Barreling down the road to virtualization

Aug. 17, 2018
Virtualization is on the move and is heading deeper and deeper into the network. Earlier this year, CableLabs launched the Remote MACPHY working group as part of its Distributed CCAP Architecture program. The goal ...

Virtualization is on the move and is heading deeper and deeper into the network. Earlier this year, CableLabs launched the Remote MACPHY working group as part of its Distributed CCAP Architecture program. The goal is to develop specifications to ensure the interoperability of MACPHY solutions when deployed.

Both of the main functions of the CMTS/CCAP device, the MAC and the PHY - would be put out into the access network. The first phase would put the MAC and the PHY in the node together as a mini-CMTS. Phase 2 would pull them apart again, with the MAC functionality in software form and able to be installed anywhere in the access network.

The Distributed Access Architecture more recently made news at ANGA COM in Germany. German startup GiaX introduced two additions to its portfolio, the ES1440-BK - a four-port 10G and four-port 2.5G Ethernet switch - and the HelEOS Switch Node - a gateway with an integrated ES1440-BK switch. The latter is intended to let cable operators deploy the company's HelEOS solution as part of a virtual node split and for multiple services at once. The HelEOS network system is designed to deliver 10 Gbps symmetrical throughput over HFC infrastructure.

Swedish cable operator Com Hem is deploying Harmonic's CableOS virtualized CCAP solution. This software-based CMTS Is designed to enable flexible delivery of high-speed broadband services, while at the same time reducing space requirements and operating costs. CableOS will support Com Hem's recently announced symmetrical 1.2 Gbps service test being conducted in Stockholm.

Casa Systems introduced the Axyom Virtual Broadband Network Gateway (vBNG) Router, which is designed to provide advanced subscriber management and routing capabilities for OpenStack and container-based cloud networks. The company said the router disaggregates network functions, streamlines packet flows and enables independent and dynamic scaling of control and data planes.

Cisco also introduced a router recently. The Cisco Cloud-Native Broadband Router is designed to support core broadband routing functions and simplify network operations by converting to cloud- and IP-based cable networks. It is a containerized, full software rewrite of CCAP services, built as a set of microservices using tools such as Kubernetes for container orchestration and Docker for creating, deploying and operating containerized applications.

But virtualization isn't only about distributed access. Verimatrix CEO Tom Munro might have hit the meatball on the head when he forecast that the future is "Cloudy with a Chance of Cloud." His said in a blog that his company's customers have changed the conversation from moving administrative functions to the cloud to wondering how and when video delivery as a whole will move to the cloud. The switch is being driven by factors including video content and creation workflows becoming cloud based, the scalability of adaptive bitrate (ABR) systems, and a change in long-term subscriber behavior that may put pressure on capital expenditures.

Take a look at some of the announcements that have come out over the last six months:

  • At the NAB show in April, Globecomm presented an automated and virtualized approach to video content creation and delivery, including a virtualized headend and a cloud-based over-the-top (OTT) platform. The solutions support SD, HD, HEVC, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 from a unified platform. The company's Vector is intended to provide a single vendor-agnostic platform for media processing, packaging and customization of video content from acquisition and contribution to playout and distribution. It can be used from a centralized location for large capacity deployments and/or used as part of a disaggregated architecture in which data plane processing is distributed to the network edge.
  • Hiawatha Broadband Communications (HBC), a service provider in Minnesota and Wisconsin, has expanded its affiliation with Espial to offer app-based IPTV and OTT services to set-tops, mobile phones, tablets and streaming players. The company first deployed Espial's cloud-based video solution in November.
  • Buckeye Broadband also signed an agreement to license Espial technology. The provider will use Espial's multi-tenant software-as-a-service (SaaS) video platform to manage, deliver and monetize video. The platform also offers voice-based navigation, discovery and viewing of traditional content and streaming services like Netflix and YouTube.
  • And so too, the Spanish Fork Community Network (SFCN) in Utah. SFCN has chosen to power its video services with Espial's Elevate solution and hopes to ensure predictable costs and delivery, and also enable the provision of Netflix, YouTube and Amazon Alexa voice control.
  • Comcast announced it would use Amazon Web Services as its preferred pubic cloud infrastructure provider. The operator will expand its use of AWS by migrating material workloads and building new applications on AWS.
  • And TiVo has launched its Next-Gen Platform, which is supported by a cloud-based, unified backend and an upgrade user experience. The device-agnostic video platform is intended to provide unified products and versatile deployment options across QAM, hybrid and IPTV. Features, include personalization, recommendations and voice control as well as integration of content across linear, OTT, on-demand and DVR platforms for multiscreen capabilities.

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