AT&T Offers an Update on Its SDN, Virtualization Strategy

By Paula Bernier July 21, 2015

NFVZone recently interviewed Andre Fuetsch, senior vice president of architecture and design at AT&T, to discuss what the company refers to as its transformation to a software-centric company. Here is an edited excerpt of the interview:

What network functions has AT&T virtualized and why?

Fuetsch: Here’s a list of those, including with our mobile VNO play to resellers of our mobility services. vEPC. That we’re using from Affirmed Networks. We’ve also done DNS route reflectors. Components of our IMS architecture, our Universal Services Platform, the SBC will be virtualized soon. These are all products that are under way, in trials, in various different states. [Also included is our] network translation/Netbond product. We have about over a dozen things.

To what extent is AT&T using SDN today and for what?

Fuetsch: Just the network-on-demand self-provisioning feature for business customers. But more is to come soon over the next six months.

Is AT&T leveraging Linux containers? How, when, and why?

Fuetsch: We’re looking at all sorts of container technologies, and we see them playing a big role as we roll out these virtualized solutions.

Who are AT&T’s key vendors for its software-centric transformation?

Fuetsch: We’ve made public the suppliers we’ve certified as Domain 2.0 suppliers. That list includes Alcatel-Lucent, Ericsson, Cisco, Ciena, Metaswitch, Brocade, Affirmed Networks, Fujitsu, and Amdocs.

My understanding is that part of the telcos’ reason to move to NFV and SDN is to avoid vendor lock in. Yet most of these companies are rather large suppliers with which telcos like AT&T have been working for years. What about startup vendors/smaller vendors?

Fuetsch: We have three disruptors in there. Brocade (for load balancing and router functionality as well as its Vyatta controller distribution), Affirmed Networks (for the virtualized EPC), and Metaswitch (for use in AT&T Universal Service Platform, including Metaswitch’s SBC and possibly other solutions). They are new companies for us; they are smaller companies. But we’re also looking at introducing a whole other list of disruptors as well. We’re going to expand that considerably in the near future.

Image via Shutterstock

What orchestration solution will AT&T employ?

Fuetsch: There is so much activity right now in this space that right now there’s a sea of controllers, a sea of orchestration solutions. A lot of them are open; a lot of them are proprietary. We’re placing bets on a lot of different ones, and as they grow some will be adopted more than others, that way we’ll have more flexibility.

Are there key missing pieces for NFV and SDN to realize their promise? What, and how is AT&T and the industry as a whole working to fill those gaps?

Fuetsch: In terms of gaps, there are none in particular, but one area that will get solved is how we deal with performance on top of this virtualized infrastructure. Some rely on technology to help get performance improvements with X.86 architectures. There are some capability opportunities that we need to fix or find better solutions for. Not everything can run on x86; you will have to have specialized hardware for certain cases. Bare metal switches, as long as they have open interfaces, that’s ok.

Is there an estimated date by which AT&T’s software-centric transformation is expected to be complete?

Fuetsch: 75 percent of our network functions will be virtualized in the next five years. Five percent of our overall network functions will be virtualized in software and SDN control is our target for this year. There are 200 network functions we’re working on. 

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

Executive Editor, TMC

Related Articles

New Partnership Helps Service Providers with SDN

By: Frank Griffin    3/30/2017

A new partnership between Packet Design and NEC/Netcracker is going to give service providers new tools to implement software-defined networking (SDN)…

Read More

Brain4Net's New SDN Services Mean More Value

By: Steve Anderson    3/23/2017

Brain4Net brings out a line of carrier Ethernet services built around SDN, which join with virtual network services to create greater value.

Read More

TMC Announces 2016 SDN Product of the Year Award Winners

By: TMC    1/18/2017

TMC, a global, integrated media company helping clients build communities in person, in print and online, announced today the winners of the 2016 SDN …

Read More

Juniper to Buy AppFormix

By: Paula Bernier    12/5/2016

Juniper Networks recently announced plans to buy cloud optimization platform provider AppFormix. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Read More

Vidder Expands on PrecisionAccess with Automation, Channel Efforts, Etc.

By: Paula Bernier    11/28/2016

Security company Vidder, which sells the PrecisionAccess software-defined perimeter service, continues to build on its momentum with new customers, ne…

Read More