Comcast's New SDN Platform Powers The Industry's First Cable-Delivered SD-WAN Service

Comcast Business revealed its first software-defined networking platform and application for advanced network management. SD-WAN is the first service the new platform is powering.

The software-based platform called ActiveCore lets enterprise customers manage networks across multiple locations, branch offices or data centers. An industry first, the platform is cable-delivered, a connectivity option that has only recently become part of many enterprise network architectures.

Unlike many telecom providers, Comcast isn't concerned with cannibalizing MPLS revenue streams since the cable provider never had one, Craig Schlagbaum, vice president of indirect channels for Comcast Business, told CRN.

[Related: Comcast Beta-Testing SD-WAN Offering In Collaboration With Versa Networks]

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"This is a brand new revenue stream for partners and for us," Schlagbaum said. "We are going to aggressively push this offering through channel partners to customers and solve a lot of business problems along the way."

The channel has sold many MPLS and T1-based connectivity offerings in the past that are starting to reach the end-of-life. SD-WAN lets partners augment or replace these private connectivity options with cheaper connectivity, like broadband. Comcast's new SD-WAN service, coupled with its robust network, provides a "tremendous opportunity" for the channel, Schlagbaum said.

"Partners can go to their base of customers and upgrade and deploy SD-WAN to help clients with their cloud-based needs, and offer support and services around SD-WAN," he said.

For cable providers, selling SD-WAN is "all positive," according to Adam Edwards, co-founder and CEO of master agent Telarus, a Comcast partner.

"The incumbent carriers have a lot of MPLS out there, and their best outcome is if they can refresh it, but for cable providers, it's all upside because they haven't been let in to those conversations before," Edwards said.

Comcast Business' SD-WAN service is powered by Versa networks. The service, which includes a homegrown portal built by Comcast, combines secure IP VPN, application-aware routing, and a stateful network firewall, the company said. The service can be delivered over the public internet using Comcast's broadband offerings, including its scalable coax-based services and its Business Internet 1 Gig service – the DOCSIS 3.1-based gigabit broadband product that is available in several markets across the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Central U.S. regions.

Schlagbaum said that the SD-WAN offering can also run over third-party connectivity options, and the service can be deployed nationwide by Comcast's partner base.

The SDN platform, combined with the management application, makes the SD-WAN solution unique, while also living up to the promise of SD-WAN but letting customers take advantage of the different kinds of connections they already have, Telarus' Edwards said.

"The app that lets businesses monitor, control, and visualize their networks through an app, which I think is pretty advanced. I don't see others doing that," Edwards said.

Comcast partners can use the app to manage networks on behalf of their end customers, Schlagbaum said. Solution providers can earn recurring revenue on not only bandwidth and the SD-WAN service, but on network management services that solution providers may choose to wrap around the product, too.

It's just the beginning for the ActiveCore platform, according to Schlagbaum, which will power additional software-defined services down the road, such as unified threat management (UTM).