AT&T's Kris Rinne explains how 'User-Defined Network Cloud' will change carrier's network architecture

AT&T Kris Rinne

Kris Rinne

with Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network architecture and planning at AT&T Labs

BARCELONA, Spain--AT&T Mobility (NYSE:T) during last week's Mobile World Congress announced plans to implement a network architecture it described as a "User-Defined Network Cloud," which the carrier said would be supported by its previously announced Domain 2.0 supplier program. AT&T said the network cloud effort would allow it to use Network Function Virtualization (NFV) and Software Defined Networks (SDN) technologies to separate its hardware and software functionality; separate its network control plane and forwarding planes; and improve its management of functionality in the software layer. AT&T named Ericsson, Tail-F Systems AB, Metaswitch Networks LTD and Affirmed Networks Inc. as the initial vendors working on the program. AT&T said it wouldn't adjust its capital expenditures guidance due to the program, but that over time it expects the overall Domain 2.0 program to "reflect a downward bias toward capital spending."

During MWC, FierceWireless Executive Editor Mike Dano sat down with Kris Rinne, senior vice president of network architecture and planning at AT&T Labs, to get a quick explanation of AT&T's network cloud plans and how it will impact the operator's wireless network. Here's an excerpt from that interview.

FierceWireless: Can you talk about AT&T's network cloud announcement and what it means for the company?

Kris Rinne: [AT&T CEO] Randall [Stephenson] announced Domain 2.0 several months ago, in how we're looking toward scaling our network in the future. And [User-Defined Network Cloud] is our umbrella for SDN and NFV capabilities, so moving more toward a software-infrastructure architecture.

And we're still in the development of our requirements in terms of the orchestration layer and what that capability needs to look like. But we're already well down the path of migrating some of our internal applications, typically in the IT organization.

So it's starting to look at some of those early network solutions that we would be able to introduce. And our primary goals are to reduce our cost to serve; reduce our time from concept to revenues, in terms of how quickly we can integrate into our network; and to provide an open environment where a user can define the network that's required for them.

And so the list of vendors: It's a mix of large and small. It'll be mostly prototyping this year, in preparation for some of those going in the network, primarily focused in the network function virtualization area.

FierceWireless: What will be the first types of launches?

Rinne: We're already doing the IT functions. We've already migrated about 20 percent of our IT functions, which is hundreds of applications, to a cloud infrastructure. Now this is looking at some of the network elements--how does the orchestration need to be different from a real-time standpoint? And some of it can be aligned with what we're already doing on the IT side for that implementation.

FierceWireless: This rollout will happen in stages?

Rinne: Yes, it will happen in stages.

FierceWireless: And what would the first stage be?

Rinne: Take an application in the IMS architecture. Putting that in the cloud versus specialized hardware, and separating out the control plane.

So some of the provision aspects--pulling out the control plane across layers two and three--those are some concepts we're working on. Some of the IMS elements, putting those into the cloud architecture. You won't see a big, massive, 'this is now there' deployment--you're going to see phases of it. And it will be an evolution to 2020.

FierceWireless: Is that the target completion date?

Rinne: That's the timeframe we're looking at. It's a major change in how we approach networks and how we're going to think about the traffic management and the operations functionality, etc. So it will be a transformation.

FierceWireless: Is this for the wireline and wireless network?

Rinne: It's all the networks. But it will evolve at different speeds.

It's more focused on wireline initially.

FierceWireless: Who at AT&T is working on this?

Rinne: I actually have a peer who's working on this. Marian Croak is my peer who has the responsibility for defining that future. And there's some early, proof-of-concepts--we call those beachhead projects--I have some of those beachhead projects.

AT&T's Kris Rinne explains how 'User-Defined Network Cloud' will change carrier's network architecture
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