Strategies for Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment at Scale at the Network Edge aka The Pursuit of the Zero-Downtime Headend (2021)

By Quincy Iheme, Comcast TPX

The next several years will go down as the time when an astounding amount of work happened at the edges of the network, in part to get to the coveted “zero downtime headend.” A perpetually-up headend matters because it sets the stage for edge compute services. Much of that work at the edge of the network s benefitting from the role of software, and in particular, the branch of software engineering that is Continuous Integration / Continuous Deployment (CI/CD).

This paper discusses how operators can take advantage of the new flexibility that comes with the deployment of software at the network edge, more quickly and securely. It will provide an overview of CI/CD, with a specific focus on how it is being applied at the edges of the network, in virtual Cable Modem Termination System (vCMTS) deployments and related efforts.

Software engineering is unquestionably infiltrating many aspects of the physical infrastructure that historically were hardware-only. As a result, the establishment of and adherence to a common CI/CD platform can set the stage for the anticipated increase in software deployment at the network’s edges, especially for services or activities that require very low latency and/or wider throughput.

This paper will describe how Comcast arrived at a common CI/CD platform, then put it to work at the network edge to maintain network uptime and increase upstream throughput – such as blue/green and automated deployments, as well as Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) components like vCMTS and edge switching, to enable continuous configuration and deployment at scale. It will also discuss tools and automation, and how to configure and push software to the edge to enable customers to experience faster broadband speeds.

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