Comcast Picks Versa for SASE Service


By: Mary Jander

Comcast Business has picked Versa Networks to supply its ActiveCore software-defined networking (SDN) platform with secure access service edge (SASE) capabilities — bypassing a series of partners, including Cisco (Nasdaq: CSCO).

The news is no surprise. Since SASE is an outgrowth of the software-defined wide-area networking (SD-WAN) market, it makes sense that many service providers, including the cable companies, have looked to their SD-WAN partners for SASE services. This put Versa in a good position with Comcast Business.

In 2017, Versa provided the SD-WAN capabilities that made Comcast Business the first cable provider to extend virtual WAN services to large and mid-sized enterprises. In June 2019, Versa was presumed to be behind Comcast Business’s introduction of its virtual managed router. And in April 2021, Comcast picked Versa to enhance ActiveCore with artificial intelligence (AI) to optimize SD-WAN traffic.

Cisco Didn’t Make the Cut

While Cisco Meraki supplied Comcast Business with WiFi-enabled gear for the provider’s Teleworker VPN solution for remote workers this past February, Cisco’s Umbrella SASE solution didn’t make it into ActiveCore’s SASE.

At least three other Comcast Business partners — whose security solutions are already incorporated in ActiveCore advanced security services —aren’t mentioned in today’s SASE announcement, including Akamai (Nasdaq: AKAM) and Fortinet (Nasdaq: FTNT), whose technologies made it into ActiveCore in September 2019; and Palo Alto Networks (NYSE: PANW), whose Prisma Access was adopted by Comcast in March 2021.

It seems those solutions are still in the mix, though perhaps not to the extent that Versa’s is. Shena Tharnish, VP of cybersecurity products at Comcast Business, told Fierce Telecom that Versa’s SASE platform offered on-premises threat protection that Palo Alto’s Prisma does not. It seems Comcast Business is eager to have a choice of solutions to fit particular customer needs, though Versa’s solution may be the long-term favorite.

The Rising Tide of SASE

Just as Comcast Business was in the vanguard of SD-WAN services among cable providers, it seems to be among the first in its class to offer a SASE-specific service for enterprises. But it’s likely that won’t be the case for long. SASE is red-hot these days, and the trend has hit traditional telecom providers such as AT&T and Verizon, which both announced SASE services recently — AT&T via Fortinet technology, and Verizon with Versa and Zscaler.

But if Comcast’s example is prescient, many projects that start out with multiple vendors will end up with just one or two. SASE is a model that can include many aspects of security —which is one of the reasons it’s become a battle cry not just for SD-WAN players but cybersecurity vendors too — and platforms like Versa’s will get more comprehensive over time. Service providers’ eagerness to support multiple products with differing feature lists will likely dwindle.

Comcast’s choice of Versa is a warning that a rising tide may lift all boats, but not all will make it to shore.