AT&T just completed a first-of-its kind test ... and Cisco should be terrified

Julie Bort

Business Insider

6th April 2017

’’ ”A week ago, AT&T did something with network technology that’s never been done before and companies like Cisco and Juniper Network should be terrified.” ’AT&T ran a test using data from its customers that proved it can build a reliable network with inexpensive computer switches, some open source software and software from a startup.’ ’In industry speak: that hardware devices AT&T used are known as ”white box” switches.

’ ”But that’s not all. AT&T’s successful test, conducted last Tuesday, sent data from one white box switch in Washington built with one kind of computer chip to another one located in San Francisco from a different vendor using a different computer chip. ” ”That proves that companies really don’t need to buy all their networking gear from one vendor in order to have everything work well together.

” ’AT&T used this network gear with its own homegrown network management software, called ’ ’’ ”AT&T has basically proved Facebook’s vision of how data networks should be built. Even when it comes to an enormous, powerful network like AT&T.” ’To clarify: Facebook has been pushing forward a new way to build networks, an approach generally referred to as networking (SDN).

’ ”Instead of baking all features into expensive, high end networking gear (aka Cisco’s model) an SDN network uses cheaper hardware. All the powerful features are built into software, which can be purchased from another company. ” ’SDN promises to make networks more affordable and easier to manage.

’ ”Facebook didn’t invent SDN but it has been proving the concept works in its own data centers.” ’More importantly, based on the SDN vision. It gives its software and hardware designs away for free, too.

’ ’Several years ago Facebook launched an organization called the Open Compute Project to develop the vision of giving away hardware designs, known as open source hardware. OCP encompasses more than just networking but networking has been such a big focus hat Facebook launched an similar project for service provider networks, called the ’ ”OCP has taken off beyond Facebook’s wildest dreams. AT&T looking for help with its own internal project to revamp itself in the SDN image.

” ”While AT&T created its own hardware for this project (it didn’t use standard OCP products) a bunch of OCP players were the ones that helped AT&T. They include:” ”While AT&T didn’t say it was ditching Cisco, it did say that this method of building networks was its future.” ’’ ’’ ”And at least some people on Wall Street have noticed that the big networking vendors were not part of AT&T’s test.

” ’Nomura analyst Jeffrey Kvaal put out a research note on Wednesday on the ”implications” of AT&T’’s test called ”AT&T’s Gain . . .

Vendors’ Pain. ”’ ’”Conspicuously absent from the trial were Cisco, Juniper, and Arista,” he wrote and noted that AT&T is a big customer for Cisco and Juniper, as well as Arista but to a lesser extent. ”AT&T’s network automation is already hurting vendors.

”’ ’While Cisco does offer a SDN product called Application Centric Infrastructure (ACI) it is only available as a software option for its biggest, most powerful high end switch, the Nexus 9000. Cisco says ACI has been selling well, however ’ ’’ ’Seeing the writing on the wall, Juniper and Arista have already begun to sell versions of their network software that could run on white box switches. ’ ”Cisco is rumored to be working on a similar thing, internally called Lindt, according to a report by Kevin McLaughlin in although Cisco wouldn’t publicly confirm that.

” ’But selling the software without the hardware could be a major decline in revenue for Cisco and, possibly, cannibalize its largest, most important product lines.’ ”Put it this way: imagine being able to buy Apple’s iOS software, put it on a $99 phone and have it all work great.” ”That’s the quandary Cisco faces.

And AT&T just made this problem very real, and very public.” ’A week ago, AT&T did something with network. .

.’ ’’ ’’ ’’.


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