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Cable Shifts Up a Gear on Cloud, Virtualization

Ray Le Maistre
10/10/2018
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THE HAGUE -- SDN NFV World Congress 2018 -- With DOCSIS 3.1 strategies in place and deployments well underway, the cable community is now set to focus much more time and effort on virtualization, cloudification, edge computing and open APIs.

But, as we know from the challenges the telcos have faced in recent years, figuring out how to introduce virtual functions and add IT capabilities to existing network architectures is tough. That's why CableLabs is helping to create an SDN and NFV blueprint that cable operators can use as a starting point for their plans and to take to the vendor community.

The cable industry's R&D lab has formed an initiative to create a standard architectural framework for SDN and NFV in cable networks that factors in existing industry specifications from bodies such as the IEEE, IETF and ETSI and highlights what APIs can be used to make virtual and physical elements, edge computing assets, NFVi, MANO and OSS elements work in a next-gen cable network environment.

An outline of the framework was presented here by Faiz Alam, senior architect of access strategy at Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY). He talked through the various elements and detailed the many specifications and interfaces that were 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 -- everything should be able to fit into it," noted the Liberty Global man.

And in reference to the interfaces and specifications, Alam was very clear to note that this is all currently available in the public domain. "This isn't anything I have developed -- this is all out there already," he added.

That may be, but those specifications and interfaces still need to be identified and fitted together in a way that makes sense and suits the needs of cable operators.

But why is this only happening now? Don Clarke, principal architect of network technologies at Cablelabs, says cable operators have spent a lot of time and effort getting DOCSIS 3.1 done "and now they have their heads up" and are looking at what they now need to do as 5G approaches and figure out the role they will play in the wireless services market.

"They need to be able to tell their suppliers what they want, so we are developing a framework that can be used by any of them... they need to collaborate more and that's what we [CableLabs] are here for," notes Clarke.

CableLabs has seen this shift coming for a while, of course, and has been working on a number of related developments, most notably its recent moves to create open source application development stacks for Kubernetes and OpenStack that are vendor-agnostic. These can be used by cable operators to run trials of cloud platforms and containers. CableLabs had also developed a virtual network functions (VNF) test bed based on Open Platform for NFV Project Inc. specifications, notes Clarke.


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.


Of course, it's not like the cable community has had its head in the sand about SDN and NFV. Even with the major focus on access network upgrades, various MSOs have been working on specific software-defined solutions and services for some time, with Comcast Business and Com Hem just two examples. (See Comcast Packs More Powerful SD-WAN Punch and Com Hem Rolls Harmonic's Software CCAP.)

But, as with their telecom operator rivals, the need to gain efficiencies and agility from virtualization is driving the need to develop company-wide software-defined network platforms that can support cloud-based services and virtualized network functions. And they need guidance and support from CableLabs and others to help set them off on the right path. (See Why Cable Is Getting Real About NFV & SDN .)

— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading

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