AT&T (NYSE: T) is turning its software-centric attention to its optical networks, announcing during this week's Optical Fiber Conference (OFC) that has joined up with Ciena, Fujitsu, and Nokia (NYSE:NOK) to create a Multi-Source Agreement (MSA) for open reconfigurable add drop multiplexers (ROADM) group.
This group has been charged with building and publishing open standards for ROADMs. It is making the ROADM specs openly available to other companies that want to take advantage of them.
According to the group's site, the open ROADM multi-source agreement (MSA) defines interoperability specifications for ROADMs, including ROADM switch as well as transponders and pluggable optics. Specifications consist of optical interoperability as well as YANG data models.
Today, the reality that AT&T and other carriers face in operating large optical networks is that they have to purchase ROADM platforms that are largely proprietary.
A service provider can't deploy a ROADM from Ciena and Nokia and have them operate together, for example.
Andre Fuetsch, SVP of Domain 2.0 architecture and design for AT&T, said in a blog post that the lack of interoperability between optical equipment vendors can hinder service provisioning time as it has to dedicate one platform for each market.
"That slows us down and reduces our ability to deliver the best experience to customers," Fuetsch said in a blog post. "In a major metro area like Chicago or Dallas, for example, we've generally had to rely on a single vendor's equipment to manage all optical traffic in that area. You can't mix and match according to capability or price."
For its own part, AT&T is driving two new concepts in next-generation ROADM technology for its own network: software controlled ROADMs and open hardware.
A software-controlled ROADM can automatically detect and adjust bandwidth and move traffic to different lanes as needed. Software-controlled ROADMs can also increase network reliability by turning up and down capacity, while routing around faults and restoring connections if a fault occurs.
"This isn't just talk," Fuetsch said. "We've already built a nationwide, software-controlled optical network."
Although AT&T would like to virtualize ROADM devices on the network similar to what it is doing with other hardware elements, optical networks still need to use physical lasers to accept and reroute signals.
Fuetsch said by making the "specs for these ROADMs openly available" the Open ROADM group will enable AT&T and other large and small carriers that deploy these devices to be able to gain the benefits of more open network platforms to accelerate service delivery.
By implementing SDN and NFC into its network, AT&T is seeing its bet pay off to enhance how it delivers services to customers.
One example of how it is enhancing service delivery is the advent of its network-on-demand capability, which allows a business customer could go to a portal to provision a new Ethernet circuit or increase capacity in minutes.
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