Full, traditional DOCSIS certification testing isn't fading into the distance anytime soon, but Kyrio, the CableLabs unit that runs those tests, is broadening its options.
Kyrio is effectively opening up its test labs – and opening up access to the engineers who run them – with FlexTest, a new service that enables device makers and operators to run more granular and iterative tests that should give them a leg up in the product development process and, in the end, save them some money.
FlexTest will become available in October. Boiled down, the service breaks down DOCSIS testing procedures to a component level. That, Kyrio believes, should help suppliers troubleshoot and triage errors, defects or other issues prior to going through the all-inclusive DOCSIS certification testing process.
It's expected that FlexTest will largely focus on DOCSIS original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original device manufacturers (ODMs) that use iterative Agile-style development and are likewise keen to run subsets of DOCSIS tests in the earlier phases of their product development cycles, rather than having to wait to submit or resubmit a product for full testing when the next quarterly DOCSIS certification test wave comes around.
Kyrio also expects FlexTest to come in handy later in the product lifecycle. That, for example, could include products that have previously achieved CableLabs certification but are being outfitted with new software, or are proceeding to trials conducted by cable operators.
Many ODMs and OEMs want access to a subset of DOCSIS testing that they don't have access to internally or simply don't have the resources to handle on their own, Jason Lauer, vice president of engineering and operations at Kyrio, explained.
Optimized with orchestration
The origins of FlexTest stem from some pre-certification work that Kyrio had conducted with suppliers based on Kyrio's own time schedules.
"While that model has allowed us to do more work up and down the lifecycle and not just within the certification phase, the model of delivery and the process to deliver those services had not been optimized," Lauer said.
He said FlexTest hits the optimization button with a new software-based orchestration platform that has effectively been bolted on top of Kyrio's physical assets at its test labs. Using a new, automated process, FlexTest users will tap into a portal to set up the tests. In turn, the system checks Kyrio's inventory and allocates the equipment required for those tests. FlexTest users are able to observe and monitor the test while it's running, Lauer said.
That new approach enables Kyrio's FlexTest to dynamically schedule and allocate different configurations of equipment to do specific DOCSIS-related tests requested by suppliers. It can do so on an on-demand basis, or be set up for a later date.
FlexTest "essentially locks that asset for the particular use by that particular user," Lauer explained, noting that the new offering will effectively "break down the walled garden that has been DOCSIS certification for so many years."
The result, he adds, will open up DOCSIS testing capacity for vendors and operators and shorten testing cycles. Lauer also anticipates that FlexTest will cut down on capital expenses for upgrades to existing DOCSIS products and perhaps help suppliers sidestep some costs down the road as they develop DOCSIS 4.0-based products.
"We think we can provide a central lab and access to that lab for our customers to be able to centralize some of their testing effort and not have to invest as broadly as they have in the past," Lauer said.
Tests for Low Latency DOCSIS, a new feature for DOCSIS 3.1 that will carry over to DOCSIS 4.0, are among those that will be available through FlexTest. That could generate "a lot of interest" from both manufacturers and operators that are determining how to best test for low-latency capabilities, Lauer said.
Not all DOCSIS tests are created equal
Kyrio is evaluating initial pricing as it nears its formal launch in early October, but anticipates that the pricing will be variable. "The reality is that not all tests are created equal. Neither is the effort and time to run them, nor the equipment list necessary to run each one," Lauer said.
He also stressed that there's no change to traditional DOCSIS certification testing, which is now conducted quarterly and used to ensure interoperability between DOCSIS CPE and network equipment. Certification is also a requirement for retail sale of DOCSIS CPE, but most operators typically require DOCSIS modems and gateways to obtain the CableLabs stamp before they embark on their own tests and trials.
The FlexTest roadmap is currently focused solely on DOCSIS testing, but Kyrio will take feedback from the market to determine if and when it might broaden its scope.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading