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AT&T Spotlights Early SDN Efforts

Carol Wilson
5/12/2014
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As part of its announcement that Salesforce.com has joined the AT&T cloud ecosystem, AT&T today is also providing background on how its researchers developed an early version of software-defined networking (SDN) technology to enable its NetBond service, which makes the network as on-demand as the cloud-based services. (See AT&T Brings Salesforce into Cloud Ecosystem.)

AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s NetBond allows customers to connect to the cloud ecosystem -- now including Salesforce.com Inc. -- via secure connections that appear as another node on their MPLS-based virtual private networks. In addition to offering better performance and security, that network connectivity can be scaled up and down along with the cloud-based compute and software resources, and customers only pay for what they use.

As Chris Rice, vice president, advanced technologies at AT&T Labs, explains in a blog post here, AT&T Labs researchers created an early version of SDN called Intelligent Routing Service Control Point. IRSCP separates software control from the routing hardware, as SDN does, to deliver greater flexibility in routing traffic, and to enable the seamless integration of private VPN networks with the cloud provider's data centers, where compute/storage/applications reside, according to Rice.

The net benefit to AT&T cloud customers is that they get the "inherent advantages of MPLS such as predictable high performance and low latency, on a network that is highly secure because it isn't part of the public Internet, and so is free from DDOS attacks," Rice writes.

Plus, they can save money on networking costs, says Rene Dufrene, assistant vice president of NetBond at AT&T. NetBond, which was launched last year initially with IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) (and won a 2013 Leading Lights award), has since been expanded to include connections to CSC, to the Microsoft Azure cloud and to Equinix data centers. (See Microsoft-Nokia & iPhone 5c: What Do They Mean for Smartphone Trends in Emerging Markets? and Light Reading Announces 2013 Leading Lights Winners.)

The addition of Salesforce.com, the first software-as-a-service provider included in the AT&T ecosystem, was a response to requests from current customers, but is also expected to help drive additional AT&T cloud sales. Salesforce is widely used for customer relationship management, covering the sales and support cycle.

"We are working with other major SaaS providers as well, to offer their services as private connectivity through NetBond, which is something that is very attractive to SaaS as well as platform-as-a-service providers," Dufrene says.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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sam masud
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sam masud,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/14/2014 | 2:40:47 PM
Re: Adds great value
You took the words right out of my mouth--only stated them better than I could. Open/disaggregation/abstration are the operative words going forward, and companies like AT&T and Cisco are going to have to play by the new rules or...well, let's not go there just yet.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/13/2014 | 1:31:31 PM
Re: Audacious
Good question, and I have an interview Thursday which will hopefully help me answer those questions a little better. NTT was very early to this, but they also did a lot of the development work themselves. 
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/13/2014 | 1:30:09 PM
Audacious
Carol, what's your sense of how mature AT&T's SDN plan is? When senior technology VP John Donovan presented in February, the plan seemed audacious but still very early days compared with some of the work NTT is doing. AT&T still seemed to be clearing the stage and laying out its tools.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2014 | 9:39:00 PM
Re: Adds great value
I am digging into this further but it's not my impression that AT&T is cooking up its own version of SDN -- they are challenging their vendors to step up on that front.

I think it's important to recognize this is product-focused -- they need to deliver what their customers are demanding and waiting to do that after they've gone through the long vendor selection process isn't necessarily gong to work going forward.
mhhf1ve
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mhhf1ve,
User Rank: Light Sabre
5/12/2014 | 9:01:00 PM
Re: Adds great value
I'm not so impressed that AT&T cooked up its own SDN -- because I think it's pretty common for AT&T to develop proprietary technologies (usually with an aim at patenting them...) and then trying to make their flavor of the technology the near-universal business standard. It's a strategy they've used for quite some time (to varying effect).

It's perhaps more interesting to me that open SDN projects seem to be getting more attention than AT&T's SDN-like tech? That's the man-bites-dog story, in my opinion.
Carol Wilson
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Carol Wilson,
User Rank: Blogger
5/12/2014 | 6:10:30 PM
Re: Adds great value
I'd agree -Salesforce has become the defactor way many businesses do much more than CRM. 

I think this reflects the increasing significance of being able to deliver the applicatoins and software companies want and not just infrastruture or platform capabilities. 

But I also think it's interesting how AT&T cooked up its own pre-SDN way to making the network more flexible.
Mitch Wagner
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Mitch Wagner,
User Rank: Lightning
5/12/2014 | 6:08:01 PM
Adds great value
Salesforce is a real get for AT&T. As an extremely popular application, it will add significant value and attractiveness to AT&T's cloud service. 
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