Amid Remote PHY momentum, Cisco promises ‘cloud CMTS’ deployments by next year

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DENVER—Blue Stream, a cable operator in Florida, this week joined WideOpenWest in announcing plans to deploy Remote PHY technology in its cable network. The news underscores the noteworthy momentum gathering behind Remote PHY as a way for cable operators to meet customers’ growing bandwidth demands by embracing distributed access architectures (DAA).

However, Remote PHY is a first step toward more dramatic changes that cable operators are planning to make to their networks, according to Cisco’s Daniel Etman. Etman, the vendor’s director of product marketing for cable access, said that the company expects to deploy its “cloud CMTS” product by the second half of next year.

“Cloud native is very close” to hitting the market, Etman said here on the sidelines of the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

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While Remote PHY involves cable operators pushing the QAM modulation/demodulation portion of their CMTS out from their hub or cabinet and toward the edge of their network, it’s also a stepping stone toward Cisco’s “cloud CMTS” concept. As Etman explained, a cloud CMTS would move most of the functions inside a CMTS to a dedicated or distributed cloud, a move that would allow operators to scale up quickly while reducing the opex costs associated with housing and powering traditional CMTS hardware. Etman noted Cisco uses the “cloud” nomenclature for its product but said it could also be described as a virtualized CMTS.

“We believe that the virtual CMTS can be broken into micro-services and deployed in a cloud native form and the reliability, scalability and feature velocity seen in the web and business app space can be applied to the virtual CMTS as well,” Etman wrote late last year in introducing the concept.

Cisco’s continued cloud CMTS push coincides with its work on Remote PHY. The company helped develop CableLabs’ OpenRPD standard for Remote PHY vendor interoperability. Indeed, Arris and Cisco highlighted that technology here at SCTE with a Remote PHY demo that showed Arris’ CCAP Core interoperating with Cisco’s Smart PHY Node, and vise versa.

“This is an unprecedented show of collaboration between the market leaders of the Cable Access Networking market segment, with both vendors making a clear statement about the maturity of RPHY and the need to interoperability,” Cisco boasted in a release about the action.

Of course, Cisco isn’t the only vendor showing off cloud-based, virtualized services, and Remote PHY technology. Nokia, for example, is the vendor backing WOW’s move to Remote PHY, while Arris here at SCTE announced the availability of its second generation of active modules for its CCAP platform, which the company said allows customers to “unlock Remote PHY capabilities.”

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