Cyber Security

The Pros and Cons of Moving to Virtualised Converged Cable Access Platforms (vCCAP)

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14th May, 2024

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The Future of Cable Access: Virtualising the Network

 

For cable operators, the future lies in virtualising their cable access networks through converged cable access platforms (CCAPs). A CCAP combines the functions of the cable modem termination system (CMTS) and edge quadrature amplitude modulation (EQAM) devices into a singular, higher density platform.

 

But CCAPs are taking it a step further by virtualising these functions through software running on off-the-shelf servers instead of dedicated hardware appliances. This shift to virtualised CCAP (vCCAP) architectures opens up several potential benefits for cable providers - but also comes with its own challenges to overcome.

 


The Pros of vCCAP

 

  1. Increased Agility and Flexibility: In a vCCAP environment, cable access functions like the CMTS are delivered through software virtualised network functions (VNFs) rather than rigid hardware appliances. This allows operators to spin up new services and capacity much more rapidly through software, avoiding long hardware deployment cycles.
  2. Higher Density and Efficiency: By decoupling access software from underlying hardware, vCCAP enables cable providers to pack more density onto fewer servers using techniques like network function virtualisation (NFV). This higher density translates to reduced rack space, power, and cooling needs in the headend and hub sites.
  3. Reduced Complexity and Costs: Virtualising headend functions onto common off-the-shelf servers allows operators to consolidate services and decommission legacy hardware silos over time. This reduces the overall complexity of managing disparate appliances and their associated capital and operating costs.
  4. Faster Service Delivery: In traditional cable access networks, launching a new service required hauling proprietary hardware into facilities - a timely and costly process. With vCCAP, new services can be rapidly deployed as virtualised software functions leveraging automated processes across the distributed access architecture.

 


The Potential Cons


  1. Upfront Migration Costs: While vCCAP promises operating expense reductions long-term, migrating from rigid hardware appliances to a virtualised access architecture requires significant upfront investments. Operators must invest in new NFV infrastructure, retrain staff, and potentially rearchitect parts of their headends and hubs.
  2. Integration and Operational Challenges: Converging multiple functions into a vCCAP platform from different vendors introduces integration complexities. There are also new operational models to manage with virtualised functions compared to legacy CMTS and eQAM devices that field technicians are accustomed to.
  3. Performance Considerations: While virtualisation hypervisors have become very efficient, there are still some potential performance impacts to consider versus traditional dedicated hardware acceleration for certain data plane functions that demand ultra-low latency.
  4. Testing Challenges: Another key challenge that the virtualisation transition presents is testing. Simulating a production environment in lab conditions can be difficult, requiring the cabling and deployment of hundreds of devices to stress test the application. This lack of ability to test vCCAP infrastructure can lead to issues once it’s deployed in live environment, potentially leading to network failures and reducing quality of service.

 


How Telesoft can help



Telesoft’s 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 virtual environments

 


The Virtual Future


Despite the potential challenges, many major cable operators have already begun the transition to virtualised converged cable access platforms. They recognise the long-term agility, density, and cost benefits of vCCAP as customer demands for higher broadband speeds and low-latency services increase.

 

While a complex transformation, vCCAP allows cable providers to reimagine their access networks in a cloudified, distributed architecture powered by software and automation rather than rigid silos of purpose-built hardware appliances. By utilising Telesoft’s Triton: vCCAP Test Tool, organisations can streamline this process and ensure a high quality of service for customers.

NUCLEUS

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