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White Box Is the 'Big Prize' – AT&T's Donovan

Ray Le Maistre
2/25/2016

Disregard the impact of white box networking at your peril. That's the very clear message that came from John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President of AT&T Technology and Operations, in Barcelona this week.

Discussing the evolution of AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T)'s infrastructure and IT systems at the Digital Operations Transformation Summit held here in Barcelona this week just prior to Mobile World Congress, Donovan found himself at odds with an audience largely comprising executives from other service providers as he engaged in a "fireside chat" with Light Reading CEO Steve Saunders.

During that discussion, a poll was conducted, with the audience of about 100 service provider executives, industry analysts and a handful of vendors voting on the following question: Which new comms technology will have the greatest impact on service providers' businesses in the next decade?

The audience could select one of the following options: 5G; network virtualization; cloud platforms and services; white box networking; or IoT.

While cloud platforms and services (44%) and network virtualization (29%) dominated the voting, white box networking garnered no votes. De nada.

Asked if he was surprised by the voting pattern, Donovan silenced the room: "I probably would have said that white box networking is the most important," he noted.

He went on to explain that "you can't get to white box networking unless you've done network virtualization. You can't do network virtualization until you march down the path of cloud platform and services," but "the big prize" is in white box networking, something that AT&T has already started to deploy.

Donovan noted that as part of its Integrated Cloud strategy, AT&T has already built out 74 zones (white box networking nodes), and will take that to 105 or 108 this year. The white box hardware is not custom built but is a hybrid mix of open source and off-the-shelf technology that will be sourced on a quarterly basis.

The AT&T man believes that while 5G and IoT are major talking points, they are the services that depend on the next-generation network architectures: All of the technologists walking around [MWC] will be trying to figure out the cloud, virtualization and white box strategies that enable such services, he noted.

Check out all the compelling insights Donovan had to share during his 30-minutes chat by watching this video:


— Ray Le Maistre, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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kq4ym
kq4ym
3/7/2016 | 9:41:46 AM
Re: Jargon maybe ?
Interesting point. Still though curious how no votes from the 100 came up while at least the big guy in the room thought it was the most important. Maybe the hype needs to start on the white box to get folks more interested?
scanlanavia
scanlanavia
3/1/2016 | 2:48:18 PM
Jargon maybe ?
Maybe the jargon he used "white box" was alien to largely European observers. . If he had said "bare metal networking" it might have registered more votes. ..
AlokT518
AlokT518
2/29/2016 | 9:16:29 PM
How to calculate %age?
"We plan to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. Our goal in 2015 was the first 5%. The foundation. And we did it, coming in at 5.7%. In 2016, we plan to virtualize 30% of our network". Could some expert explain more clearly the AT&T's method of calculating the %?
thebulk
thebulk
2/29/2016 | 5:40:05 AM
Re: The ones that know
Chambers was an interesting person, and I think Cisco for the most part was better off for his leadership. 
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
2/29/2016 | 12:20:21 AM
Re: The ones that know
I kind of miss John Chambers as head of Cisco.  He talked big and boldly and wasn't shy about lauding his company.

Of course, Chambers also predicted that over the course of the next few years almost all of the major tech companies would wither -- with Cisco and but a few others left standing.  Let's see how that turns out.
Steve Saunders
Steve Saunders
2/26/2016 | 8:21:21 AM
The ones that know
Worth noting John Chambers said the exact same thing last year. When the two Johns agree it's likely to be true.
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