With the help of its ever-expanding AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) and similarly expanding SDN-based business models, partnerships, and technologies, AT&T is going from a telephone company to a software-based company.
In the previous installment of this Q&A with Telco Transformation, Rick Hubbard, senior vice president of Network Product Management for AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), talked extensively about AT&T's SDN deployments, how they can help DevOps, and how they make economic sense for the Big Bell's customers. (See Hubbard Talks AT&T's SDN Strategy.)
Below, in Part II, Hubbard goes on to address how AT&T is tackling SDN security FUD, digital-transformation partnership strategies, vertical targeting for SDN-based solutions, and virtualizing today's modern platform economy.
Telco Transformation: Are customers viewing virtualization as more secure, less secure, or about the same? How is AT&T responding to whatever these perceptions are?
Rick Hubbard: Security's probably the Number One thing on everybody's mind right now if you go into the technology departments inside of companies. What we are trying to do with our platform inside of our AIC is demonstrate how it can be more secure rather than less secure. If you just think about it, more different kinds of things you have attached to your network could lead to more different ways for somebody to enter the network. By engineering and standardizing inside of the AICs, we can reduce the number of points of vulnerability. Because you can control what happens in a VNF inside of the AIC, it's a more secure environment.
TT: What partnerships has AT&T developed – or is AT&T looking to develop – to make its SDN-based strategies and virtualization strategies a reality? How will those partnerships help?
RH: There's the WAN that we announced last week with
VeloCloud Networks Inc. , because we believe they were farthest along … in developing a cloud-based SD-WAN type of offer that fit our development. They were closer to Domain 2.0, they were closer to our thinking, and they were more multi-tenancy than some of the other ones – so we chose them [for] our SD-WAN offering. (See AT&T Boards SD-WAN Bandwagon.)
We have also announced five different partnerships where we have virtualized their services onto our FlexWare devices. I think that's going to be critical because we're looking at that as a platform. As customers want to get more return on their capital assets that they deploy, we want partnerships with best-of-breed providers to ride on top of that platform.
And then we also recently announced that we were partnering up with Amazon. We view Amazon Web Services as a cloud leader. We're a network leader. We have a product called NetBond that intersects those two worlds – that takes the Amazon cloud and puts it on your network.
So it is clear to us that a handful of partnership are going to matter in the long run, and we're working hard to make sure that we foster that both ways.
TT: In which verticals is AT&T seeing the greatest demand for SDN services right now?
RH: For SD-WAN, I think the retail vertical is seeing the most growth, and a lot of that is because they currently have the biggest base of what I'll call low-bandwidth endpoints. As a vertical they've been used to managing stores on very low bandwidth, and as those requirements in those stores push for a need to upgrade that bandwidth in the store, they're actually looking for SD-WAN type technology.
For AT&T Collaborate, it's the same vertical… Retailers that have stores all over the United States like the fact that they can go to one company, and we'll get the broadband for them too, whether it's in our footprint or not.
Now our FlexWare services for SDN in general really span all verticals among people that are used to having a significant amount of purpose-built equipment. How else do they shrink that equipment footprint and get more of it virtualized onto fewer pieces of equipment?
TT: We've talked a lot about platforms. How do you potentially see SDN and other virtualization technologies helping these platform economies grow at yet greater scale?
RH: Yeah, you hit the keyword. It's all about scale. At the core of each platform company is technology. Uber shares rides, but how do you get in touch with each other? Airbnb shares spaces to rent, but how do you get in touch with each other? So they're technology companies for whom the actual "what they sell," you could almost argue, at one point, was a commodity; a taxi ride, a hotel room. At the center of that is technology. I think that, industry-wide, if SDN enables us to scale faster and to get economic propositions down to multiple technology companies, particularly as it intersects cloud and mobility, then it helps the entire ecosystem thrive.
— Joe Stanganelli, Contributing Writer, Telco Transformation