The industry is gearing up to attend the CableLabs summer conference, which gives technical experts and forward-thinking minds a chance to talk about the future of cable. This year’s event in Keystone, Colorado, is set against the backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains — and some amazing hiking trails for the backpackers among us.
Creating the cable network of the future is actually a lot like planning for a successful hike. When you assemble your pack, it’s all about the details. Because every item takes up valuable space and adds weight, each one should have value. How you pack also matters, since a lumpy or uneven pack can really strain your back. Finally, you should have a way of knowing where you are, so you don’t get lost.
As our teams head to Colorado this week, here are three great hiking tips that also apply to building the next-generation network.
- Balance your load with a symmetrical network
An evenly balanced pack can really improve the experience of your trip. Likewise, symmetrical networks can dramatically improve your customers’ experiences by adding more upstream capacity.
Increasingly, subscribers need faster upload speeds. At home, they’re using more cloud storage and new applications like video surveillance. Businesses are also growing more dependent on upstream traffic for web server hosting and cloud services.
Full Duplex (FDX) DOCSIS 3.1 is the next major step in cable technology, offering simultaneous gigabit upstream and multigigabit downstream over the same frequency spectrum. At Intel, we’re excited about the potential of FDX DOCSIS 3.1 and our role in developing the specification.
Last year, we teamed up with Cisco to showcase the first live cloud-to-client demonstration of FDX. A few months ago, we demonstrated the first full-spectrum (576 MHz) FDX DOCSIS 3.1 solution on an Intel FPGA-based Remote PHY device, an ideal solution that can help the industry quickly test the technology in actual plant conditions.
- Go lightweight with virtualization
When you pack light, you can move faster and with greater agility. Virtualization does the same for your network by enabling you to converge many workloads onto a single or rack of virtualized servers while providing the ability to seamlessly scale resources on demand. Beyond giving you more flexibility to scale, it also allows you to tap into a broad ecosystem of developers and quickly add more applications and services.
Which services will end up having the most value to subscribers in the coming years? Virtualization combined with a software-defined WAN (SD-WAN) approach creates a more flexible network that lets cable operators add revenue-generating services quickly and with lower costs. Deploying SD-WAN appliances with the Data Plane Development Kit and Intel® QuickAssist technology reduces the latency of cloud services and makes it possible to deliver a range of new offerings — like firewalls, routers, media players and video-on-demand applications — all with a higher quality of service, security and performance.
To get these services closer to the customer while reducing footprint and power consumption, cable operators can deploy general-purpose and composable servers powered by Intel Xeon processors and virtualized network functions (VNFs) at various locations in the network based upon the compute, storage and analytic requirements. This approach also reduces the need for fixed-function hardware, lowering your CapEx and OpEx.
- Track your route — and course-correct when needed
Much like a GPS, network orchestration and management tools help you see where resources are in your network and understand how they’re being used. Network orchestration solutions also offer analytics and metrics, so you can easily monitor the performance of nodes.
Along with SD-WAN, network orchestration on a standards-based platform lets you quickly coordinate and provision resources where you need them most. This speeds time to deployment for new services, permits monitor and control of network elements and then allows allocation of resources based on service-level agreements and latency requirements for a more efficient network.
Intel supports a number of open source software projects for network management, including those for orchestration and automation. We recently demonstrated a Kubernetes orchestration of a containerized vCMTS data plane running on Intel Xeon Scalable processors. At CableLabs, we’ll team up with Amdocs and Qwilt to demonstrate orchestration software validated on Intel architecture. This solution uses an open platform to bring VNFs together under one umbrella and allows for remote orchestration by the service provider.
Let’s get packing
Together, FDX DOCSIS 3.1, virtualization, and orchestration will boost the performance of cable networks to help keep pace with increasing demands for bandwidth, improve the delivery of new services and reduce OpEx. In addition, cable networks are a cost-effective way to support 5G backhaul.
No matter what equipment you pack or path you take, Intel is ready to help cable operators look farther down the trail as we all move toward the future of cable. You can learn more about our technologies and support for cable networks at intel.com/cable.