Software-Defined Networks (SDN)

Increasing Data Traffic and the Need for Software-Defined Networks (SDN)

Network traffic growth trends are outpacing the ability to keep up with the traditional, hardware-centric network model.

  • Data traffic on our AT&T wireless network has grown more than 250,000% since 2007, and most of that traffic is video.
  • More than 150 petabytes of data cross our AT&T network every day.
  • New applications like the Internet of Things, 4K video, and virtual reality and augmented reality are expected to push that demand even higher in the years ahead.
  • To meet future network traffic needs and give our customers more control of their network services, we are moving to a software-centric network model. This means that growth can be handled simply by using software (computer code) to provide more network capacity.

How AT&T is moving to a Software-Defined Networks (SDN)

The telecom industry used to spend years developing switches, routers and other physical gear to run our network. Today that model is unsustainable.

  • Telecom operators traditionally relied on a “bottom-up” network build model, using expensive, specialized, single-purpose hardware.
  • That model worked in a world where the majority of traffic was voice, which grew slowly and predictably.
  • But today, apps (and even entire industries) can spring up almost overnight, quickly creating new sources of network traffic.
  • Other online companies address this with a “top- down” model. This means that they use software to provide functionality and scalability on inexpensive and replaceable hardware.

At AT&T, we’re adopting that same approach for our network. We’re becoming a software company.

The technology we’re using in this transformation is complex, but the concept is simple and familiar to any smartphone user. It’s like moving from devices to apps.

  • We’re doing at the network level what smartphone users have been doing on a personal level for the last several years – we’re turning devices into software, cloud-based apps.
  • All of the physical, specialized gadgets that used to weigh you down (CD player, video game console, video camera, tape recorder, fitness tracker, alarm clock, etc.) are now mobile apps on your phone or tablet.
  • Moving the functions of those individual devices into software running on a standard hardware device saves time, money and physical space. You have all these apps on one device, with you wherever you go.
  • Upgrades happen with a single tap and download rather than buying a new device when new features become available.
  • When those apps are in the cloud, you can access them when and where you want.



Download AT&T’s SDN network transition one pager.
Download AT&T’s One Pager on SDN.