AUSTIN, Texas — AT&T’s transformation from traditional telco to an open source champion was largely driven by John Donovan, the company’s chief strategy officer and group president. Donovan took the stage at Light Reading’s Big Communications Event today to tell those questioning the necessity of open source projects that they are “dead wrong.”
Donovan said that competition from over-the-top players, cable companies, and others are making it critical for AT&T to move to open source. “Our open source projects have doubled in the past year,” Donovan said, adding that sitting around and operating in a traditional telecom mode is no longer effective.
He said that when AT&T put together its ECOMP virtualization framework and decided to put it into open source, there were some carriers that were debating whether or not to use it. Some thought the framework needed a container element to it. “I told them, ‘that’s fine. Put that in your first open source project.’” He noted that containers are now the first project of the Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP). ECOMP merged with Open-O to become ONAP and is under the Linux Foundation.
Donovan added that the old telecom model of scheduling meetings and debating different techniques for solving a problem takes too long. “There is a tendency to build debate teams where everyone has a voice. But that is not a workable plan.”
Donovan acknowledged that AT&T’s commitment to open source is resulting in a very different relationship with its vendors. “Before, our role was characterized as being a professional shopper. We knew what we wanted, put a list together, and then talked to the supply folks,” he said. Now, he said, companies with the better research and development teams tend to like what AT&T is doing and want to work with it. Those that don’t have strong R&D are not as favorable to the changes.
He compared AT&T’s reason for making this switch from traditional telco to operating more like a Web player as a war. The company has to do this to combat threats from competitors. “We are at war with each other,” he said.