During the past few years, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has been on the cutting edge of SDN, NFV and network virtualization services and deployments, which will no doubt continue in 2016. (See Donovan: AT&T Beating Moore's Law.)
We checked in with Andre Fuetsch, senior vice president of architecture and design at AT&T, about the network transformation underway at the operator as well as its Network on Demand platform. (Fuetsch will provide his insights into DevOps, big data and OSS/BSS in the second part of this Q&A which will run later this week.)
While Fuetsch is currently focused on SDN- and NFV-related products and services, he has worn many hats during his 19 years at AT&T by working across the following areas: enterprise and network architecture, planning and engineering and IT.
From a big picture perspective, what do you see for NFV and network virtualization in 2016?
We'll have details around our 2016 plans at Mobile World Congress, but the short version is that we're making excellent progress on our goal to virtualize 75% of network functions by 2020. We had a strong start in deploying what we call the AT&T Integrated Cloud in 2015, and we'll continue that build-out in 2016.
AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) nodes are the physical locations where we run virtual network functions, and we're activating them globally so we can put these services closer to our customers, have more flexibility to configure these functions based on regional and national legal requirements, and contain the impact of security threats and hardware failures to specific regions.
We're also going to continue to collaborate with the open source community when it comes to building these virtual functions and using open source software as foundation for the platforms we're building.
How about SDN? Some industry experts say that other than SD-WAN, 2015 wasn't a good year for SDN. Do you agree, and what needs to happen this year?
Last year was a great year for SDN, from our perspective. Network on Demand now has over 450 customers. We've got more of those SDN-based products and services coming for our enterprise customers. We already have millions of wireless customers running on our SDN network. We do think that one of the benefits of moving to an open source-driven SDN/NFV network architecture is that it removes some of the roadblocks related to waiting for standards organizations.
We've been leveraging the ONOS open source controller in conjunction with our ONOS collaborators, and have since released our hardware reference designs for OLT into Open Compute Project (OCP). These represent examples of the evolution of the Central Office Rearchitected as a Data center (CORD) revolution.
AT&T announced in 2014 that it was developing its own SDN controller (See AT&T Working on Home-Grown SDN Controller for Later in 2014
.) Can you provide an update?
AT&T is developing our global controller in an agile iterative process based on OpenDaylight code. The first phase, which went into production, took less than six months. Prototyping to validate our framework took a couple of months. As we get more of the network onto the SDN-enabled cloud, we are adding new features or adapters and fine tuning the platform for tighter performance, higher scale and availability.
What are some of the key takeaways on the service enhancements for the Network on Demand platform that were announced in September?
The Network on Demand platform dramatically changes how AT&T customers do business and manage systems, platforms and software. It speeds up and simplifies the process, and gives users more flexibility in managing their own network. We're now expanding the platform with two Network on Demand-enabled services.
The first, Managed Internet Service on Demand utilizes NFV technology to virtualize access routers. This new functionality will streamline Internet setup, remove the need for router hardware and allow customers to adjust and add capabilities in near-real-time.
We're also developing Network Functions on Demand, a solution that breaks the traditional appliance-based networking model. Instead of purchasing multiple boxes, our customers can run their virtualized network functions on a universal CPE.
TT: How many markets is Network on Demand available in, and how many markets is Managed Internet Service on Demand in?
Switched Ethernet Service on Demand is available in over 170 US cities and Managed Internet Service on Demand is currently available in 13 US markets with plans to expand soon.
— Mike Robuck, editor, Telco Transformation