NEW YORK -- Future of Cable Business Services -- A fair bit of ink has been given over to the SD-WAN plans of Comcast and Charter, but it turns out that Cox is also building an SD-WAN business. Speaking at Light Reading's Future of Cable Business Services event, executive director Dan Estes announced that Cox is trialing an SD-WAN product "as we speak."
Why is Cox Communications Inc. jumping on the SD-WAN bandwagon? Well, the financial prospects are certainly appealing. According to Jeff Lewis, VP of connectivity services for Comcast Business, the SD-WAN market is a $10 billion to $16 billion opportunity.
But SD-WAN products are also only the tip of the iceberg for cable companies. Cox, Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Charter Communications Inc. have all developed platforms with partners that are designed to run multiple virtual network functions, i.e. not just an SD-WAN product, but other VNFs as well. The operators freely admit that their platforms aren't entirely software-driven or open today, but that's where they're headed.
The goal is to be able to use these platforms in the future to offer VNFs from multiple providers to address multiple application needs. (See also Comcast Packs More Powerful SD-WAN Punch.)
"The platform that we've selected is a proprietary platform," says Cox's Estes. "It's got its own software package that they're bringing to the table. And it is the vision that we would extend that over time to be more of a software-defined network," and a more open platform as well.
Future use cases for these platforms include virtualized security services, virtualized router offerings and much, much more.
Cox, like Comcast and Charter Spectrum Enterprise , is also going nationwide with its new platform, and with the SD-WAN product specifically. This naturally suggests that cable companies will find themselves competing for business customers, even though MSOs more typically operate in regional, non-overlapping territories. (See Will SD-WANs Spark Cable Competition?.)
However, Satya Parimi, Group VP of data and cloud products for Spectrum Enterprise, notes that cablecos have competed for a few years already with multi-region accounts, selling connectivity to each other when a customer is out of footprint.
"A lot of time the footprint kind of solves for the problem," he points out. For example if the customer is "a Texas-heavy business, we cover a lot of Texas, and we have owner's economics."
As for the future of cable SD-WAN and other VNF sales, the cable companies getting into this space recognize that there are opportunities not just in selling specific products, but also in providing managed services to make sure new and legacy networks and network applications all work together.
"It is absolutely a requirement that we're all prepared to be able to engage with the customer," says Lewis, pointing out that enterprise customers expect that level of attention in addition to the fact that it creates a new revenue opportunity.
According to Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) VP of product and solutions marketing Daniela Permutter, the combination of connectivity products and managed services in the business services arena represents a $1.5 trillion market globally. There is good reason for cable companies to be paying attention.
— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading