Cisco's Open Source Moves Not All Altruistic

Cisco announced today that it's open sourcing software for Remote PHY devices and making the project -- dubbed OpenRPD -- available to operators and vendors worldwide.

Sounds good, right? Sure. But it also sounds like a not-so-subtle attempt by Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) to maintain its iron grip on the cable CMTS/CCAP business. (See Cisco Open Sources Remote PHY Device.)

Cable operators are considering multiple strategies for distributed access architectures (DAA), including the Remote PHY approach that Cisco is promoting. While Remote PHY pushes the RF functions in a CCAP chassis out to the network node level, it keeps the MAC layer intact in the headend. That means there's still a lot that has to happen in the CCAP chassis, and it gives operators a reason to buy more Cisco CCAP gear. (See also Fueling the Distributed CCAP Debate and Cable's Great Debate: How to Split Functions.)

Want to learn more about Remote PHY and other distributed access approaches? Then sign up now for Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies, taking place at the Cable Center in Denver on Thursday, March 10.

If operators instead decide to remote both the MAC and PHY layers as they move toward more virtualized networks, then the CCAP chassis essentially goes away in favor of commoditized hardware and software controls. Cisco agrees this will happen eventually, but it's undoubtedly happy to extend that eventuality as far out as possible, while earning a little open source credit along the way.

I'll be looking for further perspective on cable distributed access architectures in the near future. Stay tuned.

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

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