AT&T Takes 'Different Approach' With 5G, ECOMP, Big Data

'Different' approach is built on being more open and engaging with customers, vendors and partners.

February 1, 2017

3 Min Read
AT&T Takes 'Different Approach' With 5G, ECOMP, Big Data

SAN FRANCISCO -- AT&T assembled its technology brain trust here this morning to promise a "very different AT&T" going forward, and to roll out a bundle of news announcements, including naming Austin and Indianapolis as its 5G innovation cities as well as the completion of plans to move its ECOMP software platform into open source. The company also announced big data initiatives to enable more secure data sharing within interest communities such as healthcare.

Part of its "different" approach is built on being more open and engaging with customers, vendors and partners in new ways, according to John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, AT&T Technology and Operations. At the heart of all of it is AT&T's Network 3.0 Indigo, which provides a secure data-sharing environment, as well as its push to virtualize network functions and enable innovations, which is now set to hit 55% of its network functions this year, he announced. (See AT&T Launches Data Sharing Platform Indigo and AT&T Indigo Colors Data Sharing Secure.)

"The staff just loves it when I make their performance goals public," he added with a laugh. That 2017 goal follows two years in which AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) exceeded its annual goals for virtualization of 5% for 2015 and 30% for 2016 -- they hit 35% last year.

Clearly one of the goals of the event was to establish in the minds of the technology press, which is based here, what Donovan and team see as AT&T's unique position at the intersection of software-defined networking (SDN), where it considers itself a front-runner; 5G technology; and what it calls "data-powered everything" built on not big data but giant data.

"When you take all three of those and you look at the intersection of them, there is no one else who can come talk to you today," Donovan said. "At the intersection, the platform that is born out of that, that's what we refer to as Indigo."

In addition to moving deeply into SDN, AT&T has moved deeply into the data capabilities that enables and is now positioned to offer "extraordinary" capabilities to its customers, he said.

"This is the beginning of dialogue. This isn't announcement day -- this is the start of a dialogue with the community for a very different AT&T," he said. "When you look at Indigo, the platform will have a lot of tenets over time. As you think about our evolution as a company, this is the beginning of that dialogue where we are going to try to build an environment where customers, our partners and our peer companies can innovate and move networking into the natural next generation."

Donovan got some endorsement of the uniqueness of AT&T's position from Intel's Diane Bryant, executive vice president of its data center group. She said AT&T is the first telecom service provider to join the "Super 7" -- the Internet giants whose buying power is such that they get early access to new chip technology. Current members include Amazon, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent.

In the parade of experts that followed Donovan, AT&T laid out some key initiatives: One, of course, was releasing ECOMP, its network operating system platform, into open source under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. Another was naming Austin and Indianapolis as 5G Innovation cities, where initial 5G testing and trials will get underway. Setting this year's virtualization goal at 55% was a third and the Indigo data-sharing platform, announced earlier this year, was a fourth. (See Linux Foundation Forms Project to Accelerate Open Networking Automation and AT&T: Prepping for the 5G World.)

The ECOMP announcement has been six months in the making, and included the addition of nine other members of the open source community: Amdocs, Bell Canada, Brocade, Ericsson, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Metaswitch and Orange. Look here for more in-depth coverage of the ECOMP announcement later today.

— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading

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