23rd November, 2023
The cable industry is undergoing a major transformation as providers move from traditional integrated converged cable access platform (CCAP) chassis to software-driven virtual CCAP (vCCAP) solutions running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) servers. This migration to vCCAP promises numerous benefits for cable operators and their customers.
Explaining the Move to vCCAP
A traditional CCAP chassis integrates routing, switching, and cable modem termination system (CMTS) functions into one proprietary hardware platform. In contrast, a vCCAP splits these components into separate virtual machines that run on COTS servers. Moving to commercial servers drives down costs significantly compared to purpose-built CCAP hardware.
Beyond lower capital expenditures, vCCAPs can reduce operational costs for cable providers. Since virtual network functions are abstracted from the underlying hardware, vCCAPs are more flexible and simplify repetitive tasks like auditing, upgrades, and maintenance. The shift to a virtualised architecture also allows providers to efficiently scale capacity, tearing down or launching new virtual machines to meet network demands, rather than installing additional purpose-built chassis.
Importantly, virtualisation unlocks programmability, automation, and new possibilities around optimising broadband performance. With flexible software, providers can trial new DOCSIS configurations, advanced traffic management, and custom quality of service policies tailored to specific customer segments.
The interoperable, vendor-agnostic nature of vCCAP solutions gives operators choice. Many are pursuing hybrid environments with both integrated chassis and virtual CCAP servers to match needs at different parts of their network. And by leveraging COTS infrastructure, providers future-proof their cable access networks while lowering costs today.
The benefits are clear for cable companies migrating core access infrastructure to flexible, scalable software platforms. At the same time, subscribers stand to see improved broadband experiences as operators optimise connections and deliver new digital services quicker than ever before. For cable providers looking to reduce costs while future-proofing their networks, vCCAP is the clear path forward.
Testing vCCAPs – A Major Challenge
While migrating to virtual converged cable access platforms (vCCAPs) brings undeniable benefits to cable operators when it comes to cost savings and network flexibility, the move also introduces new testing complexity.
Traditional integrated CCAP chassis have fixed performance profiles that are relatively straightforward to validate during acceptance testing. In contrast, the fluid nature of virtual infrastructure and the myriad of software configuration options make testing vCCAPs far more difficult prior to deployment.
When issues occur post-deployment, troubleshooting vCCAPs live in the field can be a troublesome task for cable engineers due to interdependencies across virtual components. For example, pinpointing the root cause between a glitchy CMTS core, server CPU spikes, and an error on the virtual switch is no simple task.
A key challenge lies in recreating real-world service group loads. It's almost impossible to simulate the sheer scale of tens of thousands of cable modems per CMTS core in a lab setting. Performance testing often requires setting up multiple physical servers to emulate operational loading conditions.
How Telesoft Can Help
Telesoft’s Triton was designed to address these challenges. Triton measures vCCAP performance by simulating and monitoring upstream and downstream traffic. Our solution can generate high rate, stateful consumer and service provider traffic, making our test capability as near to a live environment as possible.
Compliant with DOCSIS 3.1 & DOCSIS 4.0, including DOCSIS security, our system can integrate with any vCCAP. Network performance is measured and reported as data analytics to help internal teams identify any pain points which need addressing. System failures, latency, & jitter can be detected to validate system performance and ensure user experience.
Key benefits and features include:
- Capacity: Simulate up to 100 R-PHY & 20,000 cable modem devices
- Resilience: Simulate faulty or malformed traffic to ensure infrastructure under test is resilient
- Throughput: Load test infrastructure by generating up to 200Gbps for both upstream & downstream traffic
- Fault Tolerance: Ensure your infrastructure can handle operational failures by simulating failure of devices
- Quality of Service: Guarantee high quality of service by monitoring end-to-end latency & jitter statistics
- R-PHY Architecture: Test & validate various R-PHY deployments by creating custom environments
Migrating critical network infrastructure like cable access platforms to virtual environments is no small feat. Cable operators pursuing vCCAP strategies must grapple with testing complexity across lab validation, field trials, and post-deployment monitoring.
However, with careful planning, strong vendor partnerships, and powerful test tools such as Telesoft’s Triton, providers can smooth the transition to software-driven systems. Once deployed, the operational, performance, flexibility, and cost benefits provided by vCCAP infrastructure outweigh the upfront challenges faced during testing phases; challenges that can be addressed with Telesoft’s Triton test tool.