Moving forward, the AT&T cloud strategy will rely on a hybrid approach, explained Chris Rice, senior vice president for AT&T Labs, in a blog post this week. The hybrid strategy calls for AT&T to operate its own private cloud to support network functionality while using the public cloud for more generic business functionality such as billing, customer care, human resources and finance.
The hybrid approach is a departure from AT&T’s initial approach to the cloud, which involved using a single private cloud to support network and other business functionality, Rice explained.
“[W]e quickly learned it wasn’t optimal to combine both types of workloads on a single cloud,” said Rice. “It required too many compromises, and the IT and network workloads needed different profiles of compute, network and storage.”
After recognizing this, AT&T opted to create a private cloud, known simply as “Network Cloud” that is “optimized specifically for AT&T network workloads” and which uses open-source software running on commodity and white box hardware, Rice said.
This approach, he said, “lets us keep costs down and innovate at a speed unmatched in the industry.”
AT&T Cloud Strategy
According to Rice, the foundation of the AT&T Network Cloud is an “under-cloud platform” called Airship – an open infrastructure project that the company launched last year with SKT, Intel and the OpenStack Foundation. Airship, he said, enables AT&T to automate “what used to be the mostly manual process of building, managing and upgrading our cloud.”
“Think days rather than weeks and minutes rather than hours, all without major service interruptions,” Rice continued. “And because it’s open-source, it’s a platform others in the industry can take advantage of, too.”
Among other things, Rice said the AT&T Network Cloud houses AT&T’s new mobile 5G packet core.
Meanwhile, moving non-network applications to the public cloud “allows us to take advantage of the elasticity and cloud economics while letting us focus on what we as a company do best: deploying and running world-class networks,” Rice said.
Rice said he expects most non-network cloud workloads to be moved to the public cloud by 2024.
Rice’s blog post also clarifies the role that various AT&T cloud partners will play in the AT&T cloud strategy: