's capable of. Not only for how we build networks, but also for how we authenticate customers onto the network. How we deal with threats on our network. So all of those traditional services that used to sit outside of traditional networking now become part of networking."
In AT&T's legacy environment, Donovan said the telco followed "single vendor optimization," which meant it specified what it wanted from a vendor and then purchased it. Under AT&T's Domain 2.0 program, AT&T's role switched to being an integrator, which included new skill sets for employees. With software-defined networking, Donovan said that AT&T had to shift from being an integration leader to being an architect.
Donovan said the third-wave of networking, Indigo, marked a move from being an architect to being a differentiator. AT&T hasn't said when it will start implementing Indigo across its network.
"Our role in this data-powered environment shifts to being a differentiator," he said. "We really have to understand how to use our data and thatís where we came up with the platform concept of Indigo."
Donovan described Indigo as an abstraction layer that sits on top of access technology, whether itís the traditional network or software-defined networking.
"We're going to evolve our raw network technology for access so the next trick in wireless is 5G," Donovan said. "But we're going evolve everything we do to 5G capabilities, 5G speed, 5G software-defined architectures. Then the third and important element is how do you leverage that data power to create data power everything?
"Indigo will evolve and accelerate over time just like your phone's operating system did. So when you think about ONAP and the network operating system, Indigo is how that gets manifested into the customer, into services and performance."
Following Donovan on the stage, Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and chief technology officer at AT&T, said that ONAP would become the global standard for service providers to introduce, operate and manage SDN. ONAP, which is part of the Linux Foundation, also includes vendors, system integrators, web and cloud companies, Fuetsch said.
"ONAP is about many things, but what is most important is about working together as a common aligned community to innovate and deploy faster," he said. "It's about working together to build new things and not the same things twice."
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation