SDN Technology

AT&T on Track for 100% Core Network Virtualization Next Year

AT&T has achieved a network virtualization milestone, with 75% of MPLS tunnel traffic on its core network now controlled by SDN, and is on track to hit 100% next year.

The carrier replaced physical appliances that needed manual reset by operators with automated, internally developed software controllers, for increased cost savings and improved speed to reconfigure and deploy new services, Mike Paradise, AT&T VP network cloud and infrastructure operations, tells Light Reading.

MPLS tunnels are key components of AT&T's core network, carrying its US mobile, broadband and enterprise traffic. The tunnels determine what physical traffic will take between cities.

"Those paths are traditionally hard-coded into the elements," Paradise says. "What's important is we now have an SDN controller." The controller consumes network control plane information, and manipulates traffic on both logical and physical paths on the optical and packet networks.

AT&T's core network spans the top 25 cities in the US.

AT&T developed the software controller internally because no commercial product was available that would tie together the Layer 3 IP network control plane, connect to the optical network, and manipulate both, Paradise said. The software runs on Linux, virtual machines and x86 hardware.

"From an operations perspective, it allows us to really have granular control of the network at a centralized level," Paradise said. For example, the SDN control makes it easy to route round fiber cuts and planned maintenance in a way that doesn't affect customers and maintains reliability.

AT&T can dynamically provision more bandwidth into the network without having to use traditional provisioning cycles in placing orders and getting teams out to do physical hookups, Paradise says "Maybe it's the operations enthusiasm coming out in me, but that's a really big darn deal," he said. (Editors Note: Paradise's enthusiasm is betrayed by his use of strong language. And we're enthusiastic too, by golly!)

And AT&T isn't standing still. "We hit the 75% mark of traffic. Next year the goal is to get to the 100% mark -- all the traffic on the core network SDN-controlled," Paradise says. That involves extending the work AT&T has already done to virtualize 75% of its network to the remaining 25%.

AT&T had no choice in moving to open networking, Andre Fuetsch, AT&T CTO and president of AT&T Labs, said in a presentation at the Open Networking Forum's ONF Connect conference this week. AT&T has seen an astonishing 470,000% growth in network traffic since 2007.

Network virtualization and SDN will be the focus of our cleverly named Network Virtualization and SDN Americas conference in Dallas next week, Sept. 17–19, where we'll hear from representatives of AT&T, Verizon, Bell Canada, MetTel, CenturyLink and more about key issues moving to network virtualization. Book now now for this exclusive opportunity to learn from and network with industry experts. Communications service providers get in free, and seniors and vets get a free handshake.

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— Mitch Wagner Visit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on TwitterJoin my Facebook GroupRead my blog: Things Mitch Wagner Saw Executive Editor, Light Reading

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