Realize the Promise of a Virtualized Multi-Service Ecosystem

Comcast Business ActiveCore℠ SDN platform provides a multi-service ecosystem that is truly changing network management. Jody Hagemann of Comcast led a panel discussion at last year’s ONUG conference that explained how ActiveCore is providing users with the flexibility and customization they need to develop technology solutions to meet mission-critical business needs. Joining her were ActiveCore partners Jonathan Nguyen-Duy of Fortinet, Kelly Ahuja of Versa Networks and Conrad Menezes of HP: Aruba.

This informative keynote focused on how ActiveCore orchestrates best-in-class network functions from various technology partners to deliver a platform that delivers affordable, reliable customization to its users.

Hagemann used the illustration of a smartphone to explain ActiveCore’s role. Smartphones represent a universal CPE, combining all the devices we used to carry around (phone, camera, GPS, MP3 player, video recorder, etc.) The apps on your smartphone represent the virtual network functions on ActiveCore.

Next, each panel member explained their role in the function of ActiveCore. You’ll notice a common thread, the customer experience. Here are some highlights from each participant.

Jonathan Nguyen-Duy: “It’s about delivering a superior customer experience.”
Nguyen-Duy emphasized that the objective of ActiveCore really isn’t building a tech stack or improving network management. It’s about delivering a superior customer experience. You must continue to “wow” the end user. We need service providers and partners because it’s a complex objective. It’s difficult to deliver 5G with high orders of security and privacy across a hybrid environment. Fortinet helps service providers manage that complexity with an integrated stack of security complexities.

All data breaches over the last few years comes down to gaps in three main areas: visibility, detection and automated response. The reason cybersecurity has failed over the last 20 years is because of the complexity. “That complexity is only going to increase as we go to hybrid environments,” warned Nguyen-Duy. However, end users still expect a really great customer experience. As a result, enterprises are trying to manage those expectations and deliver them in a seamless way. That’s why they are looking to Comcast.

Solutions such as ActiveCore enable companies to manage the complexity of their networking environment, so they can focus on the core competency of what their organization really does. Fortinet brings the security stack to the table. Firewall, IPS capabilities, AV, URL filtering and app control are all integrated in a seamless way, backed by threat intel. The result is a seamless environment where security and privacy are in the background, and companies can really focus on the customer experience.

Kelly Ahuja: “Success is always defined by user and application experience.”
Ahuja summed up the role of the network this way: “Deliver a secured and optimal user to application experience.” Over the last few decades, Versa Networks has built many types of networks, from satellite to radios to MPLS. At the end of the day, success is always defined by user and application experience. As digital transformation has prompted more adoption of cloud and multi cloud infrastructures, networks need to be more intelligent. That involves being user and application aware so that “the right thing gets guided to the right place at the right time.”

Additionally, this process must be fully automated. Versa Networks fundamentally believes this is the job of the network. They understand most IT teams have existing or “brownfield” environments. Users must be able to have a smooth migration from today’s architecture to tomorrow’s.

Within ActiveCore, Versa Networks sits as a bare metal appliance that can host other virtual functions/applications. Ahuja explained that Versa Networks can sit beside Fortinet, an Aruba wireless access point or other device, and physically chain it together. The result is seamless automation that is required by Comcast, so they can deliver the flexibility and services that will fit inside the user’s environment.

Conrad Menezes: “The end user experience is foremost in mind.”
Getting back to Hagemann’s smartphone analogy, Menezes says he’s often asked why we can’t have the simplicity of the smartphone in relation to the network. Customers do not want to deal with the complexity of networks. They want to focus on the applications that the business is consuming. HP: Aruba is able to provide that level of intelligence. They are helping customers manage not just traffic across WAN links, but what is happening on the wired side too.

The end user experience is foremost in mind. HP:Aruba focuses on the endpoint. Infrastructure is getting more complex as IoT is entering the domain. AP: Aruba’s objective is to provide a solution that simplifies the end user experience and makes management easy for IT operators. For example, “we give you a single pane of glass for wireless, wired and WAN networks,” explained Menezes. Tickets are not flying around across different desks and different teams. Simplifying the process for the IT team allows them to focus on bringing innovation and implementing new projects. Eighty percent of time should be spent moving the innovation needle, and only 20 percent of IT time should be spent on operations.

Jody Hagemann: “Comcast is focused on how users want to interact with the network.”
Comcast is focused on how users want to interact with the network. Portals, mobile apps and Alexa are ways the company is focused on “how you want to interact with us.”

Predictive analytics is another part of the customer experience Hagamann says Comcast is focused on. Customers want to know how their network is performing over time. For example, “Why are we seeing a lot of traffic every Tuesday at 5 p.m.”

Customers are pushing for detail. They want to know about their usage and be able to plan for bandwidth allocation. A multi-service ecosystem might not be easy, but it’s about meeting customer demand. Hagemann emphasized that 2019 has been about figuring out how customers want to consume information.

In a nutshell, Comcast has simplified the buying, deploying and operating experience. Greater detail. Greater security. Greater options. Greater customization. That’s how the panel summed up ActiveCore.

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