Big Shift in Technology Thinking at AT&T

The AT&T system used to develop and deploy its own technology (Bell Laboratories and Western Union). That began to change with the AT&T breakup in 1984, and today the tier one providers source their core technology from third-party suppliers.

That might change in the future, as virtualized networks are developed, running on common and commodity hardware, using more open approaches, and with a core commitment to develop strategic systems in a way that allows AT&T to survive even the bankruptcy of any key suppliers.

There are any number of implications for suppliers. An equally-important change is a shift back towards service provider knowledge of, creation of, and maintenance of, core technology services and systems.

We haven’t seen that since before 1984.

There are some logical shifts. Since all computing now is shifting to open, Internet Protocol based and cloud based delivery, so will AT&T evolve.

“AT&T services will increasingly become cloud-centric workloads,” the AT&T Domain 2.0 vision indicates. That means both infrastructure and services that are “used, provisioned, and orchestrated as is typical of cloud services in data centers.”

That implies virtualized networks, using white box equipment (merchant silicon) and services will increasingly become cloud-centric workloads.

That also requires “architecturally decoupling the network function, based in software,from the support infrastructure, based in hardware.” In other words, AT&T will use the same loose coupling also typical of the entire software ecosystem and application architecture.

Domain 2.0 seeks to follow agile development processes, and will avoid locking-in to a specific system architecture.

“To mitigate business risk, the company has developed business rules for second suppliers and evaluates the risk of doing business with suppliers should they go out of business,” AT&T says.

“AT&T expects to increase the depth of understanding of our core technologies held by our staff to the point that they can integrate, and even design the systems from scratch,” AT&T’s white paper says. “AT&T expects to develop key software resources in a way that they can be openly used, and cannot be lost through the acquisition or insolvency of a vendor partner.”

Those are big changes, indeed.
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