AT&T is introducing a new service that will enable businesses to manage their network services via an online portal in almost real time, part of the telecommunications giant's larger cloud networking initiative.
The rollout of the Network on Demand service is the first for AT&T's User Defined Network Cloud (UDNC) strategy, which the company first introduced in February. AT&T officials said in June that the carrier was in the first part of a six-year plan to overhaul its network, replacing its copper-based legacy hardware infrastructure with a software-defined all-IP platform.
The new cloud-based network architecture will enable AT&T to more quickly bring advanced services and products to customers—both business and consumers—according to company officials.
Network on Demand is the first of such services, which will help businesses that are struggling to keep up with the massive amount of data being created, the huge increase in mobile data traffic and the growing percentage of network traffic that is video. Such trends are putting pressure on networks and changing the way computing is being done, and businesses need to be able to more quickly respond to the changing demands, according to Roman Pacewicz, senior vice president of marketing and global strategy for AT&T.
"The traditional model to purchase and manage network services is just not sustainable anymore," Pacewicz wrote in a post on the company's blog. "Customers want to order or change their network services in near real time. Businesses need better control—and to optimize costs where possible—to be competitive in this environment."
That is where Network on Demand comes in, he said. Currently, provisioning such network services as Ethernet or virtual private networks (VPNs) can take weeks, due in large part to a costly and complex system that is primarily done manually. However, AT&T's service is offered to businesses via an online self-service portal, through which customers can order, add or change their services. Businesses will be able to get new services—such as provisioning new communications ports—up and running in a matter of days rather than months, and will be able to make changes—such as ramping up or down the broadband speed and bandwidth—within minutes rather than weeks by clicking a few buttons in the portal, officials said.
"As much as computing has advanced, networking services have remained largely unchanged," AT&T's Pacewicz wrote. "In a world where virtual servers can be spun up in minutes, provisioning of network services like Ethernet and VPN can still take weeks. Like yesterday's hardware-centric data centers, these services are overly burdened with complexity and cost. … What the cloud did for the management of data centers, Network on Demand will do for corporate networks."
AT&T has been running a pilot project for Network on Demand at the University of Texas in Austin since June and will roll out Ethernet services that can take advantage of Network on Demand to businesses in that city by the end of the year, according to company officials. The telecommunications vendor will then bring the Ethernet services as well as Network on Demand-enabled services—such as provisioning the Internet and VPNs—to other areas starting next year.
The UDNC strategy is part of AT&T's larger Domain 2.0 effort in which the operator is aiming to transform its network infrastructure by adopting software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), a move that will make the network more responsive to customer demand, more scalable and more automated. That type of network is more like those being used by such Web giants as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Microsoft rather than ones typically run by traditional telecommunications vendors.
Other operators also are looking to new technologies to transform what they do. Last year, Verizon officials announced the company's new Verizon Cloud platform to take on the likes of Amazon Web Services, Rackspace and Google. The underlying infrastructure will be based on technology from Advanced Micro Devices and its SeaMicro microserver business.