Making use of microservices, AT&T is improving subscriber experience, slashing coding time and dramatically cutting the time it takes to roll out new products and services to internal and external customers.
"The reason we're doing microservices is cost, speed and quality," Todd Carlton, vice president of Common Platforms & Technology Services at AT&T, told Broadband World News.
"In terms of speed, we're seeing where we have decomposed monolithic apps or begun new services with microservice tenets, we're seeing a 75% decrease in code merge time," he continued. "For the microservices we pushed within our business domain, we are seeing a 60% decrease in turnaround time on defects -- from the time of defect detection to the time of defect correction."
Microservices will make any future product development efforts faster, better and less expensive, said Carlton. Soon AT&T will put into production a microservice cross-correlation engine for Ethernet issues; first, it will detect issues and then correct them, he said.
"We are using microservices to improve the customer experience significantly. We're using microservices to make our dispatch process more efficient," said Carlton. "Clearly we hit on a good approach to developing our software at scale that is helping us in a measured way."
Because they are like building blocks, microservices will empower AT&T to incorporate data such as traffic conditions; technicians' areas of expertise; traffic patterns; customers' networks and devices; and other factors into a call rather than relying on availability, anecdotal information and less consistent data collection, he said. This is all designed to both improve subscriber experience and reduce costs, said Carlton.
Path to progress
Last year, AT&T deployed more than 300 microservices, surpassing its goal by 22%. This year, the service provider will deploy many hundreds more, said Carlton.
That volume growth is driven, in part, by AT&T's recently announced partnership with Accenture, which joined the AT&T Microservices Supplier Program this month. In late 2017, IBM was first to join the program.
Membership may be new, but the integrator's work with AT&T is long-lived, Carlton said. Accenture programmers work alongside AT&T programmers, virtually indistinguishable in their knowledge of the provider's business and technical needs, goals and operations, he said.
AT&T primarily uses microservices in greenfield or brownfield situations, said Carlton.
"Whether it's software-defined networking, business automation or machine learning, just beginning with microservices just makes sense," he said.
That's because areas that require large enhancements or investments are best suited to microservices, according to AT&T. They, after all, offer an architecture that structures an application as a set of loosely joined services, letting AT&T continuously deliver and deploy large, complex applications and evolve its technology stack. The approach complements AT&T's adoption of agile, DevOps methodologies and deployment of open source, standards-based technologies, said Carlton.
In keeping with that philosophy, AT&T shares some of its microservices work although, he was quick to note, there can be a lag between what's available in the open source community and what AT&T is using internally. Last year, for example, AT&T and Tech Mahindra unveiled Acumos, an open source artificial intelligence platform hosted by the Linux Foundation, featuring microservices developed by IBM. (See AT&T Launches New AI, Microservice Initiatives.)