While AT&T is already at the forefront of using SDN and NFV to evolve its network, applications and services, it has also drawn up a blueprint for its next big wave of innovation, which is called AT&T Network 3.0 Indigo.
Indigo, which AT&T announced in January, blends SDN, AT&T's ECOMP orchestration platform, big data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, cybersecurity and 5G elements together to create a new data-sharing network.
In Part II of this Q&A, Roman Pacewicz, marketing and global strategy senior vice president for AT&T Business Solutions, spoke about the importance of Indigo, how it works and AT&T's approach to SD-WAN. (See AT&T Waves Indigo Flag and AT&T's Hubbard Discusses SDN Standards & Open Source.)
In Part 1, he discussed AT&T's orchestration partnership with Orange Business Services and Colt Technology Services Group Ltd (London: COLT). (See AT&T's Pacewicz Talks About Inter-Carrier APIs.)
Telco Transformation: Earlier this year, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) made a significant announcement on its next phase for networking. Can you give us an overview of Indigo?
Roman Pacewicz: Think of it as basically the third generation of networking. It basically builds upon a software-centric core and creates a network that is not only software-centric but also data-driven. In effect, it does create kind of an operating system that allows us to focus not just on the speeds and feeds of the bandwidth, but really on the application flows. It will allow us to be able to focus more on, "How do I deliver flow A securely between a mobile endpoint or a wired endpoint in a cloud environment?" It focuses on the service and abstracts the complexity of that network. It enables us to deliver a service focused on performance of that application and also ensures that the proper security is adhered to through various authentication security measures.
TT: Indigo ties SDN, ECOMP, blockchain and other features and services together?
RP: It enables us to make the infrastructure seamless, and allows us to focus on how an application forms across all of the complex infrastructure, or all of the technology that flies underneath. It enables us to ensure that the network is aware of the requirements of that application, and we can make the application perform as desired. It's around authentication. It's around the ability to deliver services in a seamless way. It's encompasses all the components and kind of layers on top of them.
TT: Are ECOMP and SDN the elements that provide you the visibility throughout the network?
RP: They're the enablers of a software-centric network that allow you to then layer-on that conditional control network operating system capability. They are all supporting Indigo, and the new way of focusing on the performance and experience versus on the bits and bytes and feeds. It makes the network application-aware, in effect. There are a lot of components that we've been focusing on over the last few years that enable the infrastructure to be able to support that kind of a model going forward.
TT: Will you start using Indigo later this year?
RP: It's something that we're going evolve to.
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Switching gears a bit, can you talk about AT&T's multi-pronged approach to ? (See AT&T Boards SD-WAN Bandwagon
RP: We see the need to have an SD-WAN capability as part of our networking fabric because we believe customers will mix and match technologies going forward. Our view is that a proprietary approach is probably not the right approach.
Ultimately, when we think about what customers want, they want to be able to support bigger data flows at the right cost point while delivering the right level of performance. We are creating a platform called FlexWare that is commercially available now -- many customers are already using it -- that basically virtualizes functions that normally would be delivered through appliances. So a customer could choose a Cisco router versus Juniper router. They could choose the kind of firewall they want. They could choose the kind of WAN accelerator they want. In the near future they'll be able to choose the SD-WAN capability that they want.
Our SD-WAN is a virtualized network function (VNF) that sits on the FlexWare device and also sits in our distributed cloud, our AIC (AT&T Integrated Cloud) zones. The AIC cloud zones are basically how all of our services are now being delivered. So what we do is we basically bookend the broadband access and whatever other access lane the customer wants with a virtualized instance of the SD-WAN service on that FlexWare device and in our cloud. Then we apply policies just like with any other SD-WAN provider, but we do it into the core network.
TT: What are the benefits for the customers with this approach?
RP: So the customer can mix and match these sites. They don't have to convert the whole network. They could choose as many or as few of these sites. They don't have to hub it, it's all done kind of in-network. Once you get in, the core network is extremely reliable. You bypass all the peering links that you might have if you were backhauling the traffic with long tunnels into a data center or something.
So we do have the traditional SD-WAN service that we're offering in 52 countries right now. In the July time-frame we are rolling out this network-based SD-WAN service that will be resident on both the FlexWare device and the AIC zone. It gives the customer the flexibility to pick and choose how many sites they want to deploy. Deployment is as simple as pushing that VNF into that FlexWare device. If they want to take it out, they can take it out. It's just a software pull. That's the beauty of the FlexWare platform.
From our cloud environment, we push the applications the customer chooses. They could start with a traditional configuration, and then add SD-WAN. This really resonates well with all of our clients.
TT: Do you think we're headed towards a round of consolidation among the various SD-WAN vendors?
RP: There are a lot of players, which is good. The market is vibrant, but the question is where are we on the (hype) cycle? One thing for sure, SD-WAN is a technology that's going to continue to be here, and we're going to be providing it both in a traditional way and in a hybrid way. But again, we believe it's important to integrate all these services together so customers can mix and match. We're integrating everything together.
— Mike Robuck, Editor, Telco Transformation