Bright House Converges On Single Network Infrastructure

Bright House Networks is nearly done deploying about 120 of Cisco Systems' high-capacity ASR 9000 Series Aggregation Services Routers across most of its footprint -- consolidating video, voice and data traffic on a single Ethernet network and giving it more breathing room to roll out new services.

The MSO has replaced most of the older Cisco 6500 and 7600 routers in its edge hubs and expects to finish the upgrade to the ASR 9000s in 110 edge hubs in Orlando and Tampa, Fla., in May.

The new routers are each provisioned with 10 Gigabit Ethernet line cards, which can be upgraded to 100 GigE down the road, said Craig Cowden, Bright House senior vice president of network engineering and operations.

"We literally could not have done the type of aggressive service convergence we have done on our legacy platforms," he said. "We felt we needed a really robust networking platform."

The ASR 9000s provide a whopping 6.4 Terabits per second in a single half-rack chassis, which according to Cisco is at least six times the capacity of previous-generation edge routers.

The converged network architecture eliminates Bright House's three previously physically separate networks for video, data and voice, and commercial services. That has reduced the number of individual routers per hub from six to two.

The setup also will increase the resilience of the network, Cowden said. Primarily that's because the MSO is putting no more than 40% of its traffic through any single ASR 9000, so that if one router happened to go down the second one in the hub can pick up the entire load without interruption.

The edge routers connect over a fiber-optic network powered by Fujitsu Network Communications' Flashwave 9500 passive optical networking platform, feeding into a Cisco CRS-1 core router, which Bright House is in the process of converting to the higher-capacity CRS-3. Bright House deployed ASR 9000s in Birmingham, Ala., Bakersfield, Calif., and Indianapolis but in some markets redeployed the 6500 or 7600 routers.

In Florida, the ASR 9000s will be in about half of Bright House's hubs. The MSO deployed edge routers from another vendor, which Cowden declined to identify, from the fourth quarter of 2009 through last fall. "When we did the original vendor assessment, we felt they had some feature capabilities that were in front of others," he explained. "But now we believe the ASR 9000 has more."

The higher-capacity edge routers will give Bright House additional headroom to introduce higher-speed DOCSIS 3.0 services in the future. Currently it operates DOCSIS 3.0, using a combination of Cisco and Arris cable modem termination systems, with four bonded channels down and four upstream. That would allow Bright House to deliver up to 160 Mbps down and 32 Mbps up; today the MSO's top speeds are 40 down and 5 up for residential and 50 by 5 for business.

On the video side, the converged network will better equip Bright House to deliver the Start Over and Look Back video-on-demand services, which are "bandwidth hogs," Cowden noted.

Also benefitting will be the operator's switched digital video system, delivered by BigBand Networks equipment and edge QAMs. Bright House delivers hundreds of channels via switched digital, which in order to conserve bandwidth does not deliver a channel to a service group unless a customer tunes to it. "Spectrum management is something we definitely spend a lot of time on," Cowden said.

Bright House, the sixth largest U.S. cable systems operator, has about 2.4 million customers in five states: Florida, Alabama, Indiana, Michigan and California.