One Mission: Making a Powerful Network Smarter
(The Comcast Labs blog is a place where our technologists talk about the work they are doing, the products they are building, and the trends and developments that are shaping the future of technology. Here’s more from our Chief Network Officer John Schanz.)
For the past decade, I’ve worked with an incredible team of engineers to build a network platform that is powerful and flexible enough to support the extreme evolutionary pace of digital technology, and to ensure our customers have fast, reliable access to all of our services and everything the Internet has to offer.
While that work can and must continue if we’re going to deliver the fast, dynamic experiences that our customers deserve, we have added a new focus to our work. It’s not enough anymore to just make the network rapidly scale, we also have to make it smarter.
As a baseline it’s worthwhile to understand the scale of our network today, and of the massive amounts of information we process.
Those are big numbers, and they’re only going to get bigger as more customers turn to our network and the Internet more broadly for more and richer experiences. But what does it mean to build a Smarter Network?
New Capabilities, New Services – Cloud and virtualization tools break down legacy barriers, and change the nature of what networks are capable of doing. Over the past 10 years, we’ve evolved from being a cable company, to a networking company to now a software-powered company where configuring the network has become more a matter of writing new code than of moving around physical devices. Looking forward, the Smarter Network will become a tight-knit fabric of computing power, storage capacity and connectivity, interwoven with cybersecurity technology that we can deliver to our customers in a real-time, on-demand basis. In the weeks and months to come we’ll talk about how we’re using software-based tools like Software Defined Networking, Network Functions Virtualization and Resource Orchestration Standards to shape the brain of our network.
Better Standards, Smarter Networking – Standards are critical to the future of the network, and better standards make for a Smarter Networks. My colleague Tony Werner has spoken about the work we’ve done to advance DOCSIS 3.1, the standard that will deliver gigabit speeds over our HFC network. We are also deeply involved in the effort to advance IPv6, which not only dramatically expands the global addressing space, but also allows our network to operate more efficiently. Last year we became the first major U.S. ISP to deploy dual-stack IPv6 connectivity throughout our network, and today more than 70 percent of our customers are actively provisioned with IPv6. Next year we expect IPv6 to carry more traffic over our network than IPv4. We’ll talk here about what’s next in the IPv6 space and how we’re using the standard for smarter routing and greater efficiency.
The New Network Engineer – Ten years ago, only a handful of our network engineers wrote code. Today it’s becoming a majority. We’ll talk about how we’re evolving the definition of network engineering with a focus on software, virtualization, and more than just connectivity.
More Power, Less Energy – As the network gets larger and more powerful, we are dramatically ramping up our efforts to do more with less energy by making our operations greener and more sustainable. I co-chair Energy 2020, our industry’s multi-year initiative to increase the energy efficiency of our networks. We are aiming to shrink power consumption by more than 20 percent on a unit basis, and we’ll talk here about how we get that done.
We’ve got a lot to do, and we’re happy to have this forum to share how we’re doing it. Look for lots more from my team and me in the weeks to come.