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AT&T Virtualizes Network Functions with Several Bold Announcements

By Laura Stotler June 11, 2015

AT&T is making the move to virtualization with several major announcements about how it is in the process of transforming its network functions. This week the company revealed it plans to use NFV and SDN to virtualize 75 percent of its network by 2020, and five percent of network functions will be virtualized this year.

The telecom giant has already virtualized three functions, including an evolved packet core with customers and traffic already running over it. AT&T has also virtualized its Network On-Demand service, which is now SDN controlled and available in 100 cities, enabling organizations to change the services and speeds on their Ethernet networks on the fly. Finally, the company has already made its mobile call recording a virtualized service and it is widely being used by banks and brokerage houses.

As part of its NFV and SDN efforts, AT&T is also participating in a group project with ON.Lab, ONOS, PMC-Sierra and Sckipio to publicly demonstrate a Central Office Re-architected as Data Center (CORD). The companies will use NFV and SDN to transform carrier functions into workloads that are hosted on a common infrastructure. The project will emphasize IaaS with virtualized network services offered as tenant applications within the common infrastructure.

"SDN and NFV are speeding up innovation, as seen in projects like CORD," said Tom Anschutz, distinguished member of technical staff at AT&T. "These technologies create systems that do not need new standards to function and enable new behaviors in software, which decreases development time. Faster development time leads to rapid innovation, something the industry needs to continue satisfying data-hungry customers."

As far as AT&Ts own NFV plans go, the company is focusing on DNS, network analytics, data platforms and edge routers this year, according to Andre Fuetsch, senior vice president of architecture and design, AT&T. The company will not be virtualizing TDM voice, frame, ATM and other legacy technologies, concentrating instead on customer premise equipment and optical long-haul networking. Fuetsch said the company will really ramp up its virtualization efforts next year.

"The technology is moving, evolving and maturing," said Fuetsch "There will be bumps along the way, but we're all in. We have over 2,000 engineers committed to the program to make it work."

Network workloads run on the company’s Integrated Cloud, a common cloud layer that offers reliability and security for both network and enterprise workloads at an affordable price point. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

NFVZone Contributing Editor

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