vCCAP: Harbinger of the Future
Virtualized CCAP solutions start to gain market traction
Harmonic’s recent announcement of the deployment of its CableOS solution by Com Hem, a major Swedish cable operator in northern Europe, highlights a significant commitment by a major cable operator to deploy a virtualized Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) solution. Com Hem is deploying Harmonic’s CableOS, a software-based Cable Modem Termination System (CMTS), in a remote PHY configuration as a replacement to its hardware-based CCAP to power its fast-growing broadband services.)
Harmonic is not the only CCAP vendor to commit to a software-based CCAP. In October 2017 Wide Open West (WOW), a major US cable operator, announced its deployment of Nokia’s virtualized distributed cable access solution. WOW plans to use the Nokia Unified Cable Access solution with a virtualized CMTS in a remote MACPHY configuration to increase network capacity in its HFC network to meet the massive growth in bandwidth demand.
These announcements are not isolated occurrences; they are signs of things to come. 2018 is expected to be the year cable operators start early deployments of Distributed Access Architecture configurations. Most deployments are expected to be interim steps where the existing hardware version of the CCAP is retained in the headends and hubs, while the PHY layer (at least in North America) is moved to the access nodes. This approach does have advantages, as it enables operators to continue to utilize invested capital while freeing capacity (and mitigating real estate and power cost issues) by moving the PHY layer to the access network.
However, retaining the CCAP hardware is only a stopgap measure, because although it alleviates short-term capacity issues, it does not address the long-term competitive needs of the industry, where service agility and dynamism are de rigeur. In other words, moving to a software version of the CCAP is inevitable, and vendors are already racing to satisfy this need (note Cisco’s demo of its cloud native CCAP at SCTE in October 2017).
It is notable that some operators are already taking the leap into software, and their example will serve the industry as it increases confidence in the ability to rely on software to deliver services that will be on par or better than what is doable with a hardware-based infrastructure. It is also worth pointing out that the move to software is not an all or nothing proposition for operators, as such a move might make sense in certain markets or in greenfield situations.