The nation’s largest telecommunications companies are in something of a race, even if it’s invisible to most Americans. These companies provide the lion’s share of data and telephony to the nation, and the increased demand on their networks has been stratospheric. Between 2007 and 2014, for example, AT&T’s network alone absorbed an increase of 100,000 percent in data. With mobile video traffic still on the rise, and the “Internet of Things” continuing to add millions of networked devices each month, these demands will only increase, pushing carriers to pursue Web-scale networking projects in advance of demand.
In 2005, AT&T announced plans to integrate its nationwide TV and mobility service and broadband footprint through a software-defined network. Its goal was to virtualize and control 75 percent of its network by 2020, using cloud infrastructure in a software-defined architecture.
“We think it is very important because in a world of video this industry cannot cost-effectively deliver the capacity without fundamentally rethinking the core network architecture,” said Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman and CEO. “The underlying platform that will make it all possible is a software-defined network.”
At a recent keynote speech at the Open Network Summit (ONS), John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer at AT&T, announced that the telecom giant had “software defined” 34 percent of its network by the end of 2016, which exceeded its goal of 30 percent. By the end of this year, according to Donovan, the company plans to have 55 percent network virtualization via an overlay network. (IEEE ComSoc’s Alan Weissberger noted in a recent blog post that network virtualization via an overlay network is to be contrasted with pure SDN, which requires an entire new network infrastructure consisting of a centralized SDN controller for path computations and L3 packet/L2 frame forwarding engines.)
“When you get to 55 percent, there’s no turning back,” said Donovan at the keynote. “You’re more software-defined than you are not software-defined. When you hit that tipping point you start to say, OK, now what? Now what do we do when we have a software-defined network and how do we capitalize on it?”
Weissberger wrote that Donovan reminded the audience that in February 2017, AT&T announced it was moving its ECOMP (an operating system for SDN automation) platform code to the Linux Foundation, where it was then merged with the Open Orchestrator (ON-O) initiative [one of two major Linux Foundation open source MANO (management and organization) projects] and is now called Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). AT&T now has over seven global operators representing nearly two billion mobile subscribers participating in the ONAP project, with many more operators planning to join this year.
According to Weissberger, the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP), a Linux foundation project, was designed to bring together top global carriers and vendors with the goal of allowing end users to automate, design, orchestrate and manage services and virtual functions. ONAP unites two major open networking and orchestration projects, open source ECOMP and the Open Orchestrator Project (OPEN-O), with the mission of creating a unified architecture and implementation and supporting collaboration across the open source community.
Edited by Alicia Young