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Midco Goes to Trial With Cisco Cloud-Native Router

ATLANTA — Cisco Systems used the opening of last week’s SCTE/ISBE Cable-Tec Expo to highlight two key operator initiatives, as well as a new network node upgradeable to Full Duplex DOCSIS (FDX).

First, the tech vendor said Sioux Falls, S.D.-based cable operator Midco has put Cisco’s Cloud Native Broadband (cnBR) CCAP solution into trials, delivering 1-Gigabit per second services to Mobridge, S.D.

Secondly, Cisco said Canada’s Cogeco has become the first operator to deploy its Infinite Broadband Unlocked licensing plan, which restructures DOCSIS software licensing across the operator’s entire footprint, rather than by service groups.

Lastly, Cisco revealed the GS7000 FDXi, a smart Remote PHY node billed as “FDX-ready.” The smart device is remotely programmable.

Moving CCAP to the Cloud

The tech company’s programmers spent 24 months moving the “monolithic” DOCSIS 3.1 program found on traditional Converged Cable Access Platforms (CCAP), reprogramming it as a series of many “micro-services” that can run from the cloud, Cisco director of access networks strategy John Holobinko said.

John Holobinko

John Holobinko

Traditionally, implementing new iterations of DOCSIS to, say, enable new features required an arduous process — it was very difficult to alter one line of a “giant piece of code” without “unintended consequences” somewhere else, Holobinko said.

That limited the ability of operators to create flexible, evolving network technology environments.

However, the compartmental abilities of the cnBR solution allow operators to make changes to only one micro-services portion at a time, without affecting the rest of the network if something goes wrong.

“The velocity of [network upgrades] goes from once a year to once every two weeks,” Holobinko said.

Like competitors Arris and Casa Systems, Cisco’s introduction of virtualized services is essentially disrupting its own product line. In this case, Cisco is replacing its cBR-8 CCAP business with a cloud-based solution.

Of course, as Holobinko noted, Cisco is also in the server business.

“If you need additional capacity, instead of deploying more of these giant cBR-8s, everything is elastic and scales across the network,” he added.

As operators rethink their networks and move to Distributed Access Architectures delivering services at 1 Gbps, the traditional means of accounting for software licensing fees has become untenable for some, Holobinko contended.

Traditionally, he explained, technology vendors like Cisco “lowered the price of the hardware, sold it close to cost, then gained our revenue from the software.”

Further, he said, traditional schemes such as basing fees based on the number of users served by a line card don’t work in a virtualized system with no line cards.

Thus the introduction of Infinite Broadband Unlocked (IBU), which bases fees on users across the entire footprint, letting operators pay DOCSIS software licensing fees only for subscribers they have.

According to Michel Blais, vice president of engineering and operations for Cogeco Connexion, the system allows Cogeco to “upgrade our current broadband network to enable the majority of Cogeco Connexion’s footprint to be 1-Gig ready.”

Make It FDX Ready, Too

Earlier this year, Comcast vice president of network architecture Rob Howald made news by indicating a desire to see a DAA node hit the market that had the ability to be easily upgraded to Full Duplex DOCSIS at a later time. Howald said he’d like to see such a product hit trials in the second half of 2018.

The logic seems simple enough — why upgrade nodes twice amid the transition to DAA?

Cisco seems on schedule, with the vendor declaring that its GS7000 FDXi will be available in 2019.

Holobinko said the nodes can be made FDX-capable with a simple modular addition — a “two-minute procedure,” he said.

Further, with some operators complaining that up to 90% of their nodes are operating “suboptimally,” the smart devices allow for adjustments at the headend and limit the amount of time they spend “sending a guy out with a screwdriver,” Holobinko said.