AT&T Open Sourcing Its SDN Management Platform

Officials with the carrier say they are releasing the ECOMP technology to the open-source community via the Linux Foundation.

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AT&T officials are following through on a promise to release the management and automation platform for the company's software-centric network initiative to the open-source community.

Through the move, the carrier is enabling service providers and cloud developers access to its Enhance Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy (ECOMP) platform in hopes of accelerating innovation in networks and the cloud and more quickly delivering capabilities and services to address the growing demands brought on by such emerging trends as the Internet of things (IoT), self-driving cards, augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) and 4K video.

AT&T officials in June said they would release all 8. 5 million lines of ECOMP. The carrier is working with the Linux Foundation on bringing the management platform to open source.

"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," John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president of technology and operations at the carrier, said in a statement, noting that after talking about ECOMP in March, others in the industry asked to join in. "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."

ECOMP is a foundational element of AT&T's high-profile initiative to transform its infrastructure into a software-centric environment that includes such technologies as software-defined networking (SDN) and network-functions virtualization (NFV), both of which are aimed at creating software-based networks that are more programmable, scalable and agile than traditional networks based on hardware. NFV puts such networking tasks as load balancing, routing, and intrusion detection and prevention into software, while SDN puts the control plane for those virtual network functions (VNFs) into software.

ECOMP is the automation and management platform for those software-centric network capabilities, according to AT&T officials. The carrier expects to have virtualized 75 percent of its network by 2020.

Other carriers and service providers are making moves to revamp their networks to leverage software and the cloud. A simpler, more flexible network enables organizations to more easily and quickly develop and deploy new services to their customers, manage the fast-growing traffic running over the networks and respond faster to changing business conditions. Verizon officials a year ago announced they were going to adopt a software-centric approach to their network.

Such moves are increasingly needed, AT&T officials said. The proliferation of smartphones, the growth in video traffic and the adoption of the cloud have not only increased the amount of traffic running over the networks, but they have also accelerated the growth and made it less predictable. Data traffic on AT&T's wireless network grew more than 150,000 percent between 2007 and 2015, and that pace will continue in the coming years, they said.

AT&T's Donovan said the goal is to create an ecosystem around ECOMP.

"This is a big decision and getting it right is crucial," he said. "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."