CableLabs Adds NFV And SDN Muscle

Don Clarke, a long-time BT engineering exec,  joined CableLabs on May 2 to take on the role of principal architect, network technologies, with a specific focus on two emerging areas within cable engineering circles – networks functions virtualizaton (NFV) and software-defined networking (SDN).

Light Reading first reported Clarke’s move to CableLabs on Monday. Clarke’s LinkedIn profile confirms his new post at CableLabs, noting that he’ll add more detail on that role shortly.

Clarke, who is based at CableLabs’ headquarters in Louisville, Colo., most recently served as head of network evolution innovation at BT I the U.K, where he managed strategic collaborations with the company’s vendor partners to validate and test new network concepts. According to his profile, Clarke, in 2012, initiated and co-founded the ETSI Network Functions Virtualisation Industry Specification Group (ETSI NFV ISG) and I founded and chaired the Network Operator Council., which guides the work. Clarke’s team was also responsible for evaluating and tracking competing broadband access technologies, including DOCSIS, which is the cable industry’s high-speed data platform.

Clarke is joining CableLabs as the industry’s R&D organization and developer of interoperability specifications investigates a “virtual” form of the Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP), a next-gen, high-density architecture that will put all services under one roof by combining the functions of the cable modem termination system and edge QAM. That work is stemming from CableLabs’ study of the advantages promised by SDN and NFV – two tech trends that are gathering interest across the telecom industry.

In general terms, SDN separates the control plane from the data plane, while NFV aims to put into software functions that have linked to purpose-built hardware, such as firewalls, Web filtering, and load balancing, and instead operate them on generic servers.

CableLabs started to take a closer look at SDN and NFV in 2012, and joined the European Telecommunications Standards Institute’s NFV specs group in the fall of that year.

CableLabs expects its vCCAP-related work to produce a technical report by the second half of the year. CableLabs has already started to bring SDN elements to the cable plant, including the writing of a plug-in for PacketCable Multimedia, a spec that enables QoS in IP-based applications, that can be attached to OpenDaylight, an open source SDN controller.