NFV is a network architecture that virtualizes entire classes of network node functions into building blocks that can be connected, or chained, to create communication services. NFV makes use of virtualization technology to place these network functions on high-volume servers, allowing them to be moved or deployed in various locations without the need for new equipment.

Together, these technologies give AT&T customers flexibility to scale their bandwidth up or down, and also quickly add services and locations to their network, using a simple, web-based interface, .

All the infrastructure needed to deliver this on-demand functionality is built into AT&T’s network, so school districts would not need any special equipment of their own to take advantage. For instance, geographically distributed SDN controllers within the AT&T network enable direct network programmability, allowing customers to provision and configure services in near real time.

“We’ve already made the investment and developed the solution,” Chokshi said. “We’re now bringing that functionality to our customers.” As long as the routers and switches they use are Ethernet-compliant, he said, school districts will be able to take advantage of the service.

Pricing for AT&T Switched Ethernet Service with Network on Demand includes a predictable monthly charge, as well as a variable rate that is based on the amount of bandwidth customers use. New capabilities like dynamic bandwidth and the web-based management portal are offered to customers at no additional cost.

School districts would seem to be a key market for the service, given the seasonal variations in their bandwidth needs.

Marie Bjerede, , said she sees value in the service for school districts that don’t want to manage their own wide-area networks.

“The trend toward scalable, on-demand networks allows districts to pay only for the resources they actually use, rather than a flat fee that jumps in increments,” she said. “That is, if they have a one-gigabit pipe, they can pay for the 600 megabits they use most of the time, but burst up to 1G as needed—and only pay for what they use. A flexible, software-managed network readily supports this kind of model.”

School districts that can afford to hire their own network engineers “can build and manage their own software-defined networks,” Bjerede said. But for smaller districts or those that don’t want the hassle of managing their own networks, she said, AT&T’s new service might make a lot of sense.

Trevor Shaw, director of technology for the Dwight-Englewood School in New Jersey, called the new service “exciting.”

“Because of the way the school year exists, schools have very different needs at different times of the year,” he said, “and a solution like this goes a long way to recognizing how those unique aspects of a school’s calendar can be leveraged to save money.”

The service is currently available over fiber in 100-plus major metro areas across the company’s 21-state territory.

The former Editor in Chief of eSchool Media, Dennis Pierce is now a freelance writer. He has been covering education and technology for more than 17 years. Dennis can be reached at denniswpierce@gmail.com.