Comcast teams with Versa to give SD-WAN new smarts

Comcast Business gateway
A new SD-WAN feature Comcast Business built with Versa Networks could move the industry closer to achieving self-healing networks. (Comcast)

Comcast Business rolled out a new artificial intelligence (AI) feature for its SD-WAN offering that will allow networks to more proactively respond to service degradation, taking what one operator executive described as a significant step toward self-healing technology.

Jeff Lewis, VP of ActiveCore product and operations at Comcast Business, told Fierce that IT managers previously had to manually prioritize digital content, using static rules to direct traffic over the right path. However, a new enhanced routing capability developed with Versa Networks will enable a proactive rather than reactive approach, ditching if-then actions in favor of using AI to better understand network conditions and automatically prioritize and route traffic accordingly, he said.

“The thing that’s going on here is we are intentionally tying together our knowledge of both the overlay and underlay, the transport," he said, adding that most other players in the industry “don’t think this way.”

Apurva Mehta, CTO of Versa Networks, said in a statement the algorithm behind the feature “provides Comcast Business with a powerful ability to steer traffic for any application, including real-time over optimal transport paths. Additionally, this enables them to help minimize down time and deliver the best application user experience with fast switchover when any transport degrades or fails.”

Lewis noted the solution will allow enterprise customers still struggling to cope with pandemic-related stresses on their business to “worry less about how their network is performing.”

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He said Comcast Business spent the last six months developing the proprietary capability, highlighting it as a first step toward achieving “a network that can self-heal.”

“This is something that we literally live everyday to think about what’s the next step in self healing,” Lewis said. “A lot of this is based on algorithms and data lakes, being able to say ‘oh my gosh I have all this information. What am I doing with it on behalf of the customer and on behalf of the network?’”

He said next steps will focus on integrating security insights to “allow us to heal networks, route traffic, protect sites and protect customer networks” proactively when attacks occur.