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AT&T: SDN Is Slashing Provisioning Cycle Times by up to 95%

Sarah Thomas
8/12/2015

AT&T has had its SDN-enabled Network On-Demand service live for less than a year, but it's already yielding impressive results, including a reduction in provisioning cycle times of up to 95%, according to the carrier's network boss.

Speaking at AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s analyst conference on Wednesday, John Donovan, senior executive vice president of technology and network operations, said that Network On-Demand is available in more than 100 markets and is "driving up to 95% improvement in our provisioning cycle times and getting rave reviews."

Network On-Demand is the carrier's SDN-powered Switched Ethernet network topology that lets enterprise customers increase or decrease bandwidth in near real-time. Donovan said it went from an idea to trials in only six months, launching at the end of last year in Austin and reaching 100 markets by April of this year. (See SDN Powers AT&T's Rapid On-Demand Expansion and AT&T Brings User-Defined Network to Austin Businesses.)

The idea behind Network On-Demand is for enterprises to realize cost savings and efficiencies from never using more bandwidth than they need. According to Donovan, the Network On-Demand processes have resulted in a reduction in the time spent ordering, managing and changing services by up up to 95%.

"We have taken a process from low automation and weeks to complete to high automation and minutes to complete," he said. "We’re turning the industry on its head in an unprecedented way."


For more on AT&T's SDN initiatives, visit the dedicated SDN content section
here on Light Reading.


AT&T has been a first mover in the transition to a New IP network, as well as a clear leader in implementing SDN and NFV technologies within its own organization and for its customers. Donovan said this has been a necessary move for it "Moore's Law no longer works" for AT&T and networking can't keep up with the growth in traffic. (See Donovan Touts AT&T's Software Push.)

"Our case for SDN is simple -- it's compounding Moore's Law to meet these demand curves with scale, flexibility and cost efficiency that only a software-based architecture can accommodate," Donovan said. "That software architecture naturally takes advantage of the hardware cost curves."

In fact, Donovan said that AT&T actually managed to stretch beyond the parameters of Moore's Law during the past four years by reducing the cost per megabyte by 87% (from 2010 to 2014), whereas Moore's Law principles alone would have resulted in an 83% reduction.

He attributes this feat to SDN, which has enabled AT&T to accelerate its services lifecycle, implement changes more quickly and, importantly, reduce internal costs. (See AT&T Reveals Audacious SDN Plans and AT&T Seeks Help on Culture Change Issues.)

The carrier has vowed to virtualize and control more than 75% of its network by 2020, with the first and most important 5% occurring this year. (See AT&T Touts Its First Virtualized Functions and AT&T Touts SDN Push, Seeks Talent.)

Donovan said he also wants to evolve to an open-source software approach. Today, AT&T uses about 5% open-source software, but it will move to more than 50% in the coming years. That entails virtualizing physical equipment and using less expensive, commoditized hardware to be more flexible and efficient in meeting customer demands.

"The network is on-demand, the office is mobile and the cloud is secure," Donovan said. "We've made it clear that the future of our network, and frankly our company, is in software."

— Sarah Thomas, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading

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kq4ym
kq4ym
8/18/2015 | 10:23:39 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
I'm  not entirely convinced with the comparison's to Moore's Law based on the near two time speed up of the "the time spent ordering, managing and changing services." For some reason to me, the logic of the argument is apples and oranges. Nonetheless, slashing the cyvle times is a good acheivement in a year's work.
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
8/13/2015 | 5:06:33 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
Overnight success usually comes after years of work!
dfoote
dfoote
8/13/2015 | 2:03:32 PM
Capex, Opex, New Services (Revenue)
The majority of touted benefits of SDN (and NFV) seem to be generally categorizable into three big buckets:  capex, opex, new services.   In public discourse, it seems that the capex benefits have been promoted more often.  Maybe that's because significant capex changes can move the financial valuation (stock value) of companies more readily than the other two big bucket benefits.   So it is really interesting to me to see that some of the earliest, quantifiable benefits being publicly stated are related to opex (provisioning efficiency: time and accuracy).  Of course, another corollary benefit of the improvements AT&T is citing will also be "time to revenue".  A quantifiable metric on that (i.e. $XM realized Y months earlier) could also be a really powerful endorsement for SDN and NFV benefits.

 
CChappell
CChappell
8/13/2015 | 4:59:18 AM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
I agree - automation has been possible for a long time and a number of smaller, agile, disruptive operators have harnessed it but many of us have wondered what has taken mainstream operators so long to bite the bullet. Partly the 'herd mentality' has changed - today the fear of not using SDN to cut the time of service delivery is becoming stronger than the fear of disturbing the fragile spaghetti of OSS operators use to provision services - and many congratulations to AT&T for its role in transforming industry thinking here and sharing its fantastic results. Partly SDN has ushered in a new generation of tools and capabilities, including standards-based YANG service and device models and NETCONF configuration protocol, which are proving superior to and more desirable than previous vendor, or indeed operator-proprietary methods of network automation. 
slideruler
slideruler
8/12/2015 | 9:42:19 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
In actual fact, it has taken about 10 years to get the carriers to this point.  Some of us have been developing SDN/policy/nFV platforms and pounding the table on these very use cases for that long....seems like an eternity, but glad to see that they are finally - finally - getting creative and imaginative with real time service offerings to their customers.

Hallelujah!

SR,
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
8/12/2015 | 4:06:20 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
I've been wondering for some time why acceptance of SDN has been so fast. A year and a half ago it was still something those crazy dreamers in their basement labs were muttering about. Now it's the accepted future of the Internet. I've never seen technology go from crackpot to mainstream so quickly, and I wondered why. 

Results like these -- from a comapny as prominent as AT&T -- are why. 
Sarah Thomas
Sarah Thomas
8/12/2015 | 1:41:08 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
Agreed! It's great to see actual numbers assigned to SDN and NFV to combat all the hype. AT&T has been very forthcoming, perhaps because it's been so successful for it. Donovan also says it's well on its way to its first 5% of VNFs this year. Andre Fuetsch shared the first three at BTE, but I'll be curious to see what the others include.
msilbey
msilbey
8/12/2015 | 1:12:07 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
And stretching Moore's Law to boot? Remarkable.

I often think of AT&T in terms of its role as a last-mile broadband provider and how long it's been behind on that front with its copper network. Good reminder that there's a bigger picture here, and interesting to see how this piece fits in gigabit moves on the residential side.
cnwedit
cnwedit
8/12/2015 | 1:05:38 PM
Re: This is what people have been waiting to hear about
It is a truly significant benchmark. Network on Demand gives customers much more control and clearly in the process is driving out operating costs. 

And while exact replication of this might not work for other carriers, the is the trend for everyone going forward. It's what Level 3 is doing with its SDN-enablement and NTT, too, I think for some of its SDN-enabled services. 

Being able to quantify that achievement puts AT&T at the head of the class...for now. 
Ray@LR
[email protected]
8/12/2015 | 12:57:12 PM
This is what people have been waiting to hear about
OK, so no other operator is going to be able to exactly replicate what AT&T has done, but if this is indicative of what is possible then this is a MASSIVE endorsement of virtualization for telecos - MASSIVE!
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