Young people with mobile devices

FOSE 2014

Comcast CIO: Home networks show how the cloud will really be used

Want to know what the real emerging cloud technology trends are in government and business? Look to what's happening in your own home, especially if you have kids.

FOSE 2014

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“There are dramatic things happening at the network layer and the IT layer,” Comcast Chief Information Officer Scott Alcott told a packed audience at 1105 Media's FOSE trade show Tuesday. “But the real story of the cloud is what users are doing with the new technology. Those usage patterns are driving growth.”

Alcott explained how his teenage daughter watches television by sitting in front of her flat screen logged in with her tablet and a smartphone. She and her friends tweet to each other and the TV automatically changes based on what they are talking about. She can even change the channel on her friend’s TV and change her own channels by talking to her smartphone.

Using a tablet as a remote, she enjoys enhanced versions of most programs, watching multiple screens at the same time with the main TV generally displaying the actual program while the tablet dives into enhanced programming.

Those types of apps are pushing bandwidth for Comcast service to unprecedented levels.

“The ways that people are interacting with data in unique ways is different from anything that came before,” he said. “In the past, we would throw more boxes at the problem. But demand is growing too quickly [and] it's getting so that we can’t virtualize the infrastructure fast enough.”

The fact that Comcast has conquered those problems from the home network is a good roadmap for how it can do the same thing for government, Alcott said, because other than the actual content, the use cases are exactly the same.

“The three main questions that are preventing cloud adoption are security, latency and scalability,” he said. “And you have to remember that your network is only as good as your weakest link. If you have these big networks with the ability to scale, but you also have these pinch points, then you are never going to be faster than that.” Comcast has proven that it can provide cloud-based networking to government based on some recent major projects, Alcott said. The most recent demonstration was coverage of the Winter Olympics, which went well beyond television.

“For the Winter Olympics, people were able to watch events live in streaming HD, and then also enjoyed them in an interactive format on their tablets and smartphones,” he said. If there were any weak points, he added, they would have been obvious with so many people using the network at the same time.

Also during the Olympics, Comcast demonstrated how it handled security through the cloud in a seamless way, which is a topic Alcott said he knew the government would be interested in learning about.

Users of the Comcast residential television service could watch interactive content right on their smartphones without having to log in and provide any type of password. They were authorized based on the location of their phones and were able to carry their digital rights from being television subscribers over to the cloud and down to their devices.

At the base of the Comcast technology is Ethernet, which Alcott said provides a lot of native security. Comcast merely builds on top of that so government customers get security, low latency and scalability.

When asked about the use of IPv6 within the network, Alcott said that Comcast was deploying IPv6 solutions to its business and government customers while still supporting IPv4, which most of its millions of residential customers still use.

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