The networking industry is undergoing its most significant transformation in decades as it moves from the client-server paradigm to the cloud-connected-user paradigm, and we don’t have to look very to see the signs. Many of us are experiencing this shift as our companies move workforce automation tools from the back-office to the cloud, such as office productivity, sales, marketing and collaboration tools. At home, our entertainment is transitioning with more consumers watching on-demand programming via a laptop or tablet as opposed to live broadcast via a television.
This transformation is also influencing the types and number of devices connected to the internet. While many of us do not have a self-driving car – yet, each of us may own 3-4 devices that are connected to the internet, often including a phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, gaming platform, watch, fitness monitor or smart TV. More connected devices equates to more dependency on the internet itself. In fact, more and more devices require access to the cloud, which hosts and/or stores the applications, content, or data that the devices require to operate, making internet connectivity a mandatory component of the end user experience.
So what does all of this mean for cable operators? Last year at SCTE, Cox’s Jeff Finkelstein said the demand growth on their network was 53% annually. At CableLabs Summer Conference 2016, cable operators discussed plans to leverage next generation technologies like DOCSIS 3.1 to increase access network bandwidth. DOCSIS 3.1, when combined with fiber deep, distributed access architecture solutions, has the potential to deliver a 50-75% capacity increase in cable access networks through its higher spectral efficiency. This will provide a critical boost to cable operator access networks as they compete for customers.
However, this only solves part of the problem, the access network dilemma. There is still a need to aggregate the access network traffic and connect to the clouds where the content and applications are located. Additionally, in order to economically sustain 53% network growth per year, operators will need to better monetize their networks by offering new services.
At Juniper Networks, we believe that for cable operators to support the ever growing number of devices, applications, content and services, the network itself needs to evolve. Cable operators will need to deploy a dynamic, scalable and agile network that delivers a responsive user defined network experience. This transformation will require a shift from legacy hardware infrastructure to dynamic hybrid architectures that leverage automated hardware and software to deliver the scale, agility, and user experience required well into the future.
Cable operators will need to increase network capacity in order to support the increase in access network bandwidth and rapid deployment of new services. This will be done through simplified network architectures that collapse network layers to ease management and reduce overall network complexity. These new architectures will be built on platforms that start small, extremely economical, yet have the ability to scale big. To accomplish this, operators will need to look at a blended approach in how they design their network, which includes hardware built around merchant and custom silicon, and software that is open, programmable and easily automated with technologies like SDN and NFV.
By selecting SDN and NFV enabled Cloud CPE solutions, that provide both software and hardware based offerings, cable operators are able to place network resources where they are needed to deliver services at the scale required by the market. As an example, an operator might place a virtual firewall in a hub site or an off-net location as they test a local market for adoption of a managed security service. As the service scales, they will eventually pull the platform back into their local data center for improved performance to scale ratios. As the service grows the operator will seamlessly transition to a hardware based platform that could be located in the data center or pushed back out into the network.
As enterprises leverage the cloud-connected paradigm to transform their business, more and more of their applications and content will transition to cloud hosted solutions. This creates new business opportunities for cable to deliver cloud connectivity solutions and services. Leveraging virtualized routing and security solutions, cable operators are able to provide connectivity and security services to these customers with greater efficiency, agility and flexibility from anywhere in the network, on-net or off.
Yes, the future looks bright for cable operators, as they are well positioned to capitalize on the industry’s transition into the cloud connected era. However, the successful cable operator will be the one who embraces virtualized solutions that are enabled by SDN and NFV technologies, next generation IPv6 technology for the efficient and effective transport of content and services, and recognizes the need for solutions that leverage both custom and merchant silicon to automate, scale and deploy a next generation network.