New IP buzzwords like NFV and SDN made their way around the INTX event in Chicago this week as NCTA "reimagined" The Cable Show to fit the bill for a digital economy.
From sessions on software-defined networking (SDN), mentions of network functions virtualization (NFV) and the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT), INTX's agenda reflected a changing industry where the lines between MSOs and telcos are blurring, and the challenges of moving toward a next-generation, software-defined IP network are universal.
My key takeaways from Day 1 of the event are as follows:
Michael Powell, president and CEO of NCTA, said in his opening Q&A session that "disruption comes with an enormous amount of good and some bad," and that the cable industry's response to that disruption needs to be accelerated.
The younger generation is setting the tone for a "new kind of behavior" where cable's biggest competition is "real life," he said, referring to a continuously plugged in society where everyone can produce their own content instantaneously and spontaneously thanks to YouTube, Meerkat, Periscope and the like. Where cable can succeed is through its "greatest gift" which he said is the broadband infrastructure that provides the capacity to support quality of service and experience.
SDN, NFV and cable go together like milk and cookies and more cookies, according to a panel of speakers on the topic. With four to 15 connected devices per household using voice, data and video applications, cable operators need better network management capabilities to provide the end-to-end service model customers expect, said Nagesh Nandiraju, director of network architecture at Comcast Cable.
"We want to build that flexible infrastructure to be able to launch applications today, but also in the future, and get there in a much quicker time frame," he said, adding that, "NFV and SDN present enormous benefits."
Cable operators are no different than telcos in that they see the "real benefits" of SDN and NFV in the operational efficiency, network programmability to turn up services faster, the ability to provide increased capacity and to provision new services, according to Jeff DeMent, distinguished systems engineer at Arris.
Cable should not branch off from the rest of the communications industry and "do its own thing" when it comes to industry standards and best practices for SDN and NFV, said Nandiraju. "That would not be productive. We use the same routers as the telecom operators," he added. However, where we can expect to see differentiation is in the deployment strategy, according to DeMent.