AT&T is providing enterprises with more virtual network functions and more agility with the recent launch of its Network Functions On Demand service.
AT&T's Network Functions On Demand platform uses an x86 server, which AT&T commissioned, at each enterprise's location to enable virtual network functions (VNFs) such as routers, firewalls and WAN accelerators on the fly. Network Functions On Demand runs on AT&T's Network on Demand network. It also leverages AT&T's ECOMP (Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy) for the management, orchestration and policy management capabilities. (See AT&T's Rice: ECOMP Reaches Critical Mass.)
Almost in tandem with AT&T's launch of Network Functions On Demand, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) announced the availability of its Virtual Network Services last month as well. Both platforms are working on solving the same problems for enterprises by using NFV. (See Q&A: Verizon's Lonker Maps Out Virtual Network Services .)
Given the fast pace of changing business needs, telecom services have had to evolve to meet customer demands for more flexible networking solutions. Telco Transformation spoke with Roman P. Pacewicz, senior vice president, offer management and service Integration, AT&T Business Solutions about the Network On Demand offering. (See AT&T Launches Network Functions on Demand.)
Telco Transformation: Do customers report on the transformative effect they see with this platform?
Roman P. Pacewicz: Yes, this platform and this business model really resonate with our customers. One of them is Fisher & Paykel Appliances Ltd. The company is based in New Zealand and uses our service to route network traffic across office locations worldwide.
The network works in concert with virtualized functions on the premises. That's what the agile business model is all about. The network is software-centric, cloud-based, dynamic and configurable. We see this as the model of the future.
TT: In what way does Network Functions On Demand demonstrate transformation for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)?
RP: It's another step along our journey to transform our service portfolio to an on-demand model. Businesses are much more dynamic now than they had been in the past. Our services have to be more adaptive for customers looking for solutions from us, enabling more flexibility, quick provisioning time and the ability to dynamically reconfigure networks as needed. To that end, we offer our customers a software-centric network platform.
TT: Can you elaborate on AT&T's steps on this journey?
RP: Network Functions On Demand is the third offering from AT&T's Network on Demand platform. The first was Switched Ethernet on Demand, available in over 170 US metropolitan areas with more than 1,000 customer networks. That service allows businesses to order, add or change bandwidth on their own quickly and easily.
The second offering was Managed Internet Service on Demand, currently available in over 170 US metropolitan areas with more than 250 customer networks. Its services are substantiated in a cloud environment rather than delivered by appliances. The virtualized routing functions enables customers to adjust bandwidth and configure capabilities and pay just for what they use as billing is automatically adjusted to the bandwidth consumption.
TT: How did AT&T plan out these steps?
RP: We worked with an advisor council that guided us for the last two years. We've also tested the products with customers who gave us feedback about what works for their needs. Our customers have guided us, and we feel that this hits the mark for what is needed in our agile world. AT&T wanted to make the hardware open, so it's not proprietary, and any of the vendors can work with it. Individual services on a very open platform that we continue to expand.
In September 2015, we announced AT&T Managed Internet Service on Demand and that we were enhancing Network on Demand capabilities through an ecosystem of the industry’s leading technology companies, We are building VNF services with an ecosystem of best-in-class vendors, so customers can pick the networking technology, features and functions they want to run. They include Cisco, Juniper Networks Inc. (for) virtual routing, Riverbed Technology Inc. (for) virtual WAN optimization, Fortinet for virtual security and Brocade for the virtualized functions in the cloud.
TT: What are the benefits of Network on Demand for your customers?
RP: Customers want to be in control of their network connections, and they want to be agile. This platform makes it possible. It's similar to the consumer experience with a smartphone that pulls together all the functions and apps they want on the one device. With virtualization, customers are deploying software onto a container instead of deploying appliances. Hardware is not tied to software, so customers have the flexibility of choosing one type of VNF and switching to another when they wish.
— Ariella Brown, Technology Writer, Telco Transformation