Preparing for the future with software-defined networking

For more than a century, we’ve built telecom networks using custom-made, single-purpose equipment such as routers and switches. To add capacity, we added more equipment.

This worked well when most data was voice traffic. It increases gradually and in a predictable way.

But that’s not the case today.

Thanks to video conferencing, cloud computing, and other breakthroughs, we now transmit more data than ever before. Data traffic on the AT&T wireless network grew more than 150,000 percent between 2007 and 2015.

And this is only the beginning.

Tools like the Internet of Things, 4K video, and virtual reality will push bandwidth demands even higher in coming years.

We just can’t build telecoms networks fast enough anymore. So what can we do?

At AT&T, we found an answer to this question in the world of web services: Replace specialized hardware with software.

We’re swapping our traditional network equipment for software apps running on off-the-shelf servers and equipment. This top-down approach to network building is what we mean by software-defined networking (SDN).

SDN represents a radical change for the industry.

It’s also a huge task for AT&T. We laid the foundation in 2015, virtualizing the first 5.7 percent. We’ll accelerate to 30 percent this year. We plan to convert 75 percent of our network to this SDN model by 2020.

What will this transition mean for enterprises around the world?

  • Fast and easy provisioning: With SDN, you’ll manage your own services in near-real time. For example, you’ll be able to deploy a new router or firewall whenever you need it. You won’t need to install on-site hardware or wait for support.
  • Space and cost savings: With SDN, you’ll invest less in hardware and need less space in the server room.
  • Improved security: SDN boosts security because it’s easier for us to deploy updates when an attack takes place. It’s also possible to isolate and contain problems more easily. For example, if there is a Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack, we can easily increase capacity to stop it from disrupting your network.

SDN is coming, whether you’re ready or not. To prepare for the transition, you need a clear technology roadmap.

Most organizations today rely on multiple networks from different vendors. Transitioning to SDN will mean combining these resources and moving to IP networks. A trusted service provider partner like AT&T can save time and cost in planning, deploying, and managing SDN solutions.

Read this white paper to learn how SDN and NFV can enable networks to be programmable and more efficient while reducing operational costs.

Tom Siracusa Distinguished Member of Technical Staff AT&T About Tom