CHICAGO -- Big Telecom Event -- AT&T has been public with its bold proclamation that it will virtualize and software-control 75% of its network by 2020, transforming a total of 200 network functions. And, according to the man helping to lead the charge, it's well on the way to virtualizing the first 5% this year alone.
Keynoting here at BTE Tuesday, Andre Fuetsch, AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s senior vice president of architecture and design, touched on three of the functions the company has already virtualized of the 10 it will complete in 2015. (See BTE 2015: 5 Qs for AT&T's Andre Fuetsch and AT&T Touts SDN Push, Seeks Talent.)
Those functions include its virtualized evolved packet core, which Fuetsch said AT&T already has customers and traffic running on, and its SDN-controlled Network On-Demand service (now serving 100 cities), which lets businesses change Ethernet network services and speeds on the fly. AT&T also offers mobile call recording as a fully virtualized service that Fuetsch said has seen good traction with banks and brokerage houses. (See SDN Powers AT&T's Rapid On-Demand Expansion and AT&T's Cloud Future Takes Shape.)
The Domain Name Service (DNS), network analytics, data platforms and edge routers are all also on AT&T's short-term virtualization agenda.
According to Fuetsch, the list of 200 functions AT&T is planning to virtualize doesn't include legacy technology like TDM voice, frame or ATM. AT&T is focusing on those functions with longevity in the network, covering a wide spectrum from customer premise equipment to the optical long-haul network to the mobile packet core and universal service platform. This year, he said, AT&T is laying the foundational building blocks for virtualization, but it plans to really ramp up in 2016. (See AT&T Seeks Help on Culture Change Issues.)
AT&T measures each function in three ways: What is the ability to virtualize it? What is the ability to control it with SDN? To what degree can the function be plugged into the company's existing operational management framework? There is no binary answer to any of the three, but all are important, Fuetsch noted, especially the third, which lets AT&T take advantage of automation in terms of how the functions are on-boarded, decommissioned, reused, controlled and operated.
Importantly, all of the network workloads run on AT&T's Integrated Cloud, which Fuetsch called the common cloud layer with the right reliability and security to run not only network workloads, but also enterprise workloads at the best cost points possible. This, he said, has been the key to AT&T's leadership in virtualization amongst its tier-one network operator competitors. (See AT&T Reveals Audacious SDN Plans.)
"The technology is moving, evolving and maturing," Fuetsch said. "There will be bumps along the way, but we're all in. We have over 2,000 engineers committed to the program to make it work."
— Sarah Thomas, , Editorial Operations Director, Light Reading