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CableLabs Gets Real About Network Virtualization

The cable industry will have a front row seat as The Linux Foundation moves forward on the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project, an initiative involving a large group of carrier and vendors that aims to build a common, interoperable platform that can accelerate the network functions virtualization marketplace.

CableLabs is a founding member of OPNFV and Chris Donley, CableLabs’ director of advanced networks and applications, will serve on the OPNFV board, according to this blog post by CableLabs principal architect Don Clarke.

Virtualization is becoming a big focus for telecom and, by extension, for the cable industry, which is mulling the best way forward on a virtual form of the converged cable access platform (CCAP), a high-density, energy-saving access architecture that packs in the functions of the cable modem termination system and the edge QAM.

Donley told Multichannel News earlier this year that CableLabs had begun to investigate how a virtual CCAP would look like, noting that such work was still in the “relatively early stages,” and stemmed from CableLabs’ study of the advantages promised by software-defined networking and NFV, which creates a path to putting into software and off-the-shelf servers many functions that have historically been packed into purpose-built hardware.

“OPNFV will create a reference platform where performance and interoperability of open source NFV solutions will be validated. As one of those involved in the early discussions that led to the creation of OPNFV, I am extremely pleased that we have been able to help bring into existence this new forum,” Clarke wrote, adding that CableLabs hosted the inception meeting for OPNFV at the organization’s Sunnyvale location  in June. “For the first time network designers will not be limited by the constraints of fixed hardware to design their networks.”

He added that an open source approach will allow for specs and implementation to “occur simultaneously,” speed up the overall process.

Clarke, who joined CableLabs in May, also shed some light on CableLabs' progress on the vCCAP front, noting that the R&D house has developed a CMTS plug-in for OpenDaylight, an open source SDN controller, that was used by several vendors to show off SDN/NFV implementations at last week’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in Denver. Clarke said the CMTS plug-in has been incorporated into the OpenDaylight “Helium” release.

The Linux Foundation on Tuesday announced the following members of OPNFV:

Platinum Members: AT&T, Brocade, China Mobile, Cisco, Dell, Ericsson, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Juniper Networks, NEC, Nokia Networks, NTT DOCOMO, Red Hat, Telecom Italia and Vodafone.

Sliver-Level Founding Members: 6WIND, Alcatel-Lucent, ARM, Broadcom, CableLabs, Cavium, CenturyLink, Ciena, Citrix, ClearPath Networks, ConteXtream, Coriant, Cyan, Dorado Software, Ixia, Metaswitch Networks, Mirantis, Orange, Sandvine, Sprint and Wind River.

According to The Linux Foundation, OPNFV “will establish a carrier-grade, integrated, open source reference platform that industry peers will build together to advance the evolution of NFV and ensure consistency, performance and interoperability among multiple open source components.”

Noting that multiple open source NFV “building blocks” existing already, OPNFV will seek to coordinate continuous integration and testing while filling development gaps.

The initial scope of OPNFV will be on building NFV infrastructure (NFVI) and Virtualized Infrastructure Management (VIM) leveraging existing open source components where possible. OPNFV will also license new components under the Apache License Version 2.0 and will work within the licensing requirements of upstream projects in order to contribute code back to these projects.

Board officers for OPNFV include Prodip Sen, board chair (HP); Margaret Chiosi, president (AT&T); Wenjing Chu, secretary (Dell); and Hui Deng, treasurer (China Mobile).