AT&T: Data centers are key as NFV, SDN become increasingly important

data center racks
Image: IBM

Data centers are a key part of AT&T’s cloud services strategy, and the carrier has no plans to sell its current assets. In fact, the provider is investing in its data centers, an executive told FierceTelecom, particularly as new technologies like network functions virtualization (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN) spool up.

Responding to a recent Investor's Business Daily article that said providers like AT&T, CenturyLink and Verizon were falling behind in the cloud services race, Andy Daudelin, AT&T vice president of cloud and cloud networking, told FierceTelecom that its strategy and focus are quite different from that of major data center providers like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google and IBM.

“We interpret it differently … Our focus is on networking and secure connectivity, and on helping businesses move to the cloud with confidence … but not to provide the cloud infrastructure itself,” he said. “We’re not looking to recreate what they do.”

Instead, AT&T routinely partners with the “hyperscale” providers like AWS, as well as more niche data center providers that offer services like SaaS to give their customers the best range of options. Daudelin said it currently has 16 partners, including the major cloud and data center providers.

AT&T Cloud’s core strategy is NetBond, he explained, which it uses to extend its private network into the public cloud “in a secure way.” Customers can then manage their services across partner systems – adding, for example, AWS or Azure with a simple drag and drop from a control dashboard.

Data centers continue to play an important role in AT&T’s service structure because with NetBond it can integrate those centers with the greater cloud ecosystem. Further, “80 percent of our customers have a hybrid cloud strategy … most have three or four [public] clouds and also a private cloud environment,” Daudelin said.

In fact, he said the division plans to invest a “significant part” of its budget in AT&T’s data centers, which are located in major regions including North America, South America, Europe and Asia-Pacific. That includes upgrading the data centers’ common areas and their power density, as well as incorporating NFV elements.

“As we evolve the network with network functions virtualization, we continue to add new features” to the data centers, he explained.

For example, AT&T already offers a virtual firewall to customers, enabling them to implement the security feature in-line, in a software-defined manner, rather than relying on a third-party service. The provider is also running network on demand and virtual network in its data centers so customers can provision their cloud assets.

For more:
- read the Investors Business Daily article

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