Inform[ED] Video: Full Duplex Coherent Optics over Fiber Networks

Mar 15, 2018

Last week, CableLabs Distinguished Technologist Steve Jia posted a blog "Doubling up on Fiber Capacity: A Winning Strategy for Full Duplex Coherent Optics." In that blog, Steve describes how the CableLabs Full Duplex Coherent Optics innovation doubles the bi-directional capacity of each cable access network fiber, multiplies the capacity of each existing access network fiber by over 200 times and simultaneously makes Coherent Optics technology well suited for deployment in many more cable access network fibers.

Watch our Inform[ED] video below to learn more about this groundbreaking technology.

Full Duplex Coherent Optics has the potential to have a huge impact on operator networks. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to learn more about coherent optics in the future.


CableLabs Hosting a Free Full Duplex DOCSIS® Technology Seminar

Doug Jones
Principal Architect

Mar 13, 2018

CableLabs is hosting a free Full Duplex (FDX) DOCSIS® technology seminar April 17–18, 2018 that will be attended by both cable operators and DOCSIS suppliers. The seminar will take place at a private events center to provide attendees with a comfortable and professional setting to learn all about Full Duplex DOCSIS technology.

Scheduled speakers will be technologists who developed the FDX DOCSIS specifications. Most have been involved with DOCSIS technology since the beginning, all are accomplished speakers who possess a wealth of knowledge to share not only about FDX DOCSIS but also about how FDX DOCSIS integrates into the family of DOCSIS generations.

FDX DOCSIS 3.1 technology allows cable operators to offer symmetric gigabit-speed data services over their existing Hybrid Fiber/Coax (HFC) networks, building on the core DOCSIS 3.1 orthogonal frequency-division multiplexing (OFDM)/orthogonal frequency-division multiple access (OFDMA) technology. This additional set of features significantly increases upstream capacity and allows for the same spectrum to be simultaneously used for both downstream and upstream.

The technology seminar will cover a wide range of topics, including:

  • The physical layer: The physical layer topic includes how both OFDM and OFDMA have been extended to allow full duplex operation. This also includes how FDX DOCSIS fits into the channel plan, and how the system is expected to operate.
  • The Media Access Control (MAC) layer: This topic includes both how the cable modem termination system (CMTS) manages the full duplex spectrum and how today’s FDX modems initialize and communicate with the CMTS for full duplex operation.
  • Link Budgets and System Performance: This topic will discuss how to manage both signal levels and loss throughout the system in order to maintain peak operating performance.
  • FDX DOCSIS support of existing DOCSIS modems: This topic concerns how FDX DOCSIS modems will be tested for backward compatibility with earlier versions of DOCSIS modems; they will all operate on the same cable plant with no need to upgrade older modems.
  • Fiber Node changes: What will change in the Fiber Node, which now supports a Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) solution to distribute part (or all) of the CMTS to the fiber node?
  • Node+0 Tips: These tips and considerations will focus on Node+0 (passive coax) plant construction to support FDX DOCSIS.

The technology seminar has been designed to foster interactive discussion with the audience. FDX DOCSIS is an extension of the DOCSIS 3.1 technology and now involves the HFC network to create a system that offers symmetric capacity. Presentations will offer critical insights into these aspects of the architecture and technology. Attendees will come away with a greater appreciation and understanding of FDX DOCSIS’s underlying mechanisms.

Seminar Details

The FDX DOCSIS technology seminar is free to attend and is open to all CableLabs members and DOCSIS NDA suppliers. The audience is intended to be composed of technology leaders involved with the early deployments of DOCSIS, including not only the DOCSIS engineers but also experts in outside plant and construction as FDX DOCSIS uses a Node+0 HFC network.

This technology seminar overlaps with an FDX DOCSIS interop being held at CableLabs the week of April 16. All CableLabs members and suppliers participating in the interop have the opportunity to tour the interop and witness FDX DOCSIS technology in operation, viewing—for perhaps the first time—the same spectrum carrying simultaneous upstream and downstream traffic.

With the CableLabs membership spanning five continents, the seminar will provide a unique opportunity for networking, as well as connecting or reconnecting with colleagues involved with the introduction of new DOCSIS technology. The seminar will offer a diverse set of deployment scenarios, and the discussions will include how FDX DOCSIS can support the needs of cable operators.

Register Now


Doubling up on Fiber Capacity: A Winning Strategy for Full Duplex Coherent Optics

Steve Jia
Distinguished Technologist, Wired Technologies

Mar 8, 2018

During our 2017 Winter Conference, CableLabs announced the launch of the point-to-point (P2P) Coherent Optics specification project, potentially multiplying the capacity of each existing cable access network fiber by over 100 times and possibly indefinitely deferring new fiber builds on existing routes. Now, a new CableLabs innovation, Full Duplex Coherent Optics:

  • Doubles the bi-directional capacity of each fiber
  • Multiplies the capacity of each existing access network fiber by over 200 times
  • Simultaneously makes Coherent Optics technology well suited for deployment in many more cable access network fibers

Why CableLabs Began the Coherent Optics Project

Most cable operators have a somewhat limited fiber count between the headend and the fiber node, so maximizing the capacity provided by this scarce resource has real economic advantages for cable operators.  Getting more capacity out of the existing fibers can eliminate the need to dig more trenches to lay more fiber. This allows operators to best leverage the existing fiber infrastructure to withstand the exponential growth in capacity and services for residential and business subscribers.

Transport Methodologies

There are two fundamental topologies to achieve bidirectional P2P coherent transport:

  • dual-fiber
  • single-fiber

According to a recent operators survey, 20 percent of existing cable access networks use a single-fiber topology. That means that downstream and upstream transmission to nodes takes place on a single strand of fiber. It is estimated that over the next 5 years, this number will grow to 60 percent. Therefore, bidirectional transmission over a single fiber is needed for coherent signals to support single-fiber topologies and to facilitate the redundancy of optical links.

Full Duplex Coherent Optics Transport

The Dual-Fiber Approach

Today, achieving bidirectional transmission in an optical domain with a single laser requires two fibers. This is the standard practice using today’s coherent optical technology. One laser in a transceiver performs two functions:

  • as the optical signal source in the transmitter
  • as the reference local oscillator signal in the receiver

Because of the use of the same wavelength from the same laser, a second fiber must be available for the other direction—one fiber for downstream and a second fiber for upstream.

Full Duplex Coherent Optics Dual Fiber Approach

The Single-Fiber Approach

The second typical approach is to use a single fiber but transmit at different frequencies or wavelengths, similar to the upstream and downstream spectrum split that we implement in our HFC networks. To accomplish this frequency/wavelength multiplexing approach, two lasers operating at different wavelengths are needed. Wavelength multiplexers and demultiplexers following a wavelength management and allocation strategy are needed to combine these different wavelengths over the same fiber. The second laser ends up costing a lot more than money—increasing power consumption, operational complexity, and transceiver footprint.

Full Duplex Coherent-Optics-Single-Fiber Approach

CableLabs’ Full Duplex Coherent Optics Approach

CableLabs proposes an alternative method to achieve full duplex coherent optics. We leverage two optical circulators on each end in a special configuration. The circulator is a low-cost, passive, but directional device—much like a traffic roundabout for cars, but this is an optical roundabout. Instead of using two fibers, a single fiber is connected for bidirectional transmission. Most importantly, instead of using two lasers, a single laser is employed for single-fiber coherent systems.

CableLabs Full Duplex Coherent-Optics Approach

How Does It Work in a Cable?

Many scenarios in cable focus on the access environment with limited transmission distances. Unlike backbone and metropolitan coherent optical networks, access networks don’t require multiple directional optical amplifiers in cascade. By definition, the introduction of directional components hampers bidirectional transmission.

When dealing with coherent signals, we have much higher Optical Signal to Noise Ratio (OSNR) sensitivity and higher tolerance to the impairments from the spontaneous Rayleigh backscattering than intensity-modulated systems. In addition, the threshold of the stimulated Brillouin scattering (SBS) nonlinear effect is much higher because of the nature of phase-modulated signals on the reduction of optical carrier power and the increase of effective linewidth.

With this new dimension of direction-division multiplexing (DDM) in the optical domain, any coherent wavelength can be used twice, once in each direction, thus doubling the whole fiber system capacity. This full duplex implementation is not bandwidth-limited. It works for 100G, 200G and future 400G. It is also not wavelength-selective. It works for short wavelengths and for long wavelengths, and it would cover not only the entire C-Band but, with different optical sources, the entire fiber spectrum. All these features have been experimentally verified in CableLabs’ Optical Center of Excellence (OCE) over distances of up to 100 kilometers.

Impacts/Benefits of Full Duplex Coherent Optics

Full duplex coherent optics will significantly increase the value of the currently-deployed fiber infrastructure. It has been implemented in an elegant way, without the requirement of redesigning new chips for digital signal processing. This scheme can be seamlessly incorporated into the ongoing CableLabs’ P2P Coherent Optics specification effort, which will be issued in mid-2018.

Dr. Alberto Campos, a CableLabs Fellow, also contributed to this article.


Interested in learning more about our point-to-point (P2P) Coherent Optics specification project? A follow-up video containing more information on the technology will be posted next week. Click below to join our working group.

Join our Working Group


Emerging Technologies: New and Compelling Use Cases

Martha Lyons
Director of Market Development

Anju Ahuja
Vice President Market Development & Product Management

Mar 6, 2018

How will emerging technologies impact industries powered by communication networks? What will this mean for your customers and end users?

In our annual Emerging Technology Timeline (ETT), we highlight provocative new technologies that will impact the development of novel solutions and the ecosystems they serve. Are you a product tsar, strategist or developer who relies on the power of the network to deliver solutions or launch new applications? If so, then this series is written for you by the lab that is inventing networks of the future.

With hundreds of technologies in 7 sections, our timeline covers the present to 2023 and beyond. In this introduction, we touch upon some of the major themes that influenced our timeline: the body, professions reimagined, changing lifestyles and urban design.

Longer Better Lives: The Bionic You

Embellishment of the body with new and impactful technologies is putting society on the verge of a Cyber Human Revolution. Like the Industrial Revolution, this will lead to massive shifts in how we live, work and play.

In a biometrically-connected world, people will be able to better monitor their health, stress and overall well-being, helping them "find their Zen" before they’d otherwise know they need it. Innovations will emerge that enable people to overcome their disabilities: the deaf will be able to hear, the blind see, and the physically disabled walk. For many more, our well-being and day-to-day experience will be enhanced by:

  • Smart diagnostic clothing
  • Hearables and smart contact lenses
  • Powered exoskeletons and second skins
  • Ingestible robots
  • Bioacoustic sensing
  • Neuro-enhanced interfaces

Unlike the Industrial Revolution, the Cyber Human Revolution will see technology enable consumer and individual choice, bringing power back to labor and lifestyle in new and unusual ways. Expect the above to transform lives and unleash individual capacity to participate, produce and perform in new ways.

Professions Reimagined, Lifestyles Unshackled

Changes to the body and personal productivity will also enable a diverse and larger workforce. Changes in how we live and move about will follow. Some people may opt to live off-grid part-or even full-time, enabled by sustainable power sources, energy storage systems, water collection and monitoring, repurposing of waste into productive materials and so on.

Computers with human-like capabilities will emerge, creating a new set of jobs. True telepresence will change the workplace and lifestyles of the labor force. Autonomous vehicles will repurpose commutes and allow asset-lite living. Expect the rapid adoption and deployment of the following catalysts:

  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
  • Invisible interfaces
  • Commercial and companion robotics
  • Virtual and Augmented Reality
  • Blockchain decentralized asset management

Meanwhile, mega productivity centers will emerge, which are already taking root in some of the world’s fastest growing cities, and will appear as modern-day self-sufficient villages. These megacities will require new infrastructure and design with the network at the core.

The Sensor Driven World: Sentient Cities

The surge in data-driven activity has only begun. A convergence of technologies enabling Smart Cities are on an accelerated growth curve. We believe the future urban landscape will not only be "smart;" it will be auto-adaptive via artificial intelligence and sensors embedded within the network as well as within services upon the network. The most progressive cities will appear like adaptive organisms.  Expect the following to be pervasive and increasingly critical to lives and workforce productivity:

  • Terabit speeds
  • Intelligent bots
  • Proliferation of tiny sensors
  • Virtual, mixed and augmented reality
  • A confluence of new services that leverage precise network capabilities

Municipalities must be increasingly futuristic and work with communications service providers to build cities of the future. Cities must respond to the increasing demands of enterprises and residents by embedding intelligence and new networks in future design. We further speculate that just as cities are competing for growth engine enterprises like Amazon, they may have to compete for talented and skilled residents in the future too. A new landscape of applications and service providers will emerge, and we are ready to enable them.

CableLabs: Leading the Way to the Networks of the Future

Our technologists and product managers are developing innovations across wired and wireless technologies, network architectures, security and artificial intelligence. Rapidly adopted innovations are often best developed across ecosystems, and we collaborate across industries dependent upon the network of the future to unleash their potential. If your solution or service depends upon advanced networks, you may be experiencing challenges related to the network or falling short with your customer experience. Our innovation lab is dedicated to removing these pain points and obstacles to your success.

Emerging Technology Timeline Part 2 and Beyond

Each month, we will bring you a new view of our Emerging Technology Timeline in the sequence below:

Emerging Technologies Series Trajectory

Click to Enlarge


Think big about your product roadmap and unlock your industry's long-term potential. Check back soon for a new view of how emerging technologies and experiences will affect you and your enterprise. Not enough? Reach out to the authors to learn more.


Subscribe to our Series


About the Authors

Anju Ahuja

In our ever-evolving marketplace, Anju believes that taking a “Future Optimist” approach to solving challenging problems manifests solutions that benefit both the individual and the enterprise. Today Anju takes this approach to answer questions for emerging technologies like AR, VR, MR, AI and how they will work with traditional media, communications and the broader global cable industry. As Vice President of Market Development and Product Management, Anju leads the team whose charge is to enable transformative end-user experiences, and revolutionize the delivery of new forms of content, while also unleashing massive monetization opportunities. Anju also serves on the Board of Directors of Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing (CTAM) as well as the President’s Advisory Council of Northern California Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT).

Martha Lyons

Inventor, Futurist and Technologist, Martha Lyons is the Director of Market Development at CableLabs. With a wide-ranging career at Silicon Valley high tech companies and non-profits, Martha has over two decades of experience in turning advanced research into reality. A leading authority in the initiation and development of first of kind solutions, her current focus is the identification of industry-leading opportunities for the Cable industry. She is personally interested in how advances in the areas of intelligent agents, Blockchain, bioengineering, novel materials, nanotech and holographic displays will create opportunities for disruptive innovation, to the delight of end users, in industries ranging from healthcare, retail, and travel to media and entertainment. When Martha is not inventing the future, she enjoys disconnecting from technology and spending time outdoors, preferably near some body of water.


vRAN Over DOCSIS: CableLabs Making it a Reality

Joey Padden
Principal Architect, Wireless

Feb 26, 2018

In November, CableLabs announced the opening of our new Telecom Infra Project (TIP) Community Lab. Today, CableLabs joins TIP in releasing a whitepaper, making public deeper insights into the vRAN fronthaul interface under development in the TIP vRAN Fronthaul project group. With this new interface, the addressable market for virtualized RAN (vRAN) deployment architectures can grow significantly. This increased market is evidenced by the diverse set of use cases being sponsored by the growing set of operator-based TIP Community Labs.

With the release of the white paper, the project group highlights key milestones which have been reached, including agreements further defining the open API and a set of interoperability metrics to be used in validating the interface in multi-vendor configurations.

As the project continues, work on the CableLabs DOCSIS network vRAN fronthaul use case will take place at the CableLabs TIP Community Lab. We look forward to sharing more as we continue to check milestones off our list, so check back soon for updates.

You can find the whitepaper "Creating an Ecosystem for vRANs Supporting Non-Ideal Fronthaul v1.0." here


Webinar Recap: Enabling Cable Networks for Mobile Backhaul

Jennifer Andreoli-Fang
Distinguished Technologist, Office of the CTO / R&D

Feb 23, 2018

Last week, Craig Cowden (Charter), John Chapman (Cisco) and I jointly presented a webinar on improving latency for mobile backhaul over DOCSIS. Moderated by CableLabs’ Rob Alderfer, we:

  • Discussed cable’s wireless strategy and business case for mobile backhaul
  • Did a deep dive into the technical details on how our Bandwidth Report (BWR) proposal can reduce the DOCSIS latency to ~1ms to enable mobile backhaul.

More background on the BWR protocol and the joint development project between CableLabs and Cisco can be found in my blogs “Powering the Future of Mobile Backhaul” and “Enabling the Cable Networks for Mobile Backhaul.

The webinar was attended by a record number of audiences from operators, equipment suppliers and members of the public. With a large amount of interest building from cable operators, we have gathered a group of CMTS and LTE vendors this week and began the standardization work on the BWR protocol. Please contact me if you are interested in joining the standardization group.

You can watch the replay of the webinar below

For those of you attending the Mobile World Congress, stop by the CableLabs booth 5J81, Hall 5. I am also holding a joint demo with John Chapman at the Cisco booth number 3E30, Hall 3.


Pinpointing Signal Leakage and Noise Ingress Demo

Tom Williams
Principal Architect, Network Technologies

Feb 15, 2018

The CableLabs Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM) effort develops technologies and systems to proactively detect network problems before they impact the customer. In essence, our revolutionary technology turns every cable modem into a troubleshooting device, transferring that information to cable operators. Deploying PNM technologies results in faster and more accurate diagnoses of problems, faster repairs and ultimately a happier customer - all of which lead to lower costs for cable operators.

One of our PNM efforts tackles signal leakage and noise ingress.

The demonstration in our video is of an automatic data capture system that could be mounted on a vehicle that normally spends much of the day driving through neighborhoods, such as a garbage truck, a dry cleaning delivery service, or a taxi cab. The system can be completely automated to capture, upload, process and prioritize network maintenance. Watch our video below to learn more about this groundbreaking technology.

Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to stay current with our PNM effort.


Enabling the Cable Networks for Mobile Backhaul

Jennifer Andreoli-Fang
Distinguished Technologist, Office of the CTO / R&D

Feb 14, 2018

With 5G and small cell densification on the near horizon, mobile networks need economically viable backhaul solutions. Cable operators are well positioned with fixed networks to bridge that gap, and many operate mobile networks themselves. Could we be on the verge of fixed-mobile network convergence? Things seem to be pointing in that direction, but it won’t happen without technology developments to make DOCSIS and LTE networks compatible.

A big element of this compatibility is aligning the typical network latency between DOCSIS and what is required for backhauling LTE. Today’s DOCSIS upstream access latency is higher than the allocated budget (Fig 1) and solving the latency problem is key to enabling cable networks for mobile backhaul.

Mobile Backhaul DOCSIS Latency Today

Fig 1. DOCSIS latency today, vs. where we want to get to

Our solution: together is better

About a year ago, a lightbulb moment led to a solution which led to a joint project between CableLabs and Cisco that I wrote about last October. You can read about it here.

To recap, instead of operating as two independent networks, we want to coordinate the DOCSIS channel access procedure with information made available by LTE, so that the DOCSIS process can start while the LTE transactions are still going on. When two systems work hand-in-hand, we achieve better end-to-end latency. (Fig 2)

mobile backhaul pipelining

Fig 2. Pipelining LTE and DOCSIS operations

With the CableLabs team supplying expertise in mobile and John Chapman’s (Cisco Fellow and CTO Cable Access) team developing the pipelining API on the CMTS, we jointly built a proof-of-concept (PoC) using open source LTE small cells and the Cisco cBR-8 CMTS.

What we have been working on

Since my blog last October, we have been working on characterizing DOCSIS latency with increasing load on the DOCSIS channel. Using the pipelining method, the series of ping packets we sent from the User Equipment (UE) achieved an upstream latency of ~1-2 ms on the DOCSIS link (Fig 3). The latency remained consistent when we loaded up the DOCSIS link with other upstream traffic of up to ~60% of the channel capacity. Above this loading point, the latency gain with our pipelining method became more significant compared to no pipelining, albeit creeping above the 1-2 ms range.

Mobile Backhaul Ping Pockets

Fig 3. Ping packets achieved ~1-2 ms of upstream latency on the DOCSIS link

At this point, skeptical readers might be wondering, what’s the penalty for sending the LTE scheduling information across the DOCSIS link? We coded our LTE scheduler to send a “Bandwidth Report” (BWR) messages every 1 ms. A 80-byte BWR message, therefore, incurs 640 kbps, a minute amount compared to DOCSIS speeds that are now in the multi-Gbps range.

On the other hand, it is possible that the data predicted by the LTE scheduler might not actually arrive at the DOCSIS link, causing under-utilization of the DOCSIS grants. So, how many DOCSIS grants are issued by the CMTS but are not used with the BWR method? We performed tests and observed a respectable number. We will be reporting more on the upcoming webinar (details see below).

We have also been working on a fronthaul setup. Initial results showed that more latency gains can be expected with BWR compared to backhaul. More on that later.

What’s next

  • We have been demonstrating the proof of concept to CableLabs members since last summer. CableLabs and Cisco will once again hold a joint demo at the upcoming Mobile World Congress.
  • The joint team is wrapping up the PoC work. We worked together on perfecting the pipelining operation and designing the new BWR message. We will take this baseline design to the CableLabs Mobile Backhaul Working Group that I am currently leading. Given the interest from CableLabs members, my goal is to get LTE and CMTS vendors together to agree on protocol and message details, so that cable operators can get the latency benefit regardless of which LTE and CMTS equipment they choose to deploy.
  • Additionally, in building the PoC, we have accumulated expertise on how to perfect the BWR algorithm to optimally predict the amount of data and time egressed from the LTE side. We will pass this knowledge on to the LTE implementers during the specification work.

I am holding a webinar with John Chapman on Thursday, February 15th at 8am Pacific / 11am Eastern / 5pm Central European Time. It is open to the public and we hope to see you there.

For those of you attending Mobile World Congress, I am holding a joint demo with John Chapman at the Cisco booth number 3E30, Hall 3 Hybrid Hall.


Container Workloads: Evolution of SNAPS for Cloud-Native Development

Feb 8, 2018

Application developers drive cloud-platform innovation by continuously pushing the envelope when it comes to defining requirements for the underlying platform. In the emerging application programming interface (API) and algorithm economy, developers are leveraging a variety of tools and already-built services to rapidly create new applications. Edge computing and Internet-of-Things (IoT) use cases require platforms that can be used to offload computing from low-power devices to powerful servers. Application developers deliver their software in iterations where user feedback is critical for product evolution. This requires building platforms that allow developers to develop new features rapidly and deploy them in production. In other words, to adopt DevOps.

In the telecommunications world, network function virtualization (NFV) is driving the evolution of telco clouds. However, the focus is shifting towards containers as a lightweight virtualization option that caters to the application developer’s requirements of agility and flexibility. Containerization and cluster-management technologies such as Docker and Kubernetes are becoming popular alternatives for tenant, network and application isolation at higher performance and lower overhead levels.

Container is an operating system level virtualization that allows execution of lightweight independent instances of isolated resources on a single Linux instance. Container implementation like Docker avoids the overhead and maintenance of virtual machines and helps in enabling portability and flexibility of applications across public and private cloud infrastructure.

Microservice architectures are enabling developers to easily adopt the API and algorithm economy. It has become imperative that we start to look at containers as an enabler for carrier-grade platforms to power new cloud-native applications.

Edge computing and IoT require containers

Edge Computing and IoT are introducing new use cases that demand low-latency networks. Robotics, autonomous cars, drones, connected living, industrial automation and eHealth are just some of the areas where either low latency is required, or a large amount of data needs to be ingested and processed. Due to the physical distance between the device and public clouds, the viability of these applications depends on the availability of a cloud platform at the edge of the network. This can help operators and MSOs leverage their low-latency access networks—their beachfront property—to enable such applications and create new revenue streams. The edge platforms require cloud-native software stacks to help “cloud-first” developers travel deep inside the operators’ networks and make the transition frictionless.

On the other hand, the devices also require client software, which can communicate with the “edge.” The diversity of such devices such as drones, sensors or cars makes it difficult to install and configure software. Containers can make life easier since they require a version of Linux operating system and container runtime to launch, manage, configure and upgrade software to any device.

The role of intelligence and serverless architectures in the carrier-grade platform

Let’s consider the example of a potential new service for real-time object recognition. By integrating artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) algorithms, operators can enhance the edge platform so developers can create applications for pedestrian or obstacle detection in autonomous driving, intrusion detection in video surveillance and image and video search. The operator’s platform that hosts such applications needs to be “intelligent” to provide autonomous services. It requires the ability to host ML tools and support event-driven architectures where computing can be offloaded to the edge on-demand. Modern serverless architectures could be a potential solution for such requirements, but containers and cloud-native architectures are a near-perfect fit.

Are containers ready for carrier-grade workloads?

Containers as a technology have existed for over a decade. Linux containers and FreeBSD Jails are two early examples. However, it was not easy to network or manage the lifecycle of containers. Docker made this possible by simplifying container management and operations, which led to the ability to scale and port applications through containers. Today, the Open Container Initiative of the Linux Foundation is defining the standards for container runtime and image formats. APIs provided by container runtimes and additional tools help abstract low-level resource management of the environment for application developers. Container runtimes can download, verify and run containerized application images.

The production applications are typically composed of several containers that can independently scale. To manage such deployments, new software ecosystems have emerged that primarily orchestrate, manage and monitor applications across multiple hosts. Kubernetes and Docker Swarm are examples of such solutions, commonly called container orchestration engines (COE).

Some of the key challenges for carrier-grade deployments of container-based platforms are:

  • Complex networking with several alternatives for overlay and underlay networks within a cluster of containers
  • Lack of well-defined resource-management procedures like isolating containers with huge pages, CPU pinning, GPU sharing, inter-POD, node-affinity, etc.
  • Complex deployment techniques are required to deploy multi-homed PODs
  • Large ecosystems for securing container platforms as it is not easy to deploy and manage large container security solutions

SNAPS and Containers

SNAPS, which is short for SDN/NFV Application Development Platform and Stack, is an open-source platform developed by CableLabs. The platform enables rapid deployment of virtualized platforms for developers. SNAPS accelerates adoption of virtual network functions by bootstrapping and configuring a cloud platform for developers so they can focus on their applications. Aricent is involved in the SNAPS-OpenStack and SNAPS-Boot projects and contributed to the platform development with CableLabs.

An obvious next phase is to enable containerized platforms. A key first step was already achieved in the SNAPS-OpenStack project where Docker containers are used for executing many OpenStack components. The next obvious step is to create a roadmap for enabling containers for application developers. A cursory look at the cloud-native landscape reveals that this ecosystem is huge. There are several options available for DevOps, tooling, analytics, management, orchestration, security, serverless, etc. This can create confusion for developers regarding what to use and how to configure these components. They will have to “learn” the ecosystem, which will delay their own application development. The future roadmap for SNAPS is to enable developers by bootstrapping a secure and self-service container platform with the following features:

  • Container orchestration and resource management
  • In-built tooling for monitoring and diagnostics
  • A reference microservices architecture for application development
  • Easy management and deployment of container networking
  • Pre-configured and provisioned security components
  • DevOps-enabled for rapid development and continuous deployment

These are exciting times for developers. The availability of platforms and technologies will drive innovation throughout the developer community. The SNAPS community is focused on ensuring that the best-in-class developer platforms are created in the spirit of open innovation. The SNAPS platform roadmap adopting cloud-native ecosystem is going to provide developers an easy-to-use platform. We are looking forward to a larger participation for the developer and operator community. As a community, we must solve the key challenges and create a resilient platform for containerized application platform for network applications.

Have Questions? We’d love to hear from you: 


The author, Shamik Mishra, is the Assistant VP of Technology at Aricent. SNAPS, CableLabs’ SDN/NFV Application Development Platform and Stack Project, was developed leveraging the broader industry’s open source projects with the help of the Software Engineering team at Aricent. CableLabs selected Aricent for this specific project because of their world-class expertise in software-defined networks and network virtualization. In a little less than a year, CableLabs and Aricent worked closely to extend CableLabs’ initial code base to the full SNAPS platform. The SNAPS platform has now been released to open source to enable the wider industry to collaboratively build on our work and to use it to test new network approaches based on SDN and NFV.


CableLabs Remote MACPHY Project Launches

Feb 7, 2018

Last month, we announced the launch of the Remote MACPHY working group. As part of our Distributed CCAP Architecture program (DCA), the Remote MACPHY working group is comprised of operators, equipment manufacturers, and CableLabs’ engineers that help cable operators distribute their access networks. The charter is to develop one or more specifications that allow vendors’ Remote MACPHY solutions to interoperate when deployed.

Remote MACPHY Background

The cable industry has been working on replacing the old Cable Modem Termination Systems (CMTSs) with a Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) for some time. CCAP hardware simplifies the network by putting ports for both data and cable video on a single device, saving space and power. Now that operators have transitioned to CCAP, there has been a movement to distribute those functions out of the headened, closer to the edge of the network. This is being done through Remote MACPHY and Remote PHY. These Distributed Access Architectures provide several key benefits to the Hybrid Fiber Coax (HFC) networks that deliver cable TV and broadband and we highlight Remote MACPHY in our video below. 

Watch now to learn more about Remote MACPHY technology and its benefits.

For more information or to join the Remote MACPHY working group contact Jon Schnoor. Participants must sign a DOCSIS non-disclosure agreement and a DOCSIS IP right agreement. Don't forget to subscribe to our blog to stay current on our work in Remote MACPHY.