AT&T officials continue to aggressively expand their virtual network efforts, most recently unveiling plans to buy the Vyatta network operating system and associated products from Brocade, which had become a key player in the network virtualization space before Broadcom late last year announced its intent to buy the company in a multi-billion-dollar deal.
The telecommunications giant plans to complete the deal for Brocade’s software-defined networking (SDN) products and research projects before Broadcom closes on its $5.9 billion acquisition of Brocade. No financial details of the deal were released.
AT&T is among several carriers, including Verizon, with multi-year projects underway to create broad virtual networking environments. Telcos for decades ran expensive specialized equipment to run their networks, but are now embracing software-centric strategies to help increase flexibility, drive down costs and enable them to more quickly spin out services to their customers.
AT&T’s goals are to have 55 percent of its network software-controlled by the end of this year and 75 percent by 2020. At the end of 2016, the telco had virtualized 34 percent of the network.
“Our network transformation effort lets us add new features quicker than ever before at a much lower cost," AT&T Labs President and CTO Andre Fuetsch said in a statement. "Being able to design and build the tools we need to enable that transformation is a win for us and for our customers."
Brocade stepped into the fast-growing network virtualization space in 2012 when it bought startup Vyatta and its network operating system. The company released an SDN controller based on the Vyatta technology and over the years built up its virtual networking product portfolio.
AT&T will own the Vyatta OS, which includes a range of virtual-network functions (VNFs), vRouter product line and a distributed services platform. The carrier also will acquire software that currently is under development, existing software licenses and related patents and patent applications. In addition, a number of Brocade employees in California and the United Kingdom will be retained by AT&T.
Network virtualization—including SDN and network-functions virtualization (NFV)—offer the promise of enabling businesses to build networks that are more agile, programmable, open and cost-effective than traditional infrastructures. The technologies remove the network controller and various networking tasks from the underlying hardware and put it into software. IDC analysts expect the SDN market to hit $6 billion by 2020.
Among the fastest-growing parts of the network virtualization space is software defined-WAN (SD-WAN), which is aimed at campus and remote wide-area network environments that have relied on expensive transport modes like Multi-Protocol Label Switching (MPLS) to move data and applications.
In a mobile and cloud-centric world, companies are looking for more open and less expensive options, and SD-WAN enables networks to automatically pick the right transport technology for a particular workload.
AT&T last year announced a partnership with SD-WAN technology provider VeloCloud to create an SD-WAN service for the carrier. A growing number of carriers, from Verizon and Sprint to CenturyLink and Orange, are entering into similar partnerships to offer SD-WAN services to customers.
SD-WAN is one of several networking services that AT&T is offering, with SDN and NFV being among the others. Officials with the carrier last year said they expected to enter into other SD-WAN partnerships as well.
They said the Vyatta deal with Brocade also will push forward the telco’s project to build white-box networking equipment to run its software and services. AT&T is working with other companies and industry groups to build its own white-box switches to manage its data traffic and it completed a trial of those systems earlier this year.
When Broadcom announced its plans to buy Brocade, officials said they wanted Brocade’s products in the area of Fibre Channel SAN switching, and planned to sell its IP networking business. AT&T’s deal came the same week that Pulse Secure announced it was buying Brocade’s virtual application delivery controller and integrate it into Pulse’s Secure Asset Suite.