AT&T Donovan: We'll virtualize more FTTP hardware functions in 2016

As AT&T (NYSE: T) moves forward with its fiber-to-the-premises (FTTP) roll out, the service provider plans to virtualize its GPON optical line terminals (OLTs) it deploys in each Central Office to deliver GigaPower 1 Gbps service to residential and business customers.

Speaking during the Open Networking Summit (ONS2015), John Donovan, senior executive vice president for AT&T Technology and Operations (ATO), said that this process will reduce complexity and cost in future FTTP deployments.

"The customer response to this service has been amazing and they can't get enough of our 1 Gbps service, but the equipment we intended to use can be complex and expensive, which puts constraints on how quickly we can proceed with these deployments," Donovan said. "It's close to the customer and it needs to be flexible and it also needs be reliable and efficient, so this is exactly the area where SDN concepts can shine by virtualizing the physical equipment by using less expensive hardware."

Donovan added that besides providing greater flexibility they can reduce power consumption.

"We're not only providing a more flexible system, but we're reducing power consumption in the process," Donovan said. "We're able to scale faster by putting more connections onto a single box and we're creating an open specification for these devices so any ODM can build them for us."

AT&T expects prototypes of this new equipment shortly with trials and deployment in 2016.

The virtual OLT (vOLT) is part of the disaggregation phase of AT&T's implementation of NFV.

Through disaggregation, Donovan wrote in a blog post that AT&T won't just recreate a hardware device in software and run it as it did before, but rather break out each of the various subsystems in each device and then optimize each of those subsystems.

Donovan wrote "that's what we're doing with the GPON OLT, as well as other pieces like the Broadband Network Gateway and the Ethernet Aggregation Switch."

During this week's ONS summit, AT&T is conducting a proof-of-concept (POC)  transformation Central Office Re-architected as Data Center (CORD).

CORD incorporates SDN, NFV and cloud with commodity infrastructure and open building blocks. The CORD solution POC spans the traditional Central Office, access including Gigabit-capable Passive Optical Networks (GPON) and as well as home/enterprise customer premises equipment (CPE).

While AT&T is the first telco to make this shift, Donovan said CORD could have benefits for other traditional telcos and cable MSOs that are rolling out FTTH services.

"We think that the system will not only benefit AT&T, but also other MSOs and carriers alike," Donovan said. "It definitely accelerates the overall innovation ecosystem and that's good news for everybody."

In tandem with its work on CORD, AT&T has developed a software tool that configure OLT devices on a data modeling language called Yang. These Yang models allow AT&T to create and configure software-defined services.

As part of this evolution, AT&T is releasing its customized Yang design tool into the open source through the Open Daylight community.

Donovan said that by releasing this tool through Open Daylight AT&T "will make it easier for developers and collaborators to create services that plug into our SDN framework."

For more:
- see this blog post

Related articles:
AT&T, ONOS Project unveil SDN/NFV solution for central office, home and business locations
AT&T shifts 130K employees to focus on software networking transition
AT&T's Fuetsch: Apple's iOS software updates 'biggest event we worry about' on network