AT&T releasing its Network Playbook into Open Source

AT&T* today committed to releasing into open source the software platform that powers our software-defined network (SDN). Making our current Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) platform available in open source will enable global service providers and cloud developers to meet non-stop network demands as data-hungry technologies like autonomous cars, augmented and virtual reality, 4K video and the Internet of Things (IoT) take off.

“In March, we opened the hood of our network, showed you the engine and the industry responded asking to join us,” said John Donovan, Chief Strategy Officer and Group President, Technology and Operations, AT&T. “Over the last few years, AT&T invented what we believe to be the most sophisticated, comprehensive and scalable software-centric network in the world. Today, we’re letting anyone use and build upon our millions of lines of software code by committing to releasing it into the open source community.”

To understand the significance of this move, it’s helpful to understand exactly what we mean by a “software-centric network.” The old networking industry was fine in a world where data traffic grew gradually and predictably – think voice and text. We don’t live in that world anymore. Smartphones, video and the cloud changed this world. The trends we’ve seen have been staggering: Data traffic on our wireless network grew more than 150,000% between 2007 and 2015. And we don’t expect this growth to slow down.

ECOMP lets service providers quickly add features and drive down operations costs. It gives service providers and businesses anywhere more control of their network services, and enables developers to create new services. Ultimately, consumers benefit because the network better adapts, scales and predicts how to make their connected experiences seamless. That means that all the cool network-enabled technologies coming in the next few years – from virtual reality to self-driving cars to 4K video – will run smoothly.

Here’s another analogy that shows why ECOMP is so critical to AT&T’s network transformation. Think of how over the last few years you’ve replaced your camera, calculator, flashlight, CD or MP3 player and other gadgets with software apps on your phone. It’s more efficient, upgrades happen in seconds, and it costs less. We’re doing the same thing with all those bulky network appliances. We’re turning them into software running on standard servers. This is called network function virtualization (NFV). Our goal is to virtualize 75% of our network by 2020. Controlling the actions of those virtual functions available via software is known as SDN. Managing all those virtual network functions (VNFs) and other software-centric network capabilities is much easier when they run on what’s called a VNF automation platform. That’s what ECOMP is.

ECOMP is mature, feature-complete, and tested in real-world deployments. And, we believe it will mature SDN and become the industry standard. Releasing this software into open source levels the worldwide playing field for everyone. Most importantly, we believe this will rapidly accelerate innovation across the cloud and networking ecosystems. AT&T is currently working with the Linux Foundation on the structure for this open source initiative.

“This is a big decision and getting it right is crucial,” Donovan continues. “We want to build a community – where people contribute to the code base and advance the platform. And, we want this to help align the global industry. We’ve engaged a third-party company to be the integrator and provide support in the industry for the ECOMP platform. And we’ve received positive feedback from major global telecom companies. We’re excited to share more on that front very soon.”

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

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