SANTA CLARA -- Open Networking Summit (ONS) 2014 -- I'm glad AT&T's senior technology VP John Donovan didn't give me a darned good thrashing after I challenged him about the company's software-defined networking (SDN) plans. He's a boxer and a hockey player. He could totally thrash me.
Donovan, senior executive vice president for technology and network operations at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T), described the operator's audacious SDN plans at an Open Networking Summit 2014 plenary Tuesday, adding more detail to the brief presentation he gave a week ago at Mobile World Congress. (See AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape.)
The carrier is committed to shifting to a more agile networking strategy, which it's calling User-Defined Network Cloud. "We intend to provide elastic network services, just like cloud provides elastic computing and storage services today," Donovan said. Customers will be able to self-provision networking services on the fly, as needed, just as they now do with compute services and storage from cloud providers.
But it's a big job, and the company is just getting started. "There is much to do before our vision is realized," Donovan said.
To make that change, AT&T is changing everything about the company, including how the network is built, equipment and software, how the company buys, and its operations and culture.
IDC analyst Nav Chander questioned Donovan during the Q&A portion of the executive's presentation. Chander asked about disruption to AT&T corporate culture, potentially threatening AT&T employee jobs.
Donovan said AT&T executives see it as their responsibility to communicate the strategic change to employees and give employees the tools to make the change with AT&T. The company is working with Udacity and Georgia Tech to provide training, with a focus on certification rather than degrees.
"The objective is to leave no person behind who wants to make the journey and has the desire and fortitude to get it done," Donovan said.
AT&T is looking to recruit staff who want to work on this vision, Donovan said.
And now the part where I risked bodily harm.
I commandeered the microphone during Donovan's presentation, and suggested Donovan, who had been talking about plans for SDN, could perhaps appear a laggard, given that he was following in the wake of a presentation from NTT Communications Corp. (NYSE: NTT) that outlined the progress it's already making with SDN.
Or did I mishear Donovan's presentation?
Donovan said I did, indeed, mishear him. The company is making real progress, he said. For example, they've succeeded in abstracting the control plane from the backbone. "What I'm talking about is radically reshaping the WAN."
I wanted to hear more about AT&T's progress in transitioning to SDN, but they didn't agree to my request for a meeting.
I can't imagine why. I'm such a charming person.
I'll have more about what NTT had to say in a follow-up article.
Unless I'm unable to type following a thrashing from Donovan.
More about AT&T's network plans: