Top Ten Movers and Shakers in Telecom
He had hinted at the idea during his NGN keynote in October 2002 (see NGN Notes: On the Edge). And then in March 2003, Eslambolchi turned conference goers on to the "Concept of One," a kind of harmonic convergence where Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) will let AT&T meld all its networks into a peace-loving whole (see AT&T’s New Gods).
For the chief technical executive at a major incumbent to pledge a single, converged network for both voice and data was no small thing, and it caused some to wonder if he'd been huffing paint fumes. Or worse.
But Eslambolchi was deadly serious, and in 2003 it has become evident that the idea of IP/MPLS convergence has taken root in the industry (see Setting a Course For Convergence). While he didn't literally invent the concept – obviously, the converged network vision is not new – his evangelizing has underscored the notion of where the entire communications infrastrucuture is heading. And that's why we're making him No. 1.
AT&T, like many carriers, will have to collapse the number of layers, as well as the number of billing and support systems, in its gigantic network. And Eslambolchi is counting on MPLS to do the trick.
The Concept of One embodies a flexible network edge that harmonizes any service with the IP network. The good news for networking firms is that it's going to require some new gear – an edge system and a customer premises system that oddly resemble the God Boxes of yore. Getting even deeper, Eslambolchi wants to conjure the Concept of Zero, in which customers would define services on AT&T's network all by themselves (and perhaps become one with the Great Celestial Muffin).
If Eslambolchi succeeds, the new network could reduce costs and enable next-generation data services at the some time, remaking AT&T into an IP/MPLS pioneer. How important is this? Well, quite simply, it's a matter of survival. Let's hope Mr. #1 pulls it off, for the sake of both AT&T and of the industry at large.