Comcast partnered with Versa Networks last year.

James Anderson, Senior News Editor

April 24, 2018

3 Min Read

**Editor’s Note: Read our list of 20 top SD-WAN providers offering products and services via channel partners.**

Software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN) is a key strategy for Comcast Business as it attacks the enterprise market.

“We are enterprise-ready, and this platform is ready to sell against any competitor out there today, and we’re beginning to see traction now,” said Craig Schlagbaum, Comcast Business’ vice president of indirect channels.


Comcast Business’ Craig Schlagbaum

Comcast says it’s the only cable provider to offer SD-WAN. The company announced a partnership with Versa Networks last year and rolled out SD-WAN and an SDN platform last Fall.

Schlagbaum told Channel Partners in an interview at last week’s Channel Partners Conference & Expo that the company has a competitive advantage because it both offers an SDN platform and the network.

“We think there [are] quite a few providers out there that are going to say they offer SDN/SD-WAN, but we’re one of the few companies that’s a service provider that can sell both the network plus SDN as a platform,” Schlagbaum said. “That is very unique and highly valuable to customers, because their experience is going to be superior, we think, to any of the over-the-top providers, because you have one neck to choke.”

Schlagbaum said Comcast traditionally has been known for serving small and medium-size businesses with coax and broadband.


Comcast Business’ Jeff Lewis

“As much as we sell in the SMB space – that’s our forte – the bigger part of growth now is in midmarket space. And most of our partners are selling in the space. At least half of our sales are coming from that, and half of those are coming from multisite opportunities,” he said.

SD-WAN helps with the scaling. Jeff Lewis, Comcast Business’ vice president of data product management, said the company already had a strong Layer 2 solution and Ethernet but needed a Layer 3 VPN product.

He says the company looked for an SD-WAN partner that could assist in reaching the enterprise. Multi-tenancy was a crucial feature. Lewis says Versa caught Comcast’s eye for being “higher up in the stack in terms of orchestrating VNFs.”

The platform has the stated goal of offering numerous SDN services, including managed router, unified threat management, managed firewall and virtualized session border controllers. Lewis said customers can choose a number of different labels and brands for those functions.

“The idea is to not lock customers into a certain solution,” Lewis said. “One of the things we’re very allergic to is vendor-lock. We very much aspire to give the customers choice.”

Lewis told Channel Partners that visibility is one of the more underappreciated aspects of SD-WAN. Comcast Business has branded its offering as one with a single pane of glass, easy navigation, and harmonized …… alarms and traffic. The solution has a mobile app designed to give the customer an easy interface.

“It’s not really a story of simplification, although simplification is certainly one of the tenants involved in this. It’s bringing the information forward and making it actionable quickly for the customers,” Lewis said.

Lewis says no carriers were offering SD-WAN when Comcast began planning on how to roll it out. 2017 saw a stampede of carriers partnering with vendors to adopt the technology, with Versa, Viptela and VeloCloud being popular beneficiaries. A recent study by Cato Networks showed that carrier SD-WAN increased among customers last year.

Comcast has been skeptical about the long-term future of MPLS and has emphasized the importance of avoiding vendor-lock. Lewis restated the theme of how Comcast supplies both bandwidth and the platform.

“And I would argue, in many ways to the best of our knowledge, [carriers are] not where we are in terms of an architecture,” he said.

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About the Author(s)

James Anderson

Senior News Editor, Channel Futures

James Anderson is a news editor for Channel Futures. He interned with Informa while working toward his degree in journalism from Arizona State University, then joined the company after graduating. He writes about SD-WAN, telecom and cablecos, technology services distributors and carriers. He has served as a moderator for multiple panels at Channel Partners events.

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