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New AT&T Network on Demand service provides Cisco virtual router, more

The latest AT&T Network on Demand service provides virtualized versions of Cisco or Juniper routers, Fortinet firewalls or Riverbed WAN optimization technology.

AT&T has introduced a cloud-managed appliance that enterprises would use as a virtual router, firewall or WAN optimizer at the edge of the network. The device is the latest offering in the AT&T Network on Demand strategy.

Called Network Functions on Demand, the customer premises equipment delivers virtualized versions of Cisco or Juniper Networks routers, Fortinet firewalls or Riverbed Technology software for WAN optimization. AT&T manages the services provided through the x86-based appliance.

The latest product is a "significant evolution" in AT&T's Network on Demand strategy, said Brad Casemore, an analyst at IDC. The strategy involves leveraging cloud computing and virtualized network functions to reduce the time it takes to deliver and modify WAN services from weeks to days.

The latest offering is attractive, in part, because of the well-known networking suppliers chosen for the initial launch. "The vendors and their network functions are a big part of the draw," Casemore said.

AT&T plans to offer more services, such as a wireless controller, said Roman Pacewicz, the head of global strategy for AT&T business products.

The Network Functions on Demand device replaces the physical hardware serving a branch office or multiple office locations. "Basically, it's the same functionality -- just virtualized and sitting on a purpose-built appliance," Pacewicz said.

Home appliance maker Fisher & Paykel Appliances Ltd., based in East Tamaki, New Zealand, uses AT&T's latest service to route network traffic across office locations worldwide, according to AT&T. Besides New Zealand, AT&T is offering Network Functions on Demand in 75 other countries.

AT&T configures the appliance to the customer's specifications and then manages the service remotely. The vendor declined to provide pricing or the device manufacturer. Pacewicz said AT&T could add more manufacturers later.

ECOMP is behind AT&T Network on Demand services

Network Functions on Demand is the latest offering stemming from the AT&T Network on Demand platform, which also delivers two other products: Switched Ethernet on Demand and Managed Internet Service on Demand. The former lets companies provision and scale networks faster, while the latter lets customers increase or lower the bandwidth of broadband services as needed.

The intelligence behind AT&T Network on Demand products is a software-defined networking platform, called Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy. ECOMP is used to create and manage the Network on Demand services.

ECOMP can deliver the service directly to customers' appliances or via AT&T's distributed clouds, Pacewicz said. The latter are OpenStack environments running instances of services.

This month, AT&T said it would make ECOMP available as an open source platform through the Linux Foundation. The carrier is hoping the telecom industry will adopt ECOMP as a standard for creating and managing virtual network functions.

French carrier Orange announced Wednesday it signed an agreement to work with AT&T on standardization efforts for software-defined networking and network functions virtualization technologies. Both architectures are at the core of AT&T's Network on Demand services.

"We're committed to defining a framework that will accelerate the adoption of SDN," Pacewicz said in a statement. "Driving the industry toward a standardized approach will reduce the cost and complexity created by proprietary implementation of equipment in the network and on the customer premise."

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