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Where's Cable Going With Cloud?

Alan Breznick

After years of focusing mainly on new HFC access technologies, cable's greatest technical minds are seriously reaching for the cloud these days.

With software-defined networking (SDN) and network functions virtualization (NFV) finally gaining traction in the industry, cable engineers are pursuing innovative ways to meet mounting bandwidth demands, boost service delivery and performance, slash operating costs and bring new products, services and features to market faster than ever.

In fact, after getting off to a slower start than their telco counterparts, cable companies are now moving quickly to stake out their own turf in the virtualization space, even leading the way in such areas as the virtualization of access networks. Spurred by CableLabs ' identification of three critical components of next-gen cable networks -- service orchestrator, NFV orchestrator and master SDN controller -- cable technologists have been developing the interfaces, standards and architectural framework to make cable virtual network functions (VNFs) a reality. In particular, they have been working on open source application development stacks for Kubernetes and OpenStack that are vendor-agnostic. (See Why Cable Is Getting Real About NFV & SDN and Cable Shifts Up a Gear on Cloud, Virtualization.)

Speaking at SDN NFV World Congress in The Hague earlier this week, Faiz Alam, senior architect of access strategy at Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), talked through the various elements and detailed the many specifications and interfaces that are relevant to the multiple interconnects and relationships. "It doesn't matter if an operator is building [its network cloud infrastructure] with vendors, with open source or in-house, it needs to build it around a framework," Alam said. "Everything should be able to fit into it."

But while cable operators are increasingly investing in software and starting to virtualize such key network functions and devices as firewalls, routers, set-top boxes and even CMTS chassis, they know that introducing virtual functions and adding IT capabilities to their existing network architectures are no simple tasks. They also recognize that they still have a long way to go before they can deploy fully cloud-based platforms.

So what are cable's next virtualization moves? In a special, free SCTE|ISBE Cable-Tec Expo breakfast roundtable session on Tuesday, October 23, we'll look at where cable stands in its cloud journey. Leading MSO CableLabs and vendor technologists will discuss the industry's trials and pilot programs with SDN and NFV, the virtualization business use cases they're exploring, the results they're seeing and the challenges they must still overcome to bring virtualization to life. This session is free for all Cable Tec-Expo registrants.

Boost your understanding of cable's pioneering virtualization efforts, examine early trials and pilots and look at what comes next. You're invited to attend Light Reading's Virtualizing the Cable Architecture event, a free breakfast panel at SCTE/ISBE's Cable-Tec Expo on October 23 in Atlanta.

Jeff Finkelstein, executive director of advanced technology at Cox Communications Inc. , and Don Clarke, principal architect, network technologies at CableLabs, head the list of participating cable technologists. Other speakers include: Pete Koat, CTO at Incognito Software Inc. ; Jeff Leung, head of cable products and services at Casa Systems Inc. ; Steve Marsh, CTO, North America, at Intraway Corp. ; and Ken Roulier, CTO at Amdocs Ltd. (NYSE: DOX) BC&S.

We are also awaiting word on a mystery speaker for an introductory keynote. More on that to come.

So please join us at the Georgia World Congress Center on Tuesday, October 23, right before the opening general session of Cable-Tec Expo, for what promises to be a provocative and productive discussion. Register here for our "Virtualizing the Cable Architecture" breakfast roundtable. We'll make sure the coffee is hot and the bacon is sizzling for you.

Hope to see you down in Atlanta.

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

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