AT&T today announced AT&T Network Functions on Demand, a service that lets businesses use a single x86-based appliance to deploy virtual network functions (VNFs) at locations in 76 different countries.
The first selection of functions available is:
- Juniper’s virtual router
- Cisco’s virtual router
- Fortinet’s virtual security
- Riverbed’s virtual WAN optimization
Adding a conventional router or firewall could take weeks, but as virtual functions, they can be added in minutes.
The universal appliance for the customer premises side of the service is being purpose-built for AT&T, but the company isn’t naming the vendor. “It’s not about the box, anyway,” says Josh Goodell, AT&T’s VP of Network on Demand. “It’s about the ability to orchestrate.”
Speaking of orchestration, the management and network orchestration (MANO) of the new Network Functions on Demand offering will be handled by AT&T’s Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management, and Policy (ECOMP) architecture. AT&T just last week made ECOMP into an open source project.
And the whole Network Functions on Demand service is built on the AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC), which Goodell says is deployed in 150 zones at this point. The 150 zones are locations — sometimes in central offices — where AT&T is adding racks of x86 servers as the basis of its virtualization strategy.
Goodell says traditional central offices are composed of a mish-mash of proprietary boxes from a variety of vendors. No two central offices look exactly the same. But the zones that comprise AIC are uniform, no matter the location.
“From a product perspective, it gives the ability to scale very quickly,” he says. “And it enables the ability to launch services over large areas, because it’s just a software push.”
AT&T expects the offering to be appealing to a variety of customers that have multiple locations.
“Customers that have varying types of endpoints are a targeted opportunity,” says Goodell. “Eventually, we expect to see mid-sized and smaller business be interested.”
Appliance manufacturer Fisher & Paykel has already signed up as the first customer for Network Functions on Demand.
Part of Network on Demand
AT&T Network Functions on Demand is the third service AT&T has rolled out on its bigger Network on Demand platform.
The first service was AT&T Switched Ethernet on Demand. The carrier began that project in January 2015 and now offers it to enterprise customers in 170 markets in AT&T’s 21-state territory.
The second service was AT&T Managed Internet Service on Demand, providing individual locations with the flexibility to quickly provision and scale Internet connections. It’s available in the 150 markets that are part of AIC.
Goodell says Internet on Demand was the “first service where we virtualize elements of the network in that AT&T integrated cloud.”
The first two services are inside the core network. Today’s news brings AT&T’s virtualization chops out to the edge of its network.