Using SDN And NFV For Increasing Feature Velocity In A Multi-Vendor Network (2014)

By Jeff Finkelstein, Cox Communications, Alon Bernstein, Cisco, and Samir Parikh, Gainspeed

As shiny objects of the past decade go, few have achieved the shininess of Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). You cannot open a trade publication either soft or hard copy, without seeing these TLAs (three letter acronyms). Every conference has topics related to them. In fact, there are even entire conferences dedicated to these technologies with presenters and vendors discussing what it all means to potential customers and the communication industry at large.

This paper is on a similar path, but more specific to cable and how operators (MSOs) may take advantage of these technologies to achieve two key objectives in their quest to improve services. First, MSOs need to more efficiently scale the network on many levels so as to control OPEX and CAPEX, as well as to fit the necessary equipment into existing facilities. Not only does the equipment need to scale, but so too does the support infrastructure. Power, heating, cooling, physical space, cabling and the like all have to reach a scale that was unimaginable just a few years ago.

The second objective MSO’s must accomplish relates to the velocity of service enablement, creation, management and provisioning. The operator community is very good at whiteboarding ideas, producing slides showing how these new services will make things better, and talking about them in meetings and conferences. Where they frequently miss is the speed at which they actually create a product and bring it to market so that it adds revenue to their bottom line. If an MSO could get new products and services out more quickly, and at a lower cost, not only would they be more competitive on a technical level, but they could open new ways of getting ahead of our competition.

The challenge is in finding ways to meet both of these objectives ─ scaling more efficiently and increasing the velocity of service deployments ─ without increasing complexity. By using SDN and NFV to drive this innovation, operators can actually simplify operations by decomposing network elements and functions and spreading them across multiple devices. Rather than have a large monolithic architecture we distribute the work across smaller pieces of equipment using simple interfaces to communicate between them. As the industry has learned over time, simplification of technologies helps drive cost out.

In our paper, we will present descriptions and use cases of how MSOs may use SDN and NFV in the headend and at the customer premises to achieve these goals.

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