3 2 DON PARENTE has had a front row seat to the transformation of IT networking over the past two decades. Parente, Assistant Vice President of Engineering and Architecture with AT&T, started as an intern at Bellcore (now known as Telcordia Technologies), the research and development company created as part of the AT&T breakup in the early 1980s. He then joined AT&T and has spent more than 20 years with the company. Parente has participated in the transformation of AT&T from telephone company to the largest communications company in the U.S. Government networks have not kept pace with technological change, and a serious capabilities gap has developed. Parente has spent most of his career helping commercial enterprises navigate the transformation of their IT networks. He now wants to put those learnings—and the AT&T advanced network—to work for the Department of Defense and the warfighter. “AT&T has been a leader for more than 140 years, yet is simultaneously a new company focused on software,” said Parente at a recent event sponsored by Government Executive. “By fully embracing the move away from purpose-built hardware to software-enabled networking, we’ve dramatically increased the speed, performance and security of the networks we provide for our customers. Now we want to put those learnings and that network to work for the DoD.” It’s widely known that government typically spends between 70 to 90 percent of IT budgets on maintaining legacy systems. Private sector networks have been transformed over the past decade as companies adapted to the accelerating rate of innovation in the commercial sector. There has been no way for the DoD to keep up, and the networking innovation gap is growing every single year. AT&T has transformed its network due to the explosion of data traffic, driven by the move to mobility. Data traffic on the AT&T network has increased 250,000% in the last decade since 2007. The AT&T global network carries more than 197 petabytes of data traffic on an average business day. There was no possible way to accommodate that kind of growth using legacy hardware—you simply can’t replace one dedicated T-1 line with 2,000. Scalability, speed to market and even limitation of physics necessitated embracing a software-enabled approach to networking. Software-Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV) are the next generation technologies that have transformed commercial networks. Replacing hardware with software in network infrastructure accelerates upgrades while adding unprecedented levels of capacity and flexibility. Businesses across the Fortune 1000 make use of these technologies for their networking requirements, and nearly all of the Fortune 1000 are AT&T customers. Software makes it so much easier to add new capacity. Much of today’s purpose-built hardware, such as routers and firewalls, may soon go the way of the VHS tape. An analogy for this networking move is the smartphone that so many people carry with them today. Modern smartphones virtualize a range of services that used to require disparate devices—cameras, navigation tools, clocks and camcorders. This move to virtualization also means that adding capabilities and functions can be as easy as downloading a new application. As these devices become more powerful, the data traffic on the supporting network explodes. LEADING THE FUTURE This move to virtualization also means that adding capabilities and functions can be as easy as downloading a new application.