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To core or not: Microsoft updates market on AT&T network cloud acquisition

To core or not: Microsoft updates market on AT&T network cloud acquisition

AT&T’s decision to sell its 5G Network Cloud software last summer caused some head-scratching in the industry especially when AT&T insisted the sale did not mean it was outsourcing its 5G network to Microsoft, which was what most thought was happening. Six months plus later Microsoft’s VP of 5G strategy has given us an update in the form of a blog post on the acquisition and what it means for both companies.

The blog begins by going through the history of Network Cloud. AT&T began bringing SDWAN to its network early, almost ten years ago in 2013, and by 2020 75% of its network was virtualized (exactly what that means was not spelled out).  As there was no commercial SD-WAN software when this project started AT&T developed its own and that evolved into Network Cloud.

This group is clearly highly valued by Microsoft and is in the process of being ‘integrated’ into the Azure for Operators team. Microsoft feels that the benefits it has delivered in the enterprise sphere are directly applicable in the network space. The experiment it is referring to there means workloads running on a cloud in both off- and on-premise locations and at the edge as well as the core.

The effort is multi-vendor, Microsoft says. The hybrid cloud technology that supports the AT&T core network spans more than sixty cloud-native functions and virtual network functions from more than fifteen vendors.

Microsoft certainly has one of the most interesting plays in the market when it comes to 5G and network virtualization. Its acquisition of MetaSwitch and Affirmed Networks brought it considerable in-house expertise when it comes to building carrier clouds and virtual networks. The question now is only how many other operators it can persuade to share its vision.

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