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AT&T lays out 'radical' network changes with SDN

Stephen Lawson | March 5, 2014
AT&T is remaking its infrastructure as a "user-defined network cloud" in the pursuit of greater flexibility, lower costs and faster response to user needs, the carrier's infrastructure chief said.

The company has its work cut out for it, particularly in its OSS (operational support system), the collection of software used to control and manage its network, Donovan said. AT&T has identified more than 1,000 OSS applications to retire, he said. As they go away, APIs (application programming interfaces) will open up the network to more third parties.

The migration will begin with core functions such as policy and authentication and in later years move to the edge of the network, including its wireless infrastructure.

With Domain 2.0, the carrier aims to cut by two-thirds the time it takes to qualify new technologies for use in its network, Donovan said. With an average approval time of 18 months, that could become six months. AT&T isn't funding startups, but it has met with more than 1,200 young companies in its pursuit of new capabilities, Donovan said.

The changes in AT&T's network are also changing the carrier's internal culture and job roles, but the company aims to keep its existing workforce in place. "The objective here is to leave no person behind who wants to make this journey," Donovan said. In his address, he said twice that AT&T is recruiting people with relevant expertise.

One thing the new architecture probably won't affect is network neutrality, because the scheduling functions that determine quality of service already exist and will only be automated under Domain 2.0, Donovan said.


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