AT&T is in the process of introducing a sophisticated network creation and management platform. It’s also promoting it to other carriers.
The Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management & Policy (ECOMP) platform is comprised of 8.5 million lines of computer code. It is, according to Chris Rice, the vice president of Advanced Technologies & Architecture for AT&T Labs, a sophisticated networking software suite that automates cloud-based networking. Carriers running their software-defined network (SDN) platforms from within the cloud can use ECOMP to create, operate and manage network elements. Rice told Telco Transformation what ECOMP is comprised of:
Right now there are eight major components within ECOMP. There is orchestration of the virtual machine for compute, networking, storage, management and measurement. We do controllers for network and application that configure the network plan as well as monitor applications. We have a data collection and an analytic engine to monitor and compute KPIs and policy engines to allow us to embed the intelligence we've created over the years. All the data is in the cloud. The VNFs are in a geo-redundant database that allows us to track inventory of what is active and available to use. There is a service design and creation environment that allows us to build and store infrastructure and service resource elements that allow us to build things going forward.
The goal of ECOMP, and fulfillment of AT&T’s overall network strategy, is to break big functions, such as firewalls, routers and gateways, into their granular elements. These elements would be agilely and automatically reconfigured and rearranged into other functions as necessary. This will be done from the cloud and directed by ECOMP. Light Reading’s Carol Wilson detailed the ”cloud function virtualization” vision as described by Distinguished Member of AT&T’s Technical Staff Tom Anschutz at a Light Reading conference last month:
The combination of SDN, an NFV infrastructure cloud and what Anschutz called "cloud-FV" -- network functions now offered as generic software -- with a common orchestration system, which at AT&T is its ECOMP, is what will deliver the true power of the next generation of virtualization.
AT&T is implementing ECOMP both for internal functions and for use by corporate customers. The carrier is also looking to make it the standard for fulfilling this function across the industry. In July, AT&T said that it would make ECOMP available to the open source community via the Linux Foundation. Last week, Rice wrote in an AT&T blog that the open source contribution will occur during the first quarter of next year. He also reiterated last week that the company would invite Orange to “join our ECOMP ecosystem.” That announcement was also made in July.
There is no doubt that networking is changing radically and with great speed. ECOMP is an effort to manage and regulate the new approaches in a way that allows the fullest value of virtualization to be realized. What remains to be seen is whether other carriers feel that way as well.
Carl Weinschenk covers telecom for IT Business Edge. He writes about wireless technology, disaster recovery/business continuity, cellular services, the Internet of Things, machine-to-machine communications and other emerging technologies and platforms. He also covers net neutrality and related regulatory issues. Weinschenk has written about the phone companies, cable operators and related companies for decades and is senior editor of Broadband Technology Report. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and via twitter at @DailyMusicBrk.