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Coffee with Shoptalk: Highlights from CTAM Summit, SCTE Expo

Contributed by Mark Palazzo, VP/GM for Cisco’s Cable Access Business Unit

On the last day of a New Orleans week that contained two major conventions – the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers’ (SCTE) annual Cable Tec-Expo, preceded by the Cable Television Association for Marketing’s (CTAM) Summit – early morning shop talk requires a strong cup of coffee.

That’s what prompted this impromptu chat between me and Leslie Ellis, Multichannel News columnist and winner of the 2010 SCTE/WICT Women in Technology award.

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Prime Time for Broadband: Part 2 – Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study

As I discussed yesterday, the Cisco VNI Usage Study is able to help translate the theoretical to the real, showcasing actual data sourced from a representative sampling of SP networks worldwide. Because it is primary data, we’re able to parse the information a number of different ways – we can effectively slice and dice it like a Ginsu – not just at a high level, but down to hourly granularity.  When reconciled with the many time zones this study covers, it provides some great insights into user behavior across multiple geographic regions.

For example:

  • “Busy hour” traffic grew at a faster pace than average traffic, growing 41 percent since last year. Peak-hour Internet traffic is 72 percent higher than Internet traffic during an average hour. The ratio of the busy hour to the average hour increased from 1.59 to 1.72, globally.  So, if you are a network planner, it’s not enough just to plan for the basic growth forecast of – you must account for the daily peaks as well.  Based on our findings, that means planning for an overall capacity nearly ¾ more than the top-line traffic growth estimates in order to prevent massive congestion during daily peak periods.
  • Voice and video communications traffic is now six times higher than data communications traffic (email, instant messaging, instant messaging file transfer). Voice and video communications traffic (such as voice over IP [VoIP] and voice and video over instant messaging) has reached 2 percent of all traffic, up from less than 1 percent last year.  With new tools applications becoming available seemingly every day, from Cisco ūmi to the latest from Skype, this will continue to be a space to watch.
  • Online video fluctuates more than file sharing traffic. Online video’s volatility (defined as the spread of traffic volume during the course of the day) is 51 percent higher than that of file sharing. The peak video hour is 91 percent higher than the average video hour, while the peak file sharing hour is 64 percent higher than the average file sharing hour.  So while the move to online video is good for providers to showcase the quality of their networks compared to P2P where the role and value they can deliver is limited, it does provide more challenges such as the need to accommodate greater volatility.

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Announcing the 2010 Cisco VNI Usage Study Findings

Few things get me as fired up about this industry as being able to dive into some serious data about, well, data. By now, most of our readership is quite familiar with our Cisco Visual Networking Index study or VNI. It’s comprised of several separate efforts, with the VNI Forecast being the best known of the bunch and the one that is most often quoted in the media, used by regulators, and factored into architectural plans by our customers. The Forecast is, as its name conveys, offers a forward looking view. Using third party subscription growth forecasts and advanced modeling techniques, we deliver an estimate of the amount of traffic that will be crossing global IP networks over the next half decade.

But what is real traffic looking like now, you ask?

For that, we have the Cisco VNI Usage study – unlike the Forecast, which uses third-party subscription growth inputs, VNI Usage assess the activity taking place over networks every day.  It’s a compilation of anonymous data sourced from millions of broadband subscriber lines from over 20 service providers worldwide.  While we don’t know the names of the user or the specific content viewed, this unique, primary data does provide subscriber-level insights into a variety of factors such as: the type of applications used; when and how much bandwidth is consumed; and a context for the networking trends and challenges that many network operators are grappling with today.  It’s real data on data that’s real interesting (and you can quote me on that).  Over a series of several posts this week, I’ll dive into details of the Cisco VNI Usage study that was just released this week and covers the research period of the third calendar quarter of 2010.

Here are some top takeaways:

  • The average broadband connection generates 14.9 GB of Internet traffic per month, up from 11.4 GB per month last year when we ran this same study – this is an increase of 31 percent when averaged out across the global subscriber base.
  • Peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing is now 25 percent of global broadband traffic – last year it was 38 percent of total traffic.  It’s important to know that despite this significant drop in percentage, the overall about to traffic generated by P2P in absolute terms is still growing – it’s just growing more slowly than visual networking and other advanced applications such as online video.  Which leads me to…

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Working Together to Attain MPLS-TP Interoperability

IP services are dominating overall network traffic growth and service providers are now truly architecting a transition from legacy Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) networks to packet transport networks. It’s no longer a question of if, but when. The Transport Profile for MPLS or MPLS-TP is the packet transport technology of choice, marrying the efficiency and flexibility of packet with the robust characteristics of a traditional transport network.  The telecommunications industry has embraced this emerging standard, mainly because it is subset of and interoperable with widely deployed IP/MPLS technology. To ensure this interoperability, it was collectively decided by both the ITU-T and IETF that the IETF will be responsible to define the protocol and functionality of MPLS-TP. The embeded spreadsheet specifies which RFCs have been completed and which contributions have been accepted and are in progress as Working Group drafts.

This vision is finally coming to fruition. For the first time since its inception, a standards-based interoperability test for MPLS-TP was conducted by Isocore. The results of this interoperability test were announced this week and demonstrate to the market the reality of a true MPLS-TP standard and that the vendor community is following and adopting this standard.  The interoperability focused on showing how systems from multiple vendors can work together while enabling transport-like characteristics such as statically provisioned paths, protection switching, in band OAM and OAM verification. All of the capabilities tested have been defined in RFC 5860, RFC 5654, RFC 5586 and RFC 5921 which are currently published standards from the IETF.

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SCTE 2010: What is Cable’s Path to ROI with IP-Delivered Services?

In this brief video discussion, Cisco’s Director of Video Solutions Marketing, Murali Nemani talks candidly about “what’s in it for cable” to deliver a suite of IP video services. In his view, it’s a three-step process that’s already beginning.

First, sending video services over bonded DOCSIS channels means pursuing the only path to those 15 billion video-hungry, IP-enabled end points which analysts predict will be present at the end points of the broadband network within 5 years. Whether “managed” (by the cable operator, such as cable modems and set-tops) or “unmanaged” (purchased by consumers), those IP end points will be seeking video over broadband.

Second, the continued attention and investment in DOCSIS 3.0 rollouts will help fend off competitive broadband “speed wars” while laying the foundation for video delivered over IP. Cable operators have the plant capacity, spectrum, and scale to reach an unprecedented footprint of IP end devices.

Lastly, cable’s continued work on the “video back end,” from content delivery networks (CDNs) to set-tops and next-generation gateways, will help the industry permeate the IP video marketplace and drive adoption across the U.S.

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