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SD-WAN Roundup: Comcast, Open Systems, Ecessa Court Partners

SDN

SD-WAN is hot, hot, hot.

That five-letter acronym was plastered all over booths and signs at last week’s Channel Partners Conference & Expo. It’s clear to vendors that partners are demanding the technology, and the vendors are responding. Some 60 companies are competing in SD-WAN, according to a Comcast executive, and each is in a race to differentiate its product from the competition.

We talked to several vendors at last week’s show to learn about what makes them unique and where they think the market, and the channel, are trending.

Comcast Eyes New Partners

Comcast Business channel leaders suggest that a new demographic of partners may be adopting their solution soon as agents and managed service providers converge. Craig Schlagbaum, vice president indirect channels, said IT partners like those of Cisco and VMware might choose Comcast for SD-WAN.

The key difference, according to Schlagbaum, is that Comcast owns its own network. A recent Heavy Reading survey of the channel found that 52 percent of partners sell a carrier-based SD-WAN. Cisco and VMware’s respective Viptela and VeloCloud offerings fall into the over-the-top category, which Schlagbaum said won’t cut it for some partners.

Comcast's Craig Schlagbaum

Comcast’s Craig Schlagbaum

“Sooner or later they’re going to have to decide if this offering would be equally attractive to their clients, because sooner or later they’re going to be involved with the network somehow, some way,” he said. “Their customer has to have network for them to manage it.”

Comcast offers SD-WAN outside of its network as well. Jody Hagemann, senior director of SD-WAN product management, said many customers use a combination of Comcast SD-WAN with 4G LTE backup from Verizon.

“If a customer has locations in Denver, Phoenix, L.A., New York and San Francisco, I can handle all of those, even though several of those are Spectrum’s footprint, not Comcast’s,” Schlagbaum said. “We may even sell an ILEC network if it makes sense. Because obviously the customer needs to manage it all over the place, no matter where the network is and who the network is.”

Speaking of Spectrum Enterprise — the fellow cableco launched its own SD-WAN offering last month. The companies’ products are demonstrably different due to Versa Networks supporting Comcast and Nuage Networks supporting Spectrum, but time will tell which offering the channel and its customers prefer.

“A lot of our partners not surprisingly are partners with them too, so they’ll have to be the judge of that at some point in time. If they use us, invariably we’re going to be using Spectrum’s network for the locations that are out of footprint,” Schlagbaum said.

Comcast offers SD-WAN as the first virtual network function (VNF) on its ActiveCore software-defined networking (SDN) platform. Hagemann spoke to us earlier this year, telling us about the company’s plan to roll out …

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