Capitalizing on Data: An Engine to Business Services Growth
Aligning a service provider’s business with its drive for new services and optimized operations relies heavily on one foundational element — data. Working closely with our cable operator members, the CableLabs team recognizes that access to data provides key insights that drive business and technology innovations. Supporting the growth opportunities our members have in Business Services, CableLabs has three projects focused on helping enable our members to capitalize and realize the revenue growth.
Present Growth Opportunity: The Enterprise Market
An expanding number of business services opportunities are driving an increased focus on data. For example, enablement of B2B Ethernet services for large enterprise businesses (500+ employees) that span across multiple geographical footprints requires a common data structure to seamlessly integrate end-to-end solutions. Through incorporating existing global standards and providing necessary extensions based on our member’s insight, CableLabs is designing and developing open application programming interfaces (APIs) to create a common data structure to automate the exchange of data, accelerating the sales proposal, service delivery, and ongoing service assurance processes enabling cross-service provider’s ability for seamless service delivery and support for shared accounts that enterprise business locations present.
Sales Automation & Interoperability Approach
Future Growth Opportunity: Virtualized Service Delivery & Management
While Ethernet services provide the backbone, small, mid & enterprise businesses are increasing the demand for dynamic applications & managed services. Firewall, DDOS mitigation, and multi-site VPNs are a few examples of managed security services that provide an important opportunity to increase revenue per unit served. The emergence and role of virtualized service delivery and management will provide critical infrastructure support to exchange the data needed seamlessly to enable the rapid development and deployment of these solutions. The shift towards a virtualized delivery of products & services is defining the future of network enablement through software-centric solutions with a high reliance on configuration and performance data. Utilizing common data definitions and access methods to network data for reuse across applications will reduce the risk of supplier lock-in, simplify dynamic network management, and enable easy sharing of network data with peripheral applications (e.g., security, load-balancing, and analytic engines).
Industry collaboration that leads to a well-defined data framework will enable the rapid development of new services that can be easily integrated between partner companies. This flexible framework and streamlined integration will shorten new service time-to-market, elevate the cable operator’s competitive positioning, and continue to attract a robust supplier community.
Open API Access & Community Engagement
These trends are driving architecture evolution and a shift away from the historical practice of housing data in a vertical format, which limits sharing across enterprise applications. CableLabs has developed an approach with a reusable library of data artifacts, which includes common APIs, data models, and entity definitions as examples (which registered users can access at diadeveloper.cablelabs.com) that aims to replace the siloed approaches of the past.
The approach strives to support CableLabs members as they begin to unlock the value of their big data reserves, adapt quickly to the shifts in technology, and move towards a software-centric and cloud networking operational world.
For more information on CableLabs projects related to Business Services, please contact Carmela Stuart, email@example.com
Carmela Stuart is the Director of Business Technologies at CableLabs.
SDN & NFV: Moving the Network into the Cloud
Cisco recently predicted that Internet traffic will reach 1.4 zettabytes per year by 2017. This traffic explosion is putting pressure on service providers to rein in costs while increasing capacity. Enter Software Defined Networking (SDN) and Network Function Virtualization (NFV). In much the same way that virtualization and Cloud have changed computing, the combination of these two technologies have the potential to lower costs, decrease customer provisioning time, and accelerate new service introduction. SDN and NFV will also allow increased automation and customer self-service, thereby reducing trouble tickets and operating costs.
Generally speaking, SDN describes an open architecture comprising a set of APIs, and control protocols such as OpenFlow, Forwarding and Control Element Separation (ForCES), and SNMP that allow for dynamic, distributed provisioning and automation. To this list, CableLabs is adding a PacketCable MultiMedia (PCMM) plugin – check out our interview on SDN Central, where we talk about using SDN to control DOCSIS links. Using SDN, service providers can use DevOps tools such as Puppet and Chef to provision network devices, replacing error-prone manual processes.
NFV decouples network functions such as firewalls, deep packet inspection, caching, etc., from proprietary hardware so that they can be run in software on generic (e.g., x86) servers. This allows service providers to use standard IT virtualization software to dynamically instantiate, move, or scale network functions. While not reducing the overall computational load, service providers have flexibility to decide where to put the load, e.g., moving it from a crowded hub site to a headend or regional data center.
While either SDN or NFV can be used by itself, there is synergy in combining the two technologies. Taken in combination, NFV provides the ‘what’ (virtualization architecture) and SDN provides the ‘how’ (APIs and control protocols) to enable service providers to embrace network virtualization. These technologies also accelerate new service deployment, as they can be developed as software-based ‘cloud’ applications--disconnected from the underlying hardware--that can be tested, and deployed at scale using MSOs’ internal cloud infrastructures. As part of CableLabs’ Open Networking assessment, we determined that by 2018 the combined technologies have the potential to significantly reduce OpEx and CapEx, while increasing revenue in the form of new dynamic services provided to consumers.
The revolution in networking, heralded by SDN and NFV, has profound implications for MSOs. As networks become part of the ‘cloud’, MSOs can sell Network-as-a-Service to enterprise customers and other MSOs. In addition, these technologies will allow MSOs to sell dynamic, mass-customized services. As we have seen with smartphones, customers will be able to condition their service by selecting from a curated selection of ‘apps’ (e.g., optimized over-the-top video, optimized gaming, de-optimized peer-to-peer file transfers, etc.). I’m personally looking forward to network-based parental controls and firewall services to simplify my home network, so I don’t have to maintain policies on all my devices. Also analogous to cell phones, we will see more services residing in the cloud and device-independent access to services, whether accessing them from home, CableWiFi, or a hotel across the country.
At CableLabs, we are bringing SDN and NFV to the cable industry through two projects. Our Open Networking project is exploring how to virtualize cable access network hardware elements, particularly focusing on head-end devices such as the CMTS. This project is focused on rapid prototyping using emerging SDN toolkits. This will enable us to develop a scalable architecture, roadmap, and requirements for broad application of virtualization in the network. Our second project involves developing a Virtual CPE prototype to demonstrate the applicability of these technologies on very low-end devices. We are also engaged with the ETSI NFV Industry Specification Group, where we sit on the Network Operators Council (NOC).
By Chris Donley