AT&T, which is in the early stages of a six-year plan to virtualize three-quarters of its massive network by 2020, is one of three new members of the vendor-led OpenDaylight Project.
The other two companies signing on with the effort were Nokia Networks and ClearPath Networks. The announcement came on the first day of the week-long OpenDaylight Summit 2015 in Santa Clara, Calif.
OpenDaylight, which launched in 2013 with the backing of such vendors as IBM, Cisco Systems and Microsoft, is working to create an open-source framework for software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV) in hopes of accelerating the adoption of the technologies.
Both aim to enable organizations to create more programmable, agile and scalable networks by removing the control plane and networking tasks from the underlying hardware and putting them into software that can run on less expensive commodity systems. Telecommunications companies and enterprises are looking to be able to more quickly deploy networking resources and spin out new applications and services for their employees and customers.
AT&T is leveraging OpenDaylight technology in its ambitious Domain 2.0 effort to virtualize 75 percent of its network by the end of the decade. Company officials hope to have 5 percent virtualized by the end of 2015, and they have said they and customers are seeing the benefits from AT&T's growing use of virtual machines.
"Collaborating with and contributing to the open source community is crucial to drive this software shift at AT&T and in the industry," John Donovan, senior executive vice president of technology and operations at AT&T, said in a statement. "Joining the OpenDaylight Project lets us work with innovators more closely."
OpenDaylight last month unveiled Lithium, the group's third software release that broadens the benefits beyond enterprises and into telecommuncations vendors that are embracing NFV. New capabilities include service function chaining (SFC) features, which enable organizations to tie together virtualized network services—such as firewalls and load balancers—in a network to create a service chain, an important capability for NFV.
A recent survey of OpenDaylight users found that 73 percent of them have already deployed or plan to deploy OpenDaylight in the next 12 months, with another 24 percent saying they are in the investigation stage, according to project officials.
In addition, currently NFV and the cloud are the top deployment use cases for OpenDaylight. NFV was the primary use case, at 72 percent, followed by cloud orchestration—such as OpenStack—at 54 percent. Fulfillment—including traffic engineering and quality-of-service—came in at 47 percent and networking monitoring and analytics at 41 percent.
OpenDaylight officials also said they are seeing NFV move beyond telcos and into enterprises, academia and research. This underscores "the fact that NFV has a range of implementations that are appealing outside the telco space," Melissa Logan, head of marketing at OpenDaylight, and Chris Buerger, marketing chair, wrote in a review of the survey results. "We're interested in further exploring this point with our respondents in subsequent market activities."