AT&T Brings Juniper's Contrail Controller to SDN Project

The move comes a week after officials with the carrier said they are working with Cisco and Brocade as part of its Network on Demand effort.


Juniper Networks is the latest networking vendor to be tapped by AT&T to contribute to the giant carrier's efforts to accelerate the use of network virtualization in its infrastructure.

Juniper officials announced Oct. 5 that AT&T will use Juniper's Contrail software-defined networking (SDN) controller as part of the AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) environment. According to Juniper, AT&T will use Contrail to help automate and virtualize the network, enabling it to scale as needed and to more quickly spin out new services to its customers.

Officials with the networking company said Juniper's open approach to Contrail will help AT&T more quickly include new capabilities into its network, reduce development time and cut costs.

Juniper in 2013 launched the Contrail SDN controller, based on technology the company acquired when it bought startup Contrail Systems the year before for $176 million. At the same time, Juniper introduced OpenContrail, an open-source effort developed through the Apache 2.0 license to give third-party access to the technology to ensure it remains vendor-agnostic and can leverage the open-source development process to quickly add capabilities so it can keep up with the growing and changing demands of the data center and cloud environments.

Such capabilities will be important to AT&T as it continues its Network on Demand project—also known as Domain 2.0—to migrate its network infrastructure to SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV). The six-year plan calls for the carrier to move away from the expensive and complex networking gear that it has relied on and instead embrace a more software-centric infrastructure.

AT&T officials have said they hope to virtualize and control more than 75 percent of its network using the new architecture by 2020, a goal they have called "an ambitious target."

"Juniper and AT&T share a common vision for a customizable cloud network experience that is highly scalable, secure, automated and can readily adapt to customer needs," Ankur Singla, corporate vice president and general manager of cloud software at Juniper, said in a statement.

The announcement from Juniper comes about a week after AT&T officials said they also were working with Cisco Systems and Brocade around aspects of their software-defined efforts. Cisco and AT&T announced Sept. 30 that they are working together to virtualize some of Cisco's networking gear as part of the carrier's virtual customer-premises equipment (CPE) initiative.

The plan is to run the virtual routers as a service within AT&T's larger SDN environment.

"We're working with Cisco to bring the next-generation network technology benefits to our customers," Ralph de la Vega, president and CEO of AT&T Mobile and Business Solutions, said in a statement at the time. Cisco's "extensive SDN and NFV capabilities will broaden and enhance our Network on Demand platform."

On the same day, AT&T officials announced they also are working with Brocade in a similar fashion by essentially virtualizing routers so routing functions can be delivered via the cloud as part of the carrier's new on-demand Managed Internet Services. Offering the routing as a service through the cloud means customers don't have to buy more equipment at their own facilities. In addition, they can more easily scale their environments up and down to meet business demands as well as more quickly add new capabilities.

"The cloud model taught the world that virtualizing the IT infrastructure speeds service delivery and provides greater flexibility," Kelly Herrell, senior vice president and general manager of software networking at Brocade, said in a statement. "With Network on Demand, AT&T has proven this also holds true for enterprise network services."

AT&T officials said their Managed Internet Service on Demand will be available in select U.S. cities later this fall.