AT&T's Goodell: SD-WAN Explodes as Killer App

LOS ANGELES -- MEF 18 -- SD-WAN is the first killer app for digital transformation at the edge and is exploding as a service, but still requires a great deal of deployment complexity that the industry needs to address, AT&T's Josh Goodell, vice president of edge solutions, said here today.

"SD-WAN is the killer app -- we're deploying 28,000 end points, it has really exploded," Goodell said in a keynote address here. "It is not about just that technology or just that edge device, it really is about hybrid environments and identifying the right type of access, whether that is MPLS, direct Internet access or broadband, and it can be AT&T's network or a third party. It's about that hybrid adoption and being able to deploy that across the globe, which for us is 200 countries."

Customers are challenging AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) to connect to end points across the globe on both TDM and fiber networks, to a diversity of sites, which creates that deployment complexity, Goodell said.

"We have learned a lot -- when you deploy at that pace you have to learn quickly," he commented. "Anyone who believes this is plug-and-play and walk away is misled. There is a tremendous amount of deployment complexity."

Some of that complexity is driven by the fact that any given business customer has multiple different site types and each type has to be evaluated for hardware and software needs as well as type of access over which SD-WAN will ride, Goodell said. But there is also a need to understand what is happening in the network, including wide area network optimization and security, as well as understanding what actual applications are running on the network. He cited specific conflicts between SD-WAN services and port-scanning applications used for security.

There are also challenges around maintaining stability of virtualized systems as new functions are added, as well as making sure virtualized and physical systems work well together, Goodell said.

Another key learning for AT&T was the need to appropriately set customer expectations.

"Transformation has proven to not be a one and done event," Goodell said. "It's important to set that expectation up front, having that as an understanding and key part of governance."

MEF 's developing SD-WAN standards will definitely help, he noted, helping get the industry on the same page going forward. (See MEF Executing on SD-WAN Specs, New APIs & Enterprise Council .)

AT&T also is pressing on to evolve the edge using an open source approach to both hardware (open Universal CPE) and software (DANOS), as well as open source artificial intelligence (Acumos), something the operator plans to use in designing its 5G edge network, he added. (See DANOS Fuels AT&T's White Box Binge , Acumos Much More Than a Telcom-Focused AI Project, and Acumos Much More Than a Telcom-Focused AI Project.)

"All three are great independently but it is essential for AT&T as we built out 5G to utilize different capabilities," and deploy all three at the edge in 60,000 sites globally, he said.

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

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