The AIC zones are physical locations where the carrier runs virtual network functions (VNF). Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO at the carrier, described them as where it’s “bringing the network to the cloud.”
“OpenStack is still a critical component to our architecture,” Fuetsch said. “We’ve made a significant investment in development resources contributing to the community, either directly through us or through proxy of developers that we hire.”
AT&T had initially planned to have more than 100 AIC zones by the end of last year, but ended up with just more than 80 zones deployed. The carrier now plans to hit more than 100 AIC zones by the end of 2017.
The OpenStack project formed in 2010 as an open source group to write software for a cloud operating system. It controls large pools of compute, storage, and networking resources in a data center, all managed through a dashboard. OpenStack started as a joint project of Rackspace and NASA. The OpenStack Foundation took over the project in 2016.and now more than 500 companies have joined the project.
OpenStack has carved out an important role in the telecom market’s migration to virtualized platforms. Those companies have realized the platform’s benefits in support of their cloud, network functions virtualization (NFV), and software-defined networking (SDN) efforts.
Despite some recent concerns over the scalability of OpenStack, AT&T indicated it remains committed to the community.
“Certainly some have been concerned about OpenStack in terms of its scaling and complexity, but we’re far enough down the road with OpenStack that we are fully committed,” Fuetsch said. “We absolutely look at a very long horizon in terms of where things are going and are always evaluating alternatives and options, but for now we are all in.”
CORD in Support of 5G
AT&T is also fully behind efforts surrounding the Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) program. The initiative is targeted at evolving data centers toward greater software control in support of advanced services like 5G.
“What we like about this is for mobile operators with large infrastructure in place is that it puts them into a position to — with the move to 5G — support a more cloud-like architecture with the radio and mobile packet infrastructure,” Fuetsch explained. “It puts you into a position to offer these real-time services like AR [augmented reality], VR [virtual reality], and autonomous cars. It’s about how you can build out that distributed cloud, abstract it, and make it available for more use cases, for a larger development community.”
CORD combines NFV and SDN to bring data center economics and cloud agility to the telco central office. On.Lab‘s Open Network Operating System (ONOS) last year established CORD as a separate open source entity.
AT&T was an early supporter of the CORD program, teaming with a number of companies to produce proof-of-concepts in late 2015.
IHS Markit late last year released a survey that found 70 percent of respondents plan to deploy CORD in their central offices. That included 30 percent planning those deployments for the end of 2017, and the remaining 40 percent planning for deployment by the end of 2018.