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Facebook and AT&T herald a new day of open networking

Stephen Lawson | Nov. 10, 2016
Both companies are looking to open source and modularity

“We want to show the community and the world that there are innnovative approaches to solving these challenges and getting people connected faster than ... traditional solutions are on a path to do,” he said.

Open-source software is also at the core of AT&T’s years-long migration to a software-defined network. The most important thing the carrier did was break software down into parts so it could reuse open-source components for most standard functions, said John Donovan, chief strategy officer and group president, technology and operations.

“Everything that we buy as an appliance from a traditional vendor needs to be blown apart into an atomic structure,” Donovan said.

Software-defined networking pays off for subscribers in the ability to order services by themselves, fine-tune things like bandwidth as their needs change, and see the changes made within minutes, Donovan said.

The migration entailed changing things like 42-year-old mainframe applications into software that could run on a modern cloud infrastructure, he said. Since 2009, AT&T has converted about 80 percent of its data-center environment and 30 percent of its wide-area network to a cloud architecture.

The hardest part, he said, is changing corporate culture. Engineers who were used to fixing problems by moving wires around had to learn how to do it by finding flaws in code spread out over six virtual machines. AT&T’s answer was millions of small “re-skilling” courses that he said have helped employees move from disappearing roles into things like coding.


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