AT&T Inc. T +0.20% says that by year-end it will begin to roll out the first services based on its new virtual network, which is controlled mostly by software rather than hardware.
Beyond lowering costs and speeding the deployment of services, the shift makes it possible for customers to manage their telecom services on their own, in real time, over the cloud.
AT&T said Tuesday that it had been testing the service at the University of Texas at Austin and that it will be available commercially in the city of Austin by year’s end.
Beginning next year AT&T will roll out on-demand services for businesses in Houston, San Antonio, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Dallas, said Roman Pacewicz, AT&T senior vice president of marketing and global strategy.
In creating these services, AT&T is redesigning its network to be more software-centric rather than hardware-centric, enabling the company to more easily automate service delivery to customers.
The effort marks the first service made available through the telecom provider’s move to virtualize hardware in its public network, which it announced in February.
Virtualization began years ago with mainframes but grew in popularity over the past decade with server virtualization and the ability to put several server operating systems on one physical machine. Server virtualization helped pave the way for modern data centers and many kinds of cloud computing.
Many people believe that the impact of network virtualization will be just as great, making it possible to reconfigure networks online with a few clicks instead of today’s laborious manual process.
AT&T’s ability to more easily manipulate network equipment using software means that business customers can get new service in just a couple of days instead of 60 to 90 days, said John Donovan, senior executive vice president of AT&T architecture, technology and operations. And now, in minutes, customers will be able to increase bandwidth, which once took 30 to 45 days, he added.
Support for Microsoft MSFT -0.51% Windows Server to End
A large number of businesses still run Microsoft Windows Server 2003, and it’s unlikely that all of them will have upgraded before Microsoft Corp. ends support on July 14, 2015, say analysts. Companies that don’t upgrade increase their cybersecurity risks because the company will no longer issue security updates and these systems will be more vulnerable to hackers.
Businesses world-wide run an estimated 23.8 million physical and virtual instances of Windows Server 2003, according to data released by Microsoft in July 2014. Analysts say the technology is more prevalent in industries such as health care, utilities and government.
“Microsoft does not plan to extend support for Windows Server 2003 and encourages customers who currently run Windows Server 2003 and have not yet begun migration planning to do so immediately,” said Vivecka Budden, a Microsoft spokeswoman.
“In general, everyone has been slow to migrate,” said Rob Helm, vice president of research at Directions on Microsoft consulting firm.
The problem in industries such as health care and utilities is that companies run legacy apps written by vendors who still require Windows Server 2003.
For now, analysts are recommending that companies work out their risk of exposure and make plans to first migrate those applications that will be most difficult.
Companies should make plans to harden servers that can’t be updated. That might entail putting those systems on an isolated network, where they’d be less prone to outside attack, Mr. Helm said.