You No Longer Have to Actually Be in the Headend to Make Changes (What!?)
Right now, we are in the midst of helping to get a demo ready for Light Reading’s Cable Next-Gen Technologies & Strategies conference next week in Denver. Ordinarily, this would involve prepping and shipping a rack of gear, cables, and power strips, from Georgia to Colorado — all the while hoping we didn’t forget anything critical.
However: Thanks to the many virtues of the cloud, and in this case the Cloud Native Broadband Router (cnBR) that we’ll be showing, no “big iron” needs to be muscled into shipping cases and dispatched to Denver. The demo essentially only requires a good Internet connection, and a screen – laptop, smartphone, tablet – to see “into” what’s happening in a simulated service provider headend.
This also means that operators no longer need to physically be in a headend, in order to make changes. That’s a big deal. As context, traditional systems require an onsite presence, so as to directly plug into the console port of a CMTS or CCAP device, in order for technicians to gain insights and control the system. Now, you can be anywhere. On a beach! Overseas. Stuck at home, in a blizzard. It’s a cable headend transformation that brings with it portability, scalability, and agility. All of which are appreciable advancements — and an important next step in the parallel industrial shift to remote PHY.
Some background: We announced the cnBR last year, at the ANGA conference in Germany. Since then, we’ve worked with our service provider partners to give them real time insight and control of their headend operations. Having been built from the ground to be cloud native, the cnBR delivers headend virtualization that can reliably scale for both large and small deployments.
Notable among those partners is MidCo, in South Dakota, which launched the cnBR last fall, as part of its quest to efficiently deliver Gigabit services in a way that scales – both up, and down. And they’re not alone: Operators of all stripes are in a perpetual sprint to stay ahead of their customers’ demands for broadband.
Specifically, MidCo needed a way to flexibly match consumer demand for broadband connectivity. Consider: One blade of one server is sufficient to cover its footprint, which they saw as far more efficacious than installing a rack of dedicated hardware that may or may not be immediately needed.
MidCo, like our other service provider partners, needed a Gigabit technology blueprint that lets them do more with less: Less dedicated hardware, less space, less power, less maintenance. They wanted a way to roll out new features weekly, with the ability to pull those features back quickly – a safety hatch, if you will. They wanted the machine-level metrics that satisfy stakeholder KPIs – both known and developing.
From a going-forward perspective, instead of a big “lift and shift,” when they need the next “bandwidth bump,” scaling happens virtually. Plus, because the deployment is “cloud native,” it’s inherently more reliable and resilient. And, beyond the physical hardware implications of the cnBR, there’s an immediate and actionable path to what I call “automation that matters.” By that I essentially mean resiliency.
In the hardware-dominant world, resiliency is usually accompanied by equipment redundancy – if something goes wrong, swap out the hardware. In the virtual landscape of software and cloud, resiliency is gauged by how quickly things can recover from failures: If something goes down, am I out of luck, or does it automatically recuperate, and spin back up? Or automatically migrate to a different cloud – a backup cloud – with built-in parameters to mediate problems? That kind of automation is vital to software resiliency, and it’s a core design component of the cnBR.
Beyond the obvious facilities-related improvements of using a “weightless” cloud — vs. a 500-lb. piece of hardware — there are other, more tacit advancements: Agility, resiliency, and scalability, to name three examples. And with a cloud native router, the live dashboard means technicians will be able to turn up, modify, monitor, control and automate new and existing services. In the Denver demo, we’ll show how quickly one can set up a CMTS/CCAP and the services they deliver, how features can be developed and customized, and how to achieve “cloud scale.”
All of these advancements will be on display at next week’s Light Reading conference, so if you’re planning to attend, I encourage you to check it out. Thanks!