NEW YORK -- "Alexa, how is my network doing?" The question might have once seemed futuristic, but getting an answer is now a reality for Comcast Business customers.
The service provider supports Alexa integration with its ActiveCore platform, which includes its managed software-defined WAN service, said Jody Hagemann, director of product management at Comcast Business, at the ONUG conference in New York City this week.
Comcast Business' SD-WAN product, released a little over a year ago, has attracted customers from all over the spectrum, including healthcare and financial verticals, Hagemann said.
"Usually, where we have the most success is with existing customers that already have our underlying transport," she added. When customers are happy with Comcast's underlying broadband and hear they can increase performance with SD-WAN, they get intrigued, she said.
But it's crucial for customers to choose SD-WAN for the right reason -- not just because it's a shiny new technology that promises benefits.
"We're finding it's important for customers to understand why they want this technology," she said. "How is it going to make their lives easier?"
One way Comcast Business hopes to do so is through its mobile app and support for Alexa integration -- both of which allow IT managers at all expertise levels to manage the network on the go.
"We have a lot of nontechnical customers using it that need to maintain the network," Hagemann said. "They don't want to log in to a portal or maybe even a mobile app, but they're willing to talk to a voice assistant."
The Alexa integration capability originated when a customer told Comcast Business how he or she spends the day driving around Silicon Valley and wanted the ability to know how the network was performing, according to Hagemann.
"Most IT managers said they were in reactive mode," she said. "They were always waiting for the network to break and then they had to troubleshoot and fix it. We want to supply them with the abilities they need to proactively manage the network."
With the Alexa integration, IT managers can ask specifically about their ActiveCore networks and get a response. Alexa feeds customers network analytics, indicates which sites are down and generates additional reports.
Meantime, Comcast Business recently rolled out its 1 Gb broadband, which Hagemann said customers can use alongside their SD-WAN. Hagemann said the upgrade will give customers more flexibility when designing their SD-WAN deployments, lessening concerns about bandwidth constraints as networks scale.