AT&T sees containers as a “really big and important part” of its network architecture plans. Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO at the telecom giant, said the company’s use of containers extends deep into its operations.
“We have a very robust and extensive container strategy that’s not just confined to the core network or to our software stack sitting above it,” Fuetsch said. “It extends all the way out to the edge to the customer premises. We see containers, and the management of containers being real important going forward.”
Fuetsch explained that while the company uses different virtualization platforms to support the development of new services, containers add a level of agility to the process.
“Not everything is suited for virtual machines,” Fuetsch said. “When you start looking at various parts of the network where you need speed, reliability, redundancy, there’s some benefits you can get from containers that you can’t get from the alternatives.”
Containers are not new to AT&T. Fuetsch touched on the topic in a blog post nearly two years ago.
However, Fuetsch was not yet ready to discuss AT&T’s specific container implementations or vendor partners, noting only “I can assure you we are working with them all.”
John Donovan, the company’s chief strategy officer and group president, said containers were the first project of the recently launched Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). AT&T earlier this year merged its ECOMP virtualization framework with Open-O under the auspice of ONAP, hosted by the Linux Foundation.
Open Source Approach
In keeping with past efforts, AT&T is behind an open source approach to container development. The operator was an early member of both the Open Container Initiative (OCI) and Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
CNCF recently added the open source Container Networking Interface (CNI) program as a hosted project. The CNI platform is designed with a small footprint for resource efficiency. It has limited responsibility over network connectivity of containers, and it removes allocated resources when the container is deleted.
“Two things stand out from our market sizing and research on containers: the breadth and diversity of vendors basing their offerings on containers or integrating and partnering to better support containers in their products, and the speed at which the container software and market are maturing based on production, use, and revenue growth,” said Greg Zwakman, an analyst at 451 Research.
Check out more of our interview with Fuetsch on AT&T’s use of software in support of its 5G network plans.