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NFV & SDN: What's Next for Cable?

Alan Breznick
10/16/2017

Despite a relatively late start, the cable industry is now staking out its own turf in the software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) space, even leading the way in such aspects as the virtualization of access networks.

Indeed, at the SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo show in Denver this week, numerous vendors will be showing off some sort of virtualized solutions for the cable access network on the exhibit floor. The list includes but is not necessarily limited to such leading cable vendors as Arris, Casa Systems, Cisco Systems, Harmonic, Huawei and Nokia. (See The Big Cable DAA Update.)

Plus, just last week, WideOpenWest Holdings LLC (WOW) announced a major achievement, disclosing the first known commercial deployment of a distributed, software-based cable access network architecture. WOW, the seventh-largest US MSO, is deploying solutions to host both the MAC and PHY layers of a CMTS or CCAP device at the edge of the cable network. WOW is now installing the solution from Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) in Chicago and Cleveland, with plans to ramp up deployments significantly in its other markets next year. (See In Cable First, WOW Distributes & Virtualizes the Access Network.)

At the same time, CableLabs has identified three new components of next-gen cable access networks -- namely, the service orchestrator, NFV orchestrator and master SDN controller -- and is working with other telecom standards groups on interfaces and standards to make cable virtual network functions (VNFs) a reality. In particular, CableLabs is working with European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) to spur faster development and deployment of new virtual functions like virtual converged cable access platforms (vCCAPS), virtual content delivery networks and SD-WANs. (See CableLabs Hails Major ETSI NFV Milestone and CableLabs Takes On Network Virtualization.)

So cable has a bunch of bragging rights to the virtualization space now. Yet many questions remain and much more remains to be done. For one thing, interoperability is still a huge challenge for cable and other network operators, even in software. For another, there's the not insignificant issue of making the new VNFs work with cable's massive legacy OSS/BSS systems in the back office. No wonder you see so many bags under the eyes of cable engineers these days.

Further, many cable providers are still in the dark about how, when and where to implement such virtualized solutions in their networks. And many are still scratching their heads about the costs of going virtual and trying to weigh those costs against the potential benefits that the technology promises.

We will tackle these issues and more on Wednesday morning in a free live event at Cable-Tec Expo. In this special breakfast roundtable session, leading MSO and vendor technologists will discuss the industry's early trials and pilot programs with SDN and NFV, the business use cases they're exploring, the results they're seeing so far and the challenges they must still overcome to make virtualization a reality.


Join me in Denver at SCTE Cable-Tec Expo for Light Reading's FREE Virtualizing the Cable Architecture breakfast on October 18 at 6:30 a.m. in the Colorado Convention Center. Register today!


Speakers will include such MSO virtualization gurus as Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of advanced technology at Cox Communications, and John Dickinson, vice president of advanced commercial engineering at Charter Communications. The panel will also feature top vendor technologists like: Oren Marmur, vice president and head of NFV at Amdocs; Jeff Leung, head of cable products and services at Casa; Steve Marsh, CTO of North America at Intraway Corp.; and David Hering, senior product line manager at Viavi.

So please join us early Wednesday morning. Sign up now for Light Reading's Virtualizing the Cable Architecture breakfast forum on October 18 at the Colorado Convention Center in downtown Denver. We'll keep the coffee hot, the bacon crispy and the discussion lively for you.

— Alan Breznick, Cable/Video Practice Leader, Light Reading

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