We’ve been writing a lot about the network virtualization efforts of AT&T and Verizon. So much so, that our eyes are kind of crossed from trying to make sense of it all and comparing the two service providers. We thought we’d do our readers and ourselves a favor and spell out the aspects of these providers’ virtual networks and the vendors handling each aspect.
The AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) is a data center design that includes top-of-rack switches, storage, servers, and software at the hypervisor. When complete, AIC will encompass more than 1,000 zones distributed around the globe.
AIC is based on the open source OpenStack cloud management framework.
AT&T has not disclosed what switches it’s using to run its AIC, whether a particular vendor’s or white box.
Although the service provider declined to confirm it, news sources, including CIO, have reported that AT&T is using Mirantis OpenStack for its AIC.
AT&T uses Juniper’s Contrail Networking for managing its infrastructure and for service chaining.
On top of AIC, AT&T runs virtual network functions (VNFs), which are offered through its Network Functions on Demand service.
AT&T’s Universal CPE (uCPE) forms the hardware foundation of its Network Functions on Demand service. It’s an AT&T-branded x86 server that sits at the enterprise premises and can mix and match software-based VNFs, depending on what functions are needed at each location. The uCPE was designed and manufactured to AT&T’s specifications to enable customers to run multiple VNFs on one device.
The first VNFs offered via Network Functions on Demand are:
- Virtual routers from Juniper (vSRX) and Cisco (vCSR)
- Virtual security from Fortinet (FortiGate)
- WAN optimization from Riverbed (Steelhead)
- Virtual network probes from Radcom
In addition, Brocade, while not directly involved in Network Functions on Demand, does provide “an important virtualized component in our Managed Internet on Demand service,” says an AT&T spokesperson.
And AT&T uses Affirmed Networks for its virtual evolved packet core (vEPC), at least in parts of its network. It also uses Cisco’s vEPC.
8/23/2016 Update ** AT&T also uses a virtual session border controller (vSBC) from Metaswitch across some of its network.
AT&T deploys and manages its VNFs with its home-grown Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy (ECOMP) platform. ECOMP recently became an open source project, and AT&T is working with the Linux Foundation on the structure of the initiative.
AT&T has also named Amdocs as an ECOMP integrator, able to market it and monetize it by providing support.
Verizon’s Virtualization Vendors
Verizon built a telco cloud, which is projected to include 21 data centers by the end of 2016.
Verizon uses white box switches for its telco cloud, and it’s running Big Switch’s operating system on the white box switches.
The telco cloud runs Red Hat’s OpenStack cloud management framework.
Verizon is also using Big Switch for software-defined networking (SDN) controllers. Big Switch’s SDN connects to its virtual switches and also to physical leaf and spine switches provided by Dell via a bright box arrangement.
Verizon is offering uCPEs from both Juniper (via its Cloud CPE) and Cisco.
The service provider is offering the following initial VNFs through its Virtual Network Services:
- Security through Cisco, Fortinet, Juniper, and Palo Alto Networks
- WAN optimization through Cisco and Riverbed
- SD-WAN though Cisco and Viptela
For orchestration and management of its VNFs, Verizon hasn’t disclosed what it’s using. It has published an NFV Reference Architecture and could be doing homegrown orchestration, similar to AT&T with its ECOMP.