LOS ANGELES—Having already launched SD-WAN in over 150 countries, AT&T certainly has the experience with the service, but admits that vendor solutions are far from equal.
The service provider today will support various platforms in its SD-WAN offering, including vendor partners VeloCloud. Overall, the service provider has rolled out SD-WAN to over 100,000 users and is growing.
Josh Goodell, VP of edge solutions for AT&T Business, told attendees during a presentation at this week’s Open Networking Summit that it is taking a flexible approach by allowing business customers to choose whatever SD-WAN platform best suits their needs.
“We have lots of different players in this space and they are all offering black box solutions,” Goodell said. “The way that we think about it, and why we are a big proponent of virtual edge open platforms, is that we want the marketplace to choose the winners and the losers.”
What this means is that if a business wants to use one vendor’s SD-WAN platform, AT&T will support it. Although Cisco has purchased and acquired some vendors in this segment like Virtela, the SD-WAN vendor market remains quite crowded.
However, Goodell said that though the telco supports multiple SD-WAN platforms, it’s still a far cry from achieving interoperability.
“We will support multiple SD-WAN vendors, but that’s not interoperability; it’s the first phase in the evolution,” Goodell said. “I think the second phase in the evolution is if the industry decides to solve that challenge will be how do you do interopability?”
Goodell added that AT&T has overcome issues in other network segments like its optical network with OpenROADM and Layer 2 federation of networks, for example.
“I think it is a technical challenge that can be addressed, but it’s a question about when the industry decides to do it,” Goodell said.
While it will take time for AT&T and other industry members to figure out the right way to get to interoperable SD-WAN solutions, AT&T is supporting multiple methods for business customers.
For AT&T, SD-WAN is mainly just another function within its Virtual Edge portfolio with Flexware. AT&T’s SD-WAN product was built as an extension of its emerging FlexWare platform, which is the outgrowth of its Network Functions on Demand concept.
Like its support for multiple SD-WAN vendor solutions, AT&T can also support various network configurations: an over the top approach using broadband and the network-based approach.
As its name implies, AT&T's OTT SD-WAN approach provides links on private, broadband or wireless connections.
The SD-WAN-Network Based solution, which was launched in March, allows businesses to manage a combination of multiple site types and varying reliability, performance and bandwidth needs, while preserving MPLS features. Additionally, the service can integrate with AT&T NetBond for Cloud.
“The network-based approach because of the way it is architected allow us to deploy SD-WAN solutions on a site by site basis,” Goodell said. “Many of our customers, a number of which are very large that have MPLS today, can add SD-WAN capabilities one site at a time.”
Given the large installed base of technologies that AT&T’s large business customers have, the service provider is enabling them to operate in a hybrid mode.
“The network transformation that businesses have to go through is not trivial,” Goodell said. “Being able to ease into a solution gradually over time and add a location at a time is a really big deal.”
Goodell added that AT&T’s SD-WAN approach “preserves the functionality of the MPLS network so capabilities like advanced multicast and Net bond are preserved in one holistic network.”
Multiple site types
As the saying goes, one size does not fit all and the same can be said about how AT&T’s customers use SD-WAN. AT&T is targeting three common site types: mission critical, branch and remote sites.
A mission critical site could be one where a business could be running data centers or multiple functions at the location. In a branch site, AT&T can offer a wireline broadband or wireless LTE.
While he could not reveal the customer’s name, Goodell said that “we’re currently deploying SD-WAN for several thousand branch sites that is part of one holistic MPLS network.”
Finally, with remote sites AT&T will offer IPSec capabilities. It currently has thousands of remote site deployments.
“What we see is 3-4 types of site type combinations whether it’s access or the hardware or software running on any particular network,” Goodell said. “What sets us apart is being able to pull these unique site types together.”