To embark on any city commute without spotting a fellow traveller on their smartphone is a near impossibility today – and the content being consumed is changing. Streaming video content on the go is now commonplace and it is thanks to improving network services. But with global IP video traffic set to reach 82 percent of all consumer internet traffic by 2021, communications service providers will have to transform their networks in order to meet these scaling demands – and customer expectations. After all, no one enjoys data down time in the middle of their favourite Netflix* show.
According to Cisco*, a million minutes of video will cross the network every second by 2021. Network transformation is the buzzword on the lips of communications providers, as they seek to meet the escalating demands, presented by the evolving consumer behaviours. Leading the charge is the formidable pairing of AT&T* and Intel who have joined forces to cloudify the network and set new standards across the industry for advancing network transformation.
“It was in response to the dramatic increase in data traffic across its network, primarily due to video streaming, that AT&T initiated its collaborative journey towards a cloudified network”
It was in response to the dramatic increase in data traffic across its network, primarily due to video streaming that AT&T initiated its collaborative journey towards a cloudified network. On an average business day, its network carries 150 petabytes of data traffic, representing a staggering growth of 250,000 percent since 2007. Andre Fuetsch, President AT&T Labs and Chief Technology Officer, explained, “Over the next five years, we expect to see a further 10x increase in mobile data traffic. The primary driver for this growth is video. Currently 60 percent of our network traffic is video and we expect this to rise to 70-80 percent by 2020.”
The requirement to meet customer demand for service innovation and for service reliability – as well as the economic need to ditch a hardware approach to increasing capacity – also factored strongly in AT&T’s ambitious move towards cloudification. As we become increasingly reliant on communication services, a fact highlighted by the stress and anxiety caused by slow or no internet connection, the onus is on communications service providers to enable always-on connectivity. Meanwhile, the ability to innovate in order to provide cutting edge, competitive services that give customers what they want, when they want it, is increasingly business critical. This adds further emphasis to the need for flexible, scalable services.
While AT&T had risen to the challenges of growing customer and network demands – using increasingly sophisticated, complex routers, switches and other gear – it was not feasible over the long-term. It opted for a more radical approach that would lay the foundations for a future ready business. This involved a network transformation programme underpinned by Network Function Virtualisation (NFV), Software-Defined Networking (SDN), cloud technologies and development technologies. Through its collaboration with Intel, AT&T focused on lowering the total cost of ownership through accelerated technology adoption.
AT&T’s Fuetsch says, “We decided to take more of a top-down approach by building our scalability, flexibility and resilience in software built on top of standard Intel-based server hardware. Previously we were doing the exact opposite. Our hardware was bullet-proofed and we had a very thin layer of software running on top. Now, with a software-centric approach, we can react faster and with greater agility to move capacity to where we need it most. Also, we’re no longer tied to specific vendors, which give us more choice in the market and the ability to select best of breed.”
Having set itself the goal to virtualise and implement software control for 75 percent of its network infrastructure by 2020, AT&T is set to reach 55 percent this year – just three years in. “This means we’ll be hitting the tipping point over 50 percent of the network. At this point we expect to see a lot more acceleration moving forward,” says Fuetsch. The customer benefits include a user-defined network which allows business customers to access flexible networking services more quickly and with greater control. Meanwhile, business benefits include reduced supply chain, logistics and improved time to market for new services.
As the world’s largest communications company by revenues, delivering advanced mobile services, next-generation TV, high speed internet and smart solutions for people and businesses around the world, the partnership with Intel is game-changing for the industry. Together, they are creating reference architectures and designs that set an industry standard and will help other communications providers harness the power of the cloud through a software defined approach.
Highlighting the power of the partnership, Sandra Rivera, Senior VicePresident and General Manager of the Network Platforms Group at Intel, says, “Collaboration with Intel gives AT&T early access to Intel technologies like the Intel® Xeon® processor Scalable family, allowing it to build and fine tune solutions that utilize Intel’s latest innovations and accelerate time to market – in some cases by up to six months. Meanwhile, AT&T also benefits from better asset utilization and greater programmability and scalability.”
Bringing the fruits of its partnership to the wider industry, AT&T has released the code for its Open Network Automation Platform (ONAP) into the community, which it expects will become the open source standard for network building, just as Android* is for the smartphone. “Once you have this programmable platform you can open up the network and let the innovators do their job. They will come up with use cases and applications that we haven’t even envisioned yet.”
As we continue to consume more video content and rely on communications services for our day-to-day needs, network transformation is in everyone’s interest. With AT&T and Intel creating the blueprint for future facing businesses, we won’t need to worry about missing a crucial deadline – or even a Netflix storyline – ever again.
*Other names and brands may be claimed as the property of others
For more information:
Stay connected to technologies, trends, and ideas that are shaping the future of the workplace with the Intel IT Center.