Debunking the Myth that Carriers Are Not SD-WAN Experts

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If you’re an IT leader considering software-defined wide area networking (SD-WAN), you may have a great opportunity this year to hear directly from some of your peers who’ve recently adopted it. Several of these IT managers are generously sharing their experiences, lessons learned and helpful advice by speaking at various conferences around the U.S.

These sessions are valuable opportunities to hear some of the pros and cons of different products and vendors, suggestions on making your transition smooth and all-too-common pitfalls to avoid. With some 60 competing SD-WAN vendors and products, the market is crowded, with a wide range of players, from pure over-the-top providers to major carriers. Hearing directly from another corporate IT manager who’s been through the evaluation, selection and installation process within the past year or two is a tremendous benefit.

As an SD-WAN product manager, it has been more than enlightening sitting in on these sessions and interacting with the presenters. Recently, a speaker made the provocative statement that, “carriers really aren’t experts on SD-WAN.”

With more than 20 years of experience in the telecom industry, specifically in the VPN space and a lot of experience in new product and feature launches, I have a very different perspective. The lifeblood of a carrier is the network, and no customer network can succeed without vast software and engineering expertise to back it. As product managers at network carriers, we are viewed as the conductors of a finely tuned orchestra. That orchestra must include expertise in software-defined networking (SDN) as well as carrier infrastructure so the music (aka customer network) is harmonized perfectly.

While I can’t speak for all carriers, I can definitively point to Comcast’s in-depth expertise in the SDN space. Chances are you’re familiar with our Xfinity X1 service that provides entertainment, internet, voice, apps and more to many thousands of residential and business customers in the U.S. X1 is a virtualized platform that has been developed in Comcast Labs, the technology and innovation arm of the company, over many years.

We applied the same lessons learned in developing the X1 platform to building our Comcast Business ActiveCoreSM SDN platform that powers our SD-WAN and other products to come. It’s built to support other virtualized services, such as routing and firewalls, over the top of Comcast‘s or any other US providers’ network. ActiveCore is built to scale just like Xfinity X1 to support thousands of customers. We could not be in a better position to be a long-term networking partner that builds business solutions for customers.

I encourage anyone – wherever you are on your SD-WAN journey – to keep an open mind and ask the tough questions that will lead to an understanding that helps you make the right decision for your software-defined future.

  • Ask the carrier for details on their SDN/SD-WAN experience; how they developed or acquired their service; what resources they have to support it
  • Ask about any OTT provider’s network underlay and how they manage and support it
  • Ask whether the service you’re considering meets highly available criteria, including multiple underlying connections from different carriers
  • Understand how expedient your potential vendor’s replacement is for equipment failures
  • And be sure to know the last-mile connection, because your new WAN can be only as good as the last mile that connects it to your users

These are exciting times for all of us in the networking world. The opportunities that SD-WAN offers to exponentially increase your bandwidth, speed innovation and time to market activities is powerful. Simultaneously being able to hold down total cost of ownership lets you drive your network, not the other way around. Don’t let the misleading myths out there steer you in the wrong direction.

With so many SD-WAN products and vendors in the market, misinformation is rampant. Getting to the facts will help your software-defined journey succeed.

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