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Comcast networking adds ActiveCore SD-WAN; AT&T NetBond tackles cloud

Comcast networking now includes the new ActiveCore SD-WAN platform. The company is the first U.S. cable operator to offer the SDN service. Meanwhile, AT&T has unveiled better cloud connectivity.

Comcast Business has launched its software-defined networking platform for managed services, and rival AT&T, which introduced its SDN platform last year, is focusing on providing connectivity to multiple clouds.

The announcements, made this week, demonstrates how the managed service providers are leveraging SDN to deliver network services to enterprises. Comcast Business, a subsidiary of cable company Comcast, launched SD-WAN as the first Comcast networking offering on the ActiveCore platform while AT&T is focusing on improving cloud connectivity.

Comcast is the first U.S. cable company to provide a managed SD-WAN service, which will compete with similar offerings from internet service providers and telcos, including AT&T. Comcast Business is using Versa Network's SD-WAN, which Comcast had been making available to enterprises on a trial basis since May.

SD-WAN provides companies with more efficient use of network connections at branch offices. Administrators can configure the software to direct latency-sensitive traffic, such as video conferencing, over highly reliable MPLS links while lower priority traffic is sent to cheaper broadband connections. Companies also use SD-WAN to incorporate 4G LTE as a backup link.

SD-WAN as a managed service on Comcast networking

Network service providers are launching SD-WAN-as-a-service products to grab a share of a fast-growing market. Worldwide revenue from SD-WAN is growing by 90% annually and will top $6 billion by 2020, according to IDC. Service providers will account for more than a third of the overall market.

Comcast hosts its SD-WAN controller in its data center and provides customers with an on-premises device that connects to the software. The company plans to launch other services on ActiveCore, which is essentially a platform for running and managing virtualized network functions (VNF). Comcast provides a customer portal for configuring services.

The cable operator pairs ActiveCore with its upgraded DOCSIS 3.1 Comcast networking service, which provides 1 Gbps internet speeds.

AT&T NetBond for Cloud

In March 2016, AT&T introduced its SDN platform, called Enhanced Control, Orchestration, Management and Policy, or ECOMP. The software platform is used to deliver a variety of on-demand network services, including Ethernet connectivity, IP VPNs and other WAN services.

The latest version of NetBond for Cloud is a separate software-based service for routing traffic directly from customer locations to multiple cloud environments. The service connects through a MPLS-based private VPN.

NetBond, according to AT&T, avoids traffic slowdowns that occur when cloud traffic has to go through a company's data center before heading to the internet. Also, AT&T can automatically increase bandwidth to accommodate unexpected or peak traffic loads.

AT&T first introduced NetBond in 2013. Since then, more than 20 companies providing cloud-based services have joined the NetBond partner program. They include Amazon, Box, IBM, Microsoft and Salesforce.

Next Steps

Choosing a managed network service provider

Building an effective MSP pricing plan

How to get started with internet of things managed services

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