Journey to the Cable Edge

Having Network Visibility Clears the Path!

Hundreds of intertwined blue and yellow fiber optic cables

The journey to the edge has begun for the cable/MSOs. And it’s a big investment for new business.  Indeed, STL Partners projects that 20 use cases will generate revenues for an edge market to reach almost $180B by 2025 (September 2023). The use cases include cloud gaming, drone inspection, CDN, security video analytics, AR/VR, remote monitoring, contextual advertising, and several more. According to an Omdia presentation at the Cable Next Gen in Denver, March 2023, the move to the cable edge is gaining momentum.  In North America, 48% of the cable/MSOs have partially or fully adopted cable DAA (Distributed Access Architecture), and 49% plan to adopt this infrastructure.

Diagram showing moving from traditional HFC to vCTMS and vCMTS/DAA

Both vCMTS (Virtual CMTS) and DAA are part of the evolution of cable network virtualization to enable an expanded set of services. A Dell’Oro (11/22) study notes how vCMTS expands broadband capacity improves signal quality across access networks and allows for the end-to-end automation of broadband services. Their survey of 50 global cable operators migrating towards vCMTS platforms, as part of DAA deployments, projected that by 2025 - 66% of respondents expect to deliver average downstream bandwidth of 500Mbps-1Gbps plus.

New Architecture and New Challenges on the Way to the Edge

With the virtualization of the edge infrastructure, Network Operations, and Engineering teams are faced with a lack of visibility. The disaggregated compute resources that serve virtualized services bring more complexity along with increased configuration changes and new control plane protocols. To keep this new infrastructure humming and maintaining service quality, visibility is needed specifically to distinguish between application and network issues and to eliminate finger-pointing and speed resolution.

Gaining visibility at the edge means deploying software probes that have been virtualized as well as cloud optimized supporting micro services and containerization (Kubernetes) to see the IP packets that traverse the distributed compute resources and still maintain an end-through-end perspective of the network and services. As monitoring the user plane is expensive, and given the tremendous volume of traffic, probing must be made to be cost effective.

Aside from expanding service offerings with high throughput and lower latency, the symmetrical upload and download speeds afforded by FTTX/FTTH as well as the virtualized edge infrastructure present a high bandwidth resource with an increased attack surface; this must be protected from attempts to hijack it for nefarious activity. Networks must now have both perimeter security but also outbound security to prevent hackers from using a more powerful network for their criminal endeavors.

Why Monitor at the Edge?

With the move to the network edge that provides lower latency and higher throughput (and moving intelligence closer to the devices and applications utilizing it), user experience becomes even more critical. This requirement has long been true for voice, video, and Wi-Fi; but with always-on, ultra latency sensitive applications and devices the need for continuous latency monitoring is taken to the next level.

What does continuous latency measurement give Network Operations and Engineering?

This level of visibility enables both pro-active and re-active troubleshooting for starters. It supports the life cycle of services from service activation and provisioning to ongoing service monitoring and service changes, as well as different views from enterprise business (SMB) level, residential, market, city/town, etc. Subscriber counts and the numbers impacted with service degradation, or out of service customers, are critical to managing and reporting service issues. And finally, visibility must be turned into actionable intelligence that can be utilized to move towards closed loop automation for cloudified infrastructure. Such actionable intelligence can also be used for feeding advanced analytic tools with AI/ML technology to provide deep insights into the consumption of services as well as assuring high-quality user experience.

As the cable/MSO service providers are moving to the edge with DAA/vCMTS and the companion technology of FTTX/FTTH, they must have visibility to ensure its success and protect both existing and new service revenue streams. Visibility must start at the most granular level at the compute resources and be able to expand visibility to see the health of the device and service offering end-through-end.

To explore more of the topics discussed at SCTE, please visit our cable solutions page: Cable/MSO Provider & Fixed Network Solutions | NETSCOUT