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Cable/Video

Comcast God Box Also a Green Box

NEW YORK -- In the process of inventing a new dense, multi-service device that would simplify its headends and relieve a space crunch, US cable operator Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) has also found a way to go greener. (See Comcast Proposes Its God Box and Vendors Plan for Comcast's 'God' Box .)

The Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) was primarily intended to relieve the headend space crunch created as Comcast continually expanded its narrowcast channel lineup and added new QAM equipment for each channel. (See Comcast VP: CMAPs Will Bring Digital Density.)

"We didn't start out 20 years ago thinking we are going to be at so many narrowcast QAMs," admits Jorge Salinger, Comcast's VP of access architecture, speaking at Light Reading's Green Broadband Event this week. "But we realized we needed to develop equipment that would support long-term growth."

Other cable companies and CableLabs are now engaged in the CMAP effort, which combines narrowcast services into one port. The development hasn't required any specific new technology: Regular advances in processing power during the past 20 years have enabled the production of very dense line cards that can support multiple are QAM channels.

But Comcast, which will begin phase one of the CMAP deployment in March 2011, has needed to pay special attention to power requirements, says Sam Chernak, SVP Network Architecture, Office of the CTO, at Comcast Cable.

"If we hadn't been careful about the power management, you would have been able to see that box from outer space," Chernak jokes.

As it is, Comcast's power savings will be considerable -- the final specifications for the CMAP are expected to provide power savings of around 63 percent, equivalent to 393,600 kilowatt hours per year, according to Salinger.

Those figures don't include savings from the resulting reduction in cooling requirements -- those savings are yet to be calculated.

"It turns out it's very hard to predict cooling savings and how the air is going to be moving in a head end," Salinger says. "We want to do this in a very efficient way, and know how much cooling we need. We found it very hard to do that. We need to develop better science to do that."

The Comcast effort is an example of how broadband service providers are able to be more environmentally friendly as they develop and deploy new equipment. For example, as of Jan. 1, 2009, Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) requires its vendors to reduce power consumption in new equipment by 20 percent, and its suppliers have been able to meet that goal, says Chuck Graff, director, corporate network & technology.

"Some of them have actually exceeded that goal," Graff says.

The bigger challenge going forward, he admits, is how to adapt legacy gear to consume less power and throw off less heat, as service providers can't financially justify replacing legacy equipment based on environmental savings alone. (See Data Centers Work Hard to Be Cool.) — Carol Wilson, Chief Editor, Events, Light Reading

Pete Baldwin 12/5/2012 | 4:22:53 PM
re: Comcast God Box Also a Green Box

So, greenliness is next to godliness. Or something like that.

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