Non-Profit Innovation and R&D Lab


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Innovation

Innovation Starts Here and Now

Christian Pape
Vice President, Innovation Office

Mar 22, 2017

From ideation to pitch, CableLabs’ Innovation Boot Camp is an immersive learning experience that will boost your ability to achieve repeatable, scalable innovations that differentiate your organization in a highly competitive world.

Innovation Boot Camp will be held May 1-5 at CableLabs’ Silicon Valley location in Sunnyvale, CA, hosted by Phil McKinney and the CableLabs’ Innovation Team.

Focus, Ideate, Rank and Execute

You will learn an effective framework for transforming your ideas into value while engaging customers, and experienced innovators as you gain hands-on experience.  Along the way, you’ll hone your ability to develop a customer-centric understanding of a problem and ask the essential questions to help your team generate disruptive new ideas.  This unique experience includes:

  • exercises to practice the essential skills for successful innovation
  • overcoming innovation obstacles (internal and external)
  • presenting your idea to get it adopted

Past Innovation Boot Camp participants have praised this event for equipping them to address real-world innovation challenges more effectively and develop the skills to overcome the obstacles that they and their teams faced.

“Innovation Boot Camp gave me the structure I needed to move from idea to implementation”

“…an excellent way to immerse yourself in a truly innovative experience”

During the course of the event, participants will identify and interact with target customers and peers, engage with and hear from innovation leaders/practitioners, and participate in a tour of Silicon Valley companies whose innovations have made them leaders in their respective markets.

Apply Now

Join us May 1-5 in Silicon Valley to learn how you can build on your existing skills, and add to your toolbox. Application and more details are available here.

Contact Christian Pape with any questions about this event or your innovative practices.

By Christian Pape, Innovation Office, Vice President, CableLabs —

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Virtualization

SNAPS-OO is an Open Sourced Collaborative Development Resource

Randy Levensalor
Lead Architect, Business Technologies

Mar 21, 2017

In a previous blog, I have provided an overview of the SNAPS platform which is CableLabs’ SDN/NFV Application development Platform and Stack project. The key objectives for SNAPS are to make it much easier for NFV vendors to onboard their applications, provide transparent APIs for various kinds of infrastructure and reduce the complexity of integration testing.

I am thrilled to share our latest SNAPS success.  We have written an OpenStack API abstraction library that also contains many automated tests and we have contributed it to the Open Platform for NFV (OPNFV) project at the Linux Foundation.  OPNFV is a project where service providers and network vendors collaborate to improve the capabilities and adoption of open source Network Functions Virtualization (NFV). Our results have also been shared at NFV World Congress, SDN World Congress, OPNFV Summit [video], Open Networking Summit (ONS) [video] [pdf] and the Big Communications Event (BCE).

The Rationale for our Approach

CableLabs has deep expertise developing specifications by following a collaborative, iterative approach.  In many ways, the open source software development process mirrors many of these specification development processes.  In the open source communities, CableLabs provides source code and feedback coming from our integration and debugging activity.  In fact, CableLabs contributions are included in key open source projects such as OpenStack and OpenDaylight.  In this way, we are making it easier for vendors to use open source projects to build solutions for the benefit of the entire ecosystem.

We have generated practical knowledge and insights through our hands-on experience of building and operating an active SDN/NFV application development lab.  And we took vendor neutrality to the next level by basing our software stack on purely open source solutions and based on the OPNFV reference configuration.  We did not use versions of OpenStack, OpenDaylight, etc. that have been tested and customized by a vendor.  This allowed us to interact with a much larger community for new features and fixes.

The CableLabs team supported by vendors and services providers has moved our project into OPNFV as “SNAPS-OO”, based on the idea that it is an Object Oriented way to work with our SDN/NFV Application development Platform and Stack.  The project was quickly accepted and is now being used by the release testing team to verify each OPNFV build.  With the integration of SNAPS-OO into the OPNFV FuncTest project, our contributions are now part of the release criteria and suite of tests that will be used at the upcoming OPNFV PlugFest next month.

Some of the benefits that SNAPS-OO delivers are:

  • Ease of use for new developers
  • A rich library of example applications and test suites
  • Support for accessing multiple secured clouds
  • Automated cleanup of the NFVI when updates are applied
  • Quick identification of component failure(s)

As a result of this open source approach, and in just a few weeks since SNAPS-OO was released, we have seen a significant increase in the level of contributions and adoption.

Next Steps

  • Continue to expand the capabilities supported by SNAPS-OO.
  • Encourage additional OPNFV projects to use SNAPS-OO.
  • Use SNAPS-OO and other tools to run much more sophisticated SDN/NFV workloads.
  • Share SNAPS-OO with more open source communities.

How SNAPS-OO Benefits Our Membership

SNAPS-OO is helping to improve the quality of the open source projects associated with the NFV infrastructure and Virtualization Infrastructure Managers that many members are using today and plan to use in the future.  SNAPS-OO can be used to validate that the infrastructure is installed properly and it will be playing a key role in the Kyrio NFV Interoperability lab.  Future NFV development provided by vendors will benefit from the use of SNAPS-OO.  With the variety of workloads that we will be running on our SNAPS platform, we will be able to specify a single configuration that can run future NFV workloads alongside other cloud hosted applications.

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Security

How The Dark Web Affects Security Readiness in the Cable Industry

Steve Goeringer
Principal Security Architect

Mar 16, 2017

The darknet, dark web, deep web, dark internet – exciting catch-phrases often referred to by analysts and reporters. But what are they? What is the dark web?

The dark web is a network of networks that overlays the Internet. One of the most common dark web networks is The Onion Routing Network, or Tor. Used properly, Tor provides anonymity and privacy to users. Anonymity is achieved when users’ identity is never revealed to others and their traffic cannot be traced back to their actual access accounts and associated Internet addresses. Privacy is achieved when users’ communications cannot be read by anybody other than the intended recipients. Anonymity and privacy are closely related but distinct ideas – privacy can be achieved without anonymity and vice versa.

CableLabs recently hosted a panel about the dark web at its Winter Conference.  The panel brought in subject matter experts from across the industry including Andrew Lewman of OWL Cybersecurity. Andrew was previously the Executive Director for Tor from 2009 to 2015. The panel investigated the technology and social impacts of the dark web, and particularly highlighted why cable operators care about this technology area.  The dark web is used by adversaries to sell and exchange malware and information used to attack networks, and also account information about employees and customers of companies. Cable operators monitor the dark web to see what is being sold and get indications and warnings of threats against them. This information is used to improve and augment the layers of security used to protect networks and customers.

The evening after the panel, Phil McKinney had the opportunity to talk with Andrew Lewman about the dark web – we are pleased to share that video.

How Does the Dark Web Work?

Tor provides an interesting case study. As stated above, Tor stands for “The Onion Routing.” The inspiration of the name is how The Onion Router protocol wraps packets of information in layers of security that must be successively peeled to reveal the underlying information. The method is, of course, a bit more convoluted in reality. Routes are defined by a proxy which makes an “onion” using layers of cryptography to encode packets. The packets from the initiator are forward packets. As a forward packet is moved through the network of Onion Routers, layers of the onion are successively removed. These layers can only be removed by routers with the correct private key to read that layer of the onion. To those that are router savvy, what is really happening is that the proxy creates a circuit using tunnels of tunnels until the endpoint is reached. If an intermediary device attempts to decrypt a layer of the onion with an incorrect key, all the other interior layers of the “onion” will be garbled.

Tor is, however, just one example technology. What other means do people use to achieve private and anonymous communications? The chat channels provided on popular console games are reportedly used by terrorists and criminals. An alternative technology solution that overlays the Internet is I2P. And there are many others.

Beyond the Dark Web

In addition to being aware of the dark web, CableLabs leads other security initiatives as they relate to device security and protecting the cable network.  CableLabs participates in the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) which is spearheading network security and interoperability standards for IoT devices.  CableLabs has a board position at OCF and chairs the OCF Security Working group. By ensuring that all IoT devices that join the cable network are secure, risks to both the network as well as the privacy of subscribers are taken into consideration.

CableLabs recognizes the importance that the cable industry will contribute to the larger ecosystem of IoT device manufacturers, security providers and system integrators.  We are producing a two-day Inform[ED] Conference to bring together cable industry technologists with these stakeholders.  April 12 will focus on IoT Security and April 13 will cover Connected Healthcare.  Please join us in New York City and we look forward to having you join us in this important conversation.

 

Inform[ED] IoT Security
Event Details

Wednesday, April 12, 2017
8:00am to 6:00pm

InterContinental Times Square New York
300 W 44th St.
New York, NY 10036

REGISTER NOW

 

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Healthcare

Cable Connects with Healthcare

Ralph Brown
SVP & CTO, R&D

Mar 15, 2017

The connection between cable and healthcare may not be immediately obvious to the casual observer.  However, upon further reflection, this connection becomes more evident.  Cable companies have been expanding their commercial services to focus on the healthcare vertical.[1]  Cable operators are able to deliver a cost-effective bundle of broadband, telephone, and television services that meet the connectivity and business needs of hospitals and clinics.[2] Connected healthcare is very important for areas of the country that lack medical resources.  For example, GCI, the largest Internet provider in Alaska, is taking a lead in connected healthcare by providing remote Alaskan villages with telemedicine through their ConnectedMD program.

Connecting hospitals and clinics is only the beginning. Remote patient monitoring is becoming an increasingly important aspect in addressing the growing costs of healthcare.  The results of a year-long remote patient monitoring pilot from Geneia showed a savings of over $8,000 per monitored patient annually.[3] This kind of remote patient monitoring relies on a robust broadband connection to the home.

Today, in addition to connecting hospitals and clinics, the cable network infrastructure reaches 93% of U.S. homes.[4]  This enables cable services to contribute in an increasingly important role toward healthcare.

The demand for healthcare services continues to grow thanks to the reality of an increasing demographic of individuals over the age of sixty-five: currently that group makes up 15% of our population, but by 2040 it will be nearly 22%.[5]  Coupled with the rising cost of providing healthcare services in hospitals, connected healthcare makes more sense and “cents” than ever.  It is well known that treating chronic conditions comprises the highest percentage (as much as 80%) of U.S. healthcare expenditures.  Using remote patient monitoring to stay on top of chronic conditions and anticipating potential crises avoids unnecessary ER visits and improves patient outcomes.

Connectivity transcends industries and the issues faced by healthcare are massive, therefore the time for collaboration has arrived.  One example of this kind of collaboration with the healthcare industry is our work with the Center for Medical Interoperability (CMI).  The West Health Institute study, The Value Of Medical Device Interoperability, estimated that more than $30 billion in annual health care savings could be realized by solving medical device interoperability.[6]  CMI was formed to address this problem and is modeled after the CableLabs centralized research and development laboratory.  CableLabs brings its expertise in device interoperability, device security, and certification to the healthcare industry through its participation in CMI’s specification development efforts.

Another example of industry-wide collaboration is our participation in the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF) which is spearheading network security and interoperability standards for IoT devices.  CableLabs not only has a board position at OCF, we chair the OCF Security Working group. Through OCF, we are working to drive increased IoT security to address the associated risks to both the network as well as the privacy of subscribers.

The organization that I represent, CableLabs, recognizes the increased role that the cable industry will contribute to the healthcare industry of the future.  We are producing two back-to-back Inform[ED] Conferences to bring together cable industry technologists with health information management professionals.  April 12 will focus on IoT Security and April 13 will cover Connected Healthcare.  Please join us in New York City and we look forward to having you join us in this important conversation.

 

 

Inform[ED] Connected Healthcare
Event Details

Thursday, April 13, 2017
8:00am to 6:00pm

InterContinental Times Square New York
300 W 44th St.
New York, NY 10036

REGISTER NOW

Footnotes

[1] Comcast - https://business.comcast.com/enterprise/industry-solutions/healthcare
Cox - https://www.cox.com/business/industry-expertise/healthcare.html
Charter - https://enterprise.spectrum.com/solutions/healthcare.html

[2] https://www.ncta.com/platform/broadband-internet/gci-makes-telehealth-as-easy-as-regular-healthcare-in-rural-alaska

[3] https://www.geneia.com/news-events/press-releases/2016/june/geneia-study-finds-remote-patient-monitoring-could-save-more-than-8000-dollars-per-patient-annually

[4] NCTA -  https://www.ncta.com/industry-data; Source:  NCTA Analysis of SNL Kagan and Census Bureau Estimates

[5] https://aoa.acl.gov/Aging_Statistics/Index.aspx

[6] http://www.westhealth.org/resources/value-of-io-analysis/

 

By Ralph Brown, Chief Technology Officer, CableLabs.

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Networks

Network Operator Perspectives on NFV priorities for 5G

Tetsuya Nakamura
Principal Systems Architect, Network Technologies

Feb 21, 2017

Today, twenty-three network operators published a white paper to guide the industry on priorities for NFV to deliver the industry vision for 5G systems: "Network Operator Perspectives on NFV priorities for 5G". The network operator co-authors include Bell Canada, BT, CableLabs, CenturyLink, China Mobile, China Unicom, Colt, Deutsche Telekom, KDDI, KT, NTT, NTT DOCOMO, Orange, Portugal Telecom, Rogers, SK Telecom, Sprint, STC, Swisscom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica, Telenor, and Vodafone. As managing editor for this white paper, I worked closely with colleagues from these leading organizations to document some key consensus requirements that we want the 5G standards community to take into account in their upcoming specification work.

We believe the evolved 5G network will be characterized by agile resilient converged fixed/mobile networks based on NFV and SDN technologies and capable of supporting network functions and applications encompassing many different networks and services domains. The breadth of foreseen 5G use cases and environments implies high scalability, ultra-low latency and ability to support a massive number of concurrent sessions, as well as ultra-high reliability and security. To achieve these ambitious goals, Network Slicing, Cloud-native design principles, End-to-end Service Management, Edge Computing, RAN Cloudification, Multi-site/domain Services, NFV License Management, Security, Reliability, and Scalability are important enablers as outlined in some detail in this paper.

In an era of increasingly stretched resources, it is vitally important for standards development organizations and open source communities to avoid re-invention and wasteful duplication of effort. Hence, an important message is to encourage reference to the extensive body of foundational NFV specification work already published by the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group over the past four years as the basis for 5G.

As managing editor, I believe this white paper should be used as guidance for the wider industry on how NFV should be used to realize 5G use cases.

What is CableLabs Doing in this Space?

The cable network will provide an ideal foundation for 5G because it is ubiquitous and already supports millions of Wi-Fi nodes in places where the majority of wireless data is consumed. It has high capacity for both Access and Backhaul. It is highly reliable and has low intrinsic latency because it is based on optical fiber which penetrates deep into the access network feeding wideband coaxial cables reaching all the way to the end-user premises. Moreover, it is a multi-node remotely powered access topology ideally suited to support the connection of the large number of small cells close to homes and businesses that will be needed for 5G.

A multi-faceted CableLabs R&D program is addressing the key technologies required for 5G around NFV and SDN that we are executing on behalf of our cable operator stakeholders. For example, CableLabs is progressing an intensive study of virtualized provisioning of the cable access network to enable programmability, our NFV/SDN reference platform is based on OPNFV and we are looking ahead to support 5G using an end-to-end virtualized architecture that includes low latency edge compute nodes located at the cable head-end. In addition, we are seeking to accelerate NFV/SDN interoperability through CableLabs’ Kyrio subsidiary which has built an interoperability lab where vendors can work together with operators to toward their NFV and SDN solutions.

By Tetsuya Nakamura, Principal Architect, Strategy & Innovation, CableLabs

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Security

Cybersecurity Improving the Customer Experience

Michael Glenn
VP of Cybersecurity

Feb 15, 2017

Most of the time businesses view cybersecurity as a burden on their product line or enterprise operations.   There is a general acceptance that security is a high-risk area that the businesses cannot ignore but is viewed by many managers and business leaders as not adding value to their bottom line; a cost akin to regulatory compliance.  However, by taking this view, leaders may be losing an opportunity. Visionary executives consider cybersecurity as an area that can benefit their business through improving the customer experience.

When a cybersecurity event affects customers, usually it degrades the customer experience.  This can happen in a number of ways.  For example, a banking customer may not be able to access the bank's website to perform on-line banking.  This was the premise for the attacks against US banks that were attributed to  Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Cyber Fighters.   For ISP subscribers, infected home devices send email spam, are used in Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, steal sensitive customer information, and the customer’s data can be held hostage in ransomware attacks.  Recent examples include loss of privacy from baby monitors that can be viewed and controlled by strangers outside the home and DVR that were used to take down major services on the Internet.

For cable operators, the most common types of cybersecurity attacks degrade customer video, phone or Internet services.  Cable operator owned infrastructure, operator-supplied equipment, or third party purchased equipment can all be adversely impacted.  For example, if a customer's computer becomes infected with malware, the customer's Internet experience from that device is degraded along with other devices on the same network.  In addition, the infection drives a higher rate of calls to the cable operator's call centers, can increase the number of truck rolls to customer premises due to misdiagnosed problems, and can lead customer dissatisfaction.

This is not to say that ISPs should be primarily responsible for the cybersecurity security of their customers.  ISPs have and will continue to play a role in protecting customers, but as a member of the larger Internet ecosystem.  The proliferation of insecure Internet of Things (IoT) devices pollutes the Internet with malicious traffic in addition to risking theft of sensitive customer information.  Addressing the problem requires the involvement of stakeholders from all across the ecosystem, not just one industry.  CableLabs is helping lead the effort of improving the security of IoT devices through the Open Connectivity Foundation (OCF).  We are a vocal advocate for strong device security that improves the customer experience for the device and the network ecosystem.

CableLabs has been working on a model to describe different levels of cybersecurity and the impact they have on customer experience.  It is based on Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs and is modified from work Microsoft commissioned based on cybersecurity and reaching the full potential of the Internet.  In our case, the model describes the user experience that cybersercurity plays on different types of network connected devices.

The model starts at the bottom with isolated devices.  It moves up to closed networks and then to basic security on open networks.  This “Basic” layer is where most home computers have operated until recently.  The "Trusted and Resilient" layer is where good cybersecurity principles are considered in the product design.  The device or service is resilient to attacks, upgradable and most importantly, the user has long term trust in the product.  Finally, at the “Optimal” top layer, designers of products incorporate strong security controls that provide a more ideal customer experience where the security controls become less intrusive through good design but still provide high levels of protection.

Users should not have to remember passwords as the dominant authentication method.  Placing secure PKI certificates in devices provides many benefits.  Devices can connect automatically to authorized Wi-Fi access points and adjust to load demands.  Device spoofing is dramatically reduced or eliminated.  Secure end to end encryption with mutual authentication is facilitated.  Software can be automatically upgraded using cryptographically validated downloads with smart defaults for end users for the design life of the product.

In connected homes, residents can centrally manage smart devices, and when the house is sold, the seller can reset the devices to remove their personally identifiable information. Software "keys" to the home can be securely transferred from the seller to the buyer without worry that the seller still has access to the devices or the home.  Product designers leverage security to improve the customer experience rather than bolting it on at the end in a cumbersome manner.

Soon, consumers will have tens and hundreds of connected devices in the home and mobile networks.  Unfortunately, security issues will likely get worse before they get better due to the large influx of new devices.  Work needs to be done quickly to not only mitigate the damaging effects of insecure devices but to dramatically improve the security of these devices.  Smart designs and architectures can leverage both good security practices and improve the user experience at the same time.

The cybersecurity system hierarchy is complex, and CableLabs is facilitating discussions with cable operators and other Internet ecosystem players in this space.  Please join CableLabs on April 12-13 in NYC at our Inform[ED] Conference to continue this discussion on IoT security.

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Wired

Future Proofing Cable’s Optical Access Network: “A Coherent Story”

Alberto Campos
Distinguished Technologist

Feb 6, 2017

The demand for data network capacity has been growing exponentially year after year with no sign of stopping. If the past is a guide to the future, the cable industry must come up with radically more efficient use of the existing cable infrastructure in order to meet demand.

Today, the most constrained part of the network, and the most costly to upgrade, is the fiber infrastructure between the headend and the fiber node, to the wireless cell radio or to large business customers.  Avoiding costly fiber re-trenching requires a fundamentally new approach to this part of the network. This is where coherent technology provides an opportunity.

If you are familiar with coherent optics, then you are aware that the technology has been used in long-haul fiber optic networks for decades. CableLabs has adapted that technology for use in short-haul access networks, and simplified it to reduce the cost. And it has much higher capacity for future growth than the analog optics that are used in many of today’s HFC networks – possibly more than 1,000 times more capacity! We have already demonstrated 50 times more capacity than analog optics can achieve today by using coherent optics on 80 kilometers of fiber, and more improvements are on the way.

Using traditional analog optics, to achieve that high transport medium quality requires increasing the optical transmit power level, which unfortunately reduces the number of optical analog carriers the fiber can support due to fiber non-linearity effects.  Figure 1 shows a representation of fiber’s wavelength spectrum with 4 analog optical carriers.


Figure 1 – Fiber spectrum with 4 analog carriers

This limitation on analog optical transport has prompted the cable industry to look into other architectural evolution approaches. One approach that solves the analog limitation problem, while also tackling space limitations that may exist in certain hubs, is the distributed architecture approach. In a distributed architecture no radio frequency (RF) is transported through the optical link. The optical link does not contribute to distortion of the DOCSIS® RF signal, only the coaxial portion of the network is responsible for the degradation of the RF signal.

Today, this digital optical link uses intensity modulated direct detection systems such as the ones found in 10 Gigabit Ethernet links and in passive optical networks (PON). In these non-coherent systems, the signal modulation used is On-Off Keying (OOK). OOK is achieved by simply switching the laser source off and on. Non-coherent systems operate at lower power than analog optics and can therefore make better use of the wavelength spectrum in fiber. Figure 2 depicts the wavelength spectrum of fiber with several non-coherent OOK optical carriers. 


Figure 2 – Fiber spectrum with intensity modulated non-coherent carriers

A high-capacity non-coherent (but digital) optical link can carry 100 Gbps using 10 wavelengths (optical carriers) carrying 10 Gbps each. Non-coherent systems are a suitable near term approach, but there are additional fiber resource challenges that have to be considered when evaluating a long-term strategy.

HFC Networks have been typically designed with 6 to 8 fibers connecting the hub to the fiber node. Two of these fibers are used for primary downstream and upstream connection and in some cases two additional fibers are used for redundancy purposes. The rest of the fibers were left for future use. Unfortunately, a large amount of these ‘future use’ fibers, because of an ever-increasing demand for bandwidth, have since been repurposed for business services, cell backhaul, node splits and fiber deep architectures. In some cases, only the two primary fibers that are feeding the fiber node remain available for access transport. 

In fact, the architecture migration toward Full Duplex DOCSIS, which strives towards a more symmetric transport, relies on a node plus zero amplifiers (N+0) architecture. A typical node in today’s HFC networks will supply services to 500 households. When converted into an N+0 architecture, the result is the creation of 12 to 18 deeper N+0 nodes. The challenge for the optical portion of the access network becomes supplying enough bit rate capacity to 12-18 N+0 nodes, each capable of supplying 10 Gbps to residential subscribers.

This fiber shortage problem will only intensify as fiber demand for business services and wireless backhaul increases. Assuming that costly fiber re-trenching from hub to original fiber node is to be avoided, a different solution must be found to provide the required capacity. This is where coherent technology provides an opportunity!

Coherent technology has been used to achieve higher speeds than any other optical technology. In coherent optics, both amplitude and phase modulation are used to put information onto an optical carrier. This enables the generation of Quadrature Phase Shift Keying (QPSK) and Quadrature Amplitude Modulation (QAM) constellations carrying information. The nature of the coherent signal also allows the separation of the optical signal in two orthogonal polarizations. Each polarization can independently carry the two-dimensional constellations mentioned above. The signal processing used in coherent systems facilitates shaping of the spectrum of the signal to avoid interference with adjacent optical carriers. Along with the much lower power requirements, coherent technology allows for efficient multiplexing of the optical carriers within the wavelength spectrum of fiber. Figure 3 shows the wavelength spectrum of fiber with coherent optical carriers over 2 polarizations. 


Figure 3 – Efficiently packed coherent optical carriers over orthogonal polarizations

Coherent optics has been used in the long-haul environment for over 30 years. The long-haul environment is a harsh environment that consists of very long distances, sometimes up to 3000 km. In a long-haul environment, significant channel compensation is employed to correct the long distance related impairments, making long haul solutions expensive.

The access network environment is very different from long haul networks in one key respect, optical links in access networks are typically no longer than 30 km. That is two orders of magnitude shorter than long haul. The complex and expensive system implementation that long haul is known for no longer applies to access implementation. The shorter fiber lengths result in minimal dispersion of the optical signal. Furthermore, since no in-line amplification is needed, non-linear distortion and noise are significantly reduced. This increases the link margin and enables much lower implementation costs. It is NOT your father’s coherent implementation!

Here at CableLabs® we have re-engineered the coherent link to meet the special conditions of the access network. We have developed technology that is higher performance and much lower cost when compared to long-haul or metro environments.

In the laboratory, we have achieved 256 Gbps over 80 km on a single wavelength with minimal dispersion compensation. That is ~26 times the capacity of what can be achieved over an analog optical carrier fully loaded with 1.2 GHz worth of DOCSIS 3.1 signals. We have achieved that using a symbol rate of 32 GBaud (32 GHz), using 16QAM modulation (4 bits per symbol) over 2 polarizations (32*4*2=256 Gbps). In addition, we have multiplexed eight of these wavelengths to achieve 2048 Gbps. That is 50 times more than what can be achieved over 4 analog optical carriers each with 10 Gbps of DOCSIS 3.1 payload!

The optical access environment could lend itself to further improvement in capacity per wavelength by further increasing symbol rate and/or modulation order. A future achievement of 64 QAM modulation could represent the pinnacle in efficiency and capacity per wavelength of our optical access environment. One can only dream of such transport efficiencies in the long-haul environment.

Coherent optics is extremely flexible. Capacities per wavelength greater than 256 Gbps may not be needed at each target end-point in the near future. Maybe 100 or 200 Gbps will do. The fact that modulation order, polarization and symbol rate can be varied enables significant flexibility in the type of supported services. Lower symbol rates allow for multiplexing 100 or 200 Gbps wavelengths to end points. In the access network, it makes sense to dedicate a single wavelength to a target end point (subscriber). In the access, since wavelength spectrum is a precious commodity, higher speed should not be wasted on multiple wavelengths but used to reach a greater diversity of target end-points. This avoids retrenching from the hub to original fiber node in order to lay additional fiber strands. Ideally, operators would only have to deploy more fiber from the original fiber node to deeper end-points in their networks.

As the industry evolves toward Node+0 architectures, the volume of optical connections to intelligent nodes will increase substantially compared to traditional architectures. Interoperability and a robust vendor ecosystem are therefore key to providing a low-cost solution using coherent optics.

With key goals being interoperability and vendor diversity, CableLabs intends to develop specifications which leverage the aforementioned benefits of coherent optics in the access network. Similar to previous specification development efforts, the coherent optics specifications will focus on interface requirements, signal integrity requirements, configuration, and management. As usual, CableLabs welcomes involvement from the vendor community to develop these specifications. In the near future, look for announcements related to the establishment of a coherent optics working group to develop the specifications.

At CableLabs, we are developing and specifying technology that allows the cable industry to support the growing requirements of broadband access. Come and join us in developing tomorrow’s high capacity network solutions!

Dr. Curtis Knittle, VP of Wired Technologies, also contributed to this article.

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Education

Security Infrastructure Enhances Student Privacy, Data Protection, and Can Make Life Easier

Simon Krauss
Deputy General Counsel

Jan 31, 2017

In the days of typewriters and post offices, students knew that their educational data, everything in that mysterious file ominously referred to as “your permanent record,” could only be read if someone went into a school’s file room or someone made a copy and mailed it to someone else. For a long time, there were no state and federal laws that read directly on student academic privacy. Eventually, both state and federal laws were enacted which provided increased and detailed protections. While these laws protect each student’s data, complying with the details of each federal and state privacy law can result in a legal minefield for those that need to access a student’s data. As student privacy rules and regulations become more complex, there is an increasing need to leverage a more modern approach to privacy controls and data security.  Such an approach would enable automation of regulatory compliance as well as increased protections for student records.

The Legal Landscape

Student privacy laws began with the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in 1974. Additional state and federal laws have added restrictions and complexity to the safeguarding of student records.  These laws have followed the arc of the internet and now often include provisions that arise out of schools using online services such as a focus on parental notification and consent when student data is released to third parties.  In the U.S., issues such as how data is collected and how it will be used have become hotly debated topics among parent advocates, school administrators, online service providers, and legislatures.

Digital Tools to Manage Academic Privacy Requirements

While the intention of each federal and state student privacy law is good, it is easy to see how all of the laws, taken together, can lead to confusion as to who is to be allowed access to what student data, when is access allowed, and when parental consent is necessary. There is the additional demand that the schools provide sufficient data security.  This regulatory complexity paired with the need for sufficient data security can stretch resources for school officials. In addition, the fragmented nature of regulation may stifle any company or institutional innovation due to uncertainty as to what may be legally permissible.

A possible solution lies in automating compliance with privacy requirements through the adoption of modern cryptography techniques that inherently limit access.  This approach provides more refined access control beyond ensuring that only the educational institution’s faculty and staff have access to student records. Additionally, cryptography will make school records much more difficult to hack, thereby protecting the integrity of the records and the privacy of the student (such as: grade tampering at the University of Iowa reported on 1/23/17 and extortion hacking at Michigan State).

For example, with the appropriate digital security in place, a high school senior may electronically authorize a school to permit certain universities to receive the student’s academic record. Using security such as a Public Key Infrastructure (PKI), the high school may transmit an encrypted student’s academic transcript to the universities that the student has authorized to receive those records and only those universities would have the necessary key to decrypt the record. PKI also authenticates the student and the transcript.  Because the student’s electronic record is encoded with the appropriate legal access controls, only the student’s academic transcript is sent. Other records, such as household income or medical records, are not transmitted. Similarly, in the event a health care provider needs a student’s medical records, the appropriate digital security would ensure that only the student’s medical records are sent. More granular security controls also mean that student data can be de-identified and aggregated to enable researchers and third parties working with educators to improve the educational process.

CableLabs and Kyrio’s research and experience managing digital security for cable, wireless, and the electrical grid have demonstrated the value in using cryptographic access control. Using cryptography to automate privacy controls through a digital security infrastructure means less legal confusion for administrators, enhanced privacy and data security for students, and room for greater educational innovation.  Additional benefits can occur by adding blockchain technology in addition to cryptography, topics addressed in these previously published blogs.

Blockchains and the Cable Industry
Hello Blockchain . . . Goodbye Lawyers?

By Simon Krauss, Deputy General Counsel, CableLabs

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Energy

Canada Launches STB Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement

Debbie Fitzgerald
Principal Architect and the Director of the Energy Program

Jan 17, 2017

CableLabs is excited about a new initiative announced today in Canada to address energy efficiency of set-top boxes, much like the voluntary agreements that have been established in the US and Europe.  The Canadian Energy Efficiency Voluntary Agreement (CEEVA) for Set-top boxes includes the 5 largest Pay TV service providers and covers over 88% of the Pay TV market in Canada.  Modeled after the successful Voluntary Agreement (VA) in the US, the Canadian service providers signed up to a very similar set of commitments:

  • Beginning in 2017, at least 90% of all new set-top boxes purchased must meet ENERGY STAR version 3 levels (referred to as Tier 1 in the agreement).
  • Beginning in 2018, at least 90% of all new set-top boxes purchased must meet more stringent Tier 2 levels as defined in the agreement.
  • Signatories are required to submit an annual report by April 1 following each calendar year reporting period to a third-party data aggregator including STBs purchased and received during the reporting period along with their energy consumption.
  • All service providers must provide public-facing energy information for the STB models within the scope of the agreement.
  • Like the US VA, CEEVA also allows for innovation in the marketplace through a new feature process.

This agreement was the result of collaboration among competitors in the Pay TV space encompassing the cable, satellite, and telco markets, as well as manufacturers, regulators, and utilities.  The signatories to date are:

  • Bell
  • Cogeco Communications Inc.
  • Rogers Communications
  • Shaw Communications Inc.
  • Vidéotron
  • Arris
  • EchoStar Technologies

As mentioned, regulators and utilities were also involved in the discussions and negotiations.  This was initially driven by Natural Resources Canada (NRCan), and also included the Ontario Ministry of Energy, the BC Ministry of Energy and Mines, Quebec’s Ministère de l'Énergie et des Ressources naturelles, and Manitoba’s Department of Growth, Enterprise and Trade.  Provincial utilities included BC Hydro, Independent Electricity System Operator, Manitoba Hydro, SaskPower, and Hydro Québec.  It was a full house!

Four of the five service provider signatories are cable operators and CableLabs members, and CableLabs provided significant input and support into making this voluntary agreement come to fruition.  We were able to contribute our experience with the highly successful Voluntary Agreement Programs in the US, as well as align CEEVA with the US VA to realize an even larger overall benefit to the environment on both sides of the border.

In the first three years of the STB VA in the US, CableLabs has been instrumental in helping the US Pay TV industry reduce energy consumption by 9.3 TWh and avoid 6.5 million metric tons of CO2, and we look forward to helping CEEVA succeed as well!

More information about CEEVA can be found at www.energyefficiency-va.ca.

Press releases
Voluntary Agreement Will Reduce Total Annual Energy Consumption and Avoid over 100,000 Tonnes of CO2 Annually
Annonce d’un accord relatif à l’efficacité énergétique des décodeurs des fournisseurs de service de télévision par abonnement et des fabricants

Debbie Fitzgerald is a Principal Architect in the Technology Policy department and leads the Energy Efficiency program at CableLabs.  You can read more blogs about the Energy Efficiency initiatives at http://www.cablelabs.com/category/energy/

 

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Virtualization

Network and Service Management – The Missing Piece for NFV

Don Clarke
Principal Architect, Network Technologies

Jan 12, 2017

Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) enables telecommunications networks to be implemented in software running on high volume industry standard servers as outlined by network operators in a seminal white paper published in 2012. NFV standards have been under development in the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group since the early part of 2013. The ETSI NFV work provides the foundation for NFV and is being referenced by standards organizations globally, and new open source software communities have sprung up to accelerate NFV implementation. I’ve written about industry progress on NFV in previous blogs but we still have some way to go before NFV is commonplace in telecommunications networks.

The key pieces of NFV, notably Virtual Network Functions (VNFs) run on industry standard compute platforms – basically datacenters; and must be dynamically configured and connected at scale to deliver tangible value; automation is absolutely vital for success. Cloud players such as Amazon and Facebook have mastered automation within the confines of their proprietary datacenters, and as a result their operations require orders of magnitude fewer people. New products and services appear at the speed of code, and customer self-service is taken for granted. Concepts that exploit automation such as Machine Learning are being applied which is supercharging the ability of cloud operators to optimize their systems and create cool new stuff. We in the telecoms industry need to also become masters of automation or we will be left behind in the inexorable march to a software defined future.

While the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group has worked very hard on the “nuts and bolts” of NFV with a keen eye on automation (in my book the most important benefit of NFV), the industry hasn’t made much headway on the key pre-requisite: automation of the Operations environment. Collaboration to address this essential capability is vitally important for the industry to remain competitive and deliver what our customers need in the future.

Information Modeling and Network Automation

Two very important industry initiatives are underway that will accelerate progress. The first initiative is to harmonize information modeling approaches across the telecoms industry (standards and open source). Unless Standards Development Organizations (SDOs) in the different network domains align their information modeling approaches, network operators will have to deal with an ever increasing degree of complexity as they seek to create new networks and services based on NFV. The second is a new industry-wide effort to foster collaboration on Networks and Service Management.

Towards achieving these goals, in January 2016, CableLabs hosted the first multi-SDO and Open Source workshop on Information Modeling which was widely regarded as the moment when the industry realized the value of harmonization. Aligning Information Modeling approaches is a critical first step to achieving network automation (see the blog by my colleague Tetsuya Nakamura). Information models are the “templates” needed to orchestrate compute resources into a meaningful configuration. In the cloud environment, these templates are used routinely, and we need to use them as well, but unlike cloud operators who work in a proprietary, mostly homogeneous environment, telecoms network operators work in a heterogeneous environment spanning many different network domains and referencing standards coming from many different SDOs. Applying cloud technologies in such an environment is extremely complex. Fortunately, SDOs and Open Source communities have recognized this challenge and an unprecedented era of cross-industry collaboration is getting underway.

Multi-SDO Collaboration is not simple, or it would be routine. The first barrier is the focus of individual SDOs on a narrow domain. Other barriers are culture and modus-operandi, and leadership teams motivated by agenda and timelines specific to their domain. Not to mention the dreaded IPR which can stymie even the most worthy of collaborations.

Second Multi-SDO Information Modeling Workshop

To build and maintain momentum, Deutsche Telekom hosted the second Multi-SDO Information Modelling workshop in Bonn-Germany last month. I co-chaired the event with Klaus Martiny at Deutsche Telekom and Michael Brenner at GigaSpaces, and my CableLabs colleague Tetsuya Nakamura played a key role in organization. The workshop dovetailed with another milestone event, the first cross-industry workshop on Networks and Service Management organized by Deutsche Telekom which addressed the broader challenges for automating telecoms networks.

Participants from the following organizations presented their views on harmonizing information modeling:  3GPP (SA5), ARIA, Broadband Forum, ETSI NFV, IETF, IISOMI, ITU-T, MEF, NGMN, OASIS/TOSCA, ONF, OSM, OPEN-O, ON.Lab/CORD, and TM-Forum.

The discussions were intense and extremely positive. Clearly the spirit of collaboration and a sense of common purpose are as strong now as they were after the CableLabs hosted first workshop which bodes well for maintaining momentum on alignment. Follow-up collaborative activities are structured around a set of key topics which we identified as high priority to be addressed with named owners from different organizations who will be accountable for progress. A public WiKi has been created for anyone to follow progress. Activities include:

  • Looking at Federated Information Models as a way to get to a Common Information Model.
  • Aligning nomenclature amongst the different organizations in relation to Information Modeling and Data Modeling.
  • Collecting Use Cases and Business Requirements as a way to bind the effort towards a practical goal.
  • Creating and maintaining central repositories for the numerous information models and data models in use across the industry together with descriptive meta-data and open source tooling.

Achieving harmonization is vitally important for the industry to enable automation of the NFV operations environment so we are setting an aggressive timescale to build momentum through 2017.

What CableLabs is doing in this space

We have a number of activities around NFV and SDN that we are executing on behalf of MSOs. For example, CableLabs is progressing an intensive study of virtualized provisioning of the cable access network to enable programmability, our NFV/SDN reference platform is based on OPNFV and we are looking ahead to support 5G using an end-to-end virtualized architecture that includes low latency edge compute nodes located at the cable head-end. In addition, we are seeking to accelerate NFV/SDN interoperability through our subsidiary Kyrio which has built an interop lab where vendors can work together with operators to validate interoperability for their SDN and NFV solutions.

The NFV journey is only just beginning and 5G will be the first new wave of technology to be designed from the ground up using NFV and SDN technologies. The cable industry, with our low latency access network, is in a leadership position to advance these technologies for the benefit of MSOs and their customers globally.

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