AT&T's Hubbard on the Evolution of SD-WAN & Hybrid Networking

DALLAS -- SD-WAN Strategies for Success -- With the rapid growth of the SD-WAN market in mind, AT&T's Rick Hubbard urged participants at Light Reading's recent event in Dallas to stay focused on the physical network infrastructure as well.

"I do think in all this people need to understand that the software is only as good as the underlying physical infrastructure that it's going to run on," said Hubbard, SVP of networking product management for AT&T Business.

Customers don't want to rip and replace equipment, they want to evolve, said Hubbard, and there's an underlying understanding in the industry that the physical network infrastructure is still important. He noted that AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) has 400,000 MPLS ports worldwide and over 120,000 IPsec endpoints globally.

"I think there's confusion in the industry that an SD-WAN is going to give you a cheap endpoint," said Hubbard. "SD-WAN by definition [means] you're arbitraging performance on two different access lines. SD-WAN is an important piece of technology that rides inside of an ecosystem across all of these network types."

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Just as customers want to evolve, Hubbard described the evolution of AT&T's approach to hybrid networking. In October 2016, AT&T announced its SD-WAN hybrid networking strategy and partnership with VeloCloud. AT&T's approach to SD-WAN is part of a larger strategy to incorporate software-centric technologies into integrated solutions for enterprises -- "the first integrated offer was software-defined networking, second was network-function virtualization and third is hybrid SD-WAN," according to the release. Later this year, AT&T also plans to launch a dynamic hybrid VPN, said Hubbard.

"The old way, hybrid networking was a network with multiple types of endpoints on that network," he said. "What SD-WAN gives us the capability to do is a network with multiple types of technology at a single location" and the location itself can be hybrid in addition to total hybridization of the network, he added.

The conversation around SD-WAN in the industry has also shifted from two years ago when the forecast was that SD-WAN would replace MPLS, noted Hubbard.

"It's not MPLS or SD-WAN… it is and. I think two years ago when this market started getting hot everyone was in the 'or,' and now people have moved to the 'and,'" he said.

The larger the customer, the more likely that they will have a massive hybrid environment, he continued, and with growth in midsized and small businesses, some businesses that never had MPLS may choose to implement SD-WAN out of the gate. In identifying the right approach for customers, operators need to understand what customers want to deploy at the branch office, said Hubbard.

"[Customers] want bandwidth availability and performance at their application," he said. "So it's really important to understand what they want at their branch office… we don't just run a branch office network, we run a network, which is key to why we're passionate about doing this in a hybrid way."

— Kelsey Kusterer Ziser, Editor, Upskill U

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