Cox's Finkelstein: SDN, NFV only way to manage 53% annual growth rate of network demand

NEW ORLEANS -- Cox network architecture chief Jeff Finkelstein said demand growth on his MSO's network is increasing at an annual rate of 53 percent. The only way to manage that growth, he said, is to capitalize on technologies including software defined networking (SDN) and network function virtualization (NFV).

"We have to take the complexity out of the edge and integrate it into the core," Cox said at breakfast panel conducted Wednesday by FierceCable and FierceTelecom, and centered around the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo in New Orleans. 

By "abstracting" the access network, Finkelstein said, "We have the ability to do some very interesting things. It gives us visibility into the home and the identity of each device. We can separate children's traffic from parents' traffic from business traffic. It helps us get traffic to the appropriate location in the cloud."

Speaking alongside Finkelstein was Craig Crowden, senior VP of network engineering for Bright House Networks. He described his MSO as being in the "pre-SDN" phase," using "scripted automation" with existing tools. 

"We have phase two of true SDN in our lab now," he said. "We'll start rolling it out in the first quarter of 2016."

Finkelstein said the proliferation of IoT connectivity will continue to drive cable network demand. He said, however, that innovations like DOCSIS 3.1 address only part of the equation toward meeting that demand.

"I'm not sure I'd tie DOCSIS 3.1 to anything other than network bandwidth," he said. "Speed is important when you purchase a service, but it's what you do with it later on that matters. Whether it's DOCSIS 3.1 or EPON or GPON or 10-gig GPON, whatever it is, it's just a means to an end. The customer doesn't care how we provide it. It's what the customer does with it that matters."

Added Andrew Smith, chief architect for cable MSO networks for Juniper Networks: "We're seeing Moore's Law as it applies to networks. There's a crisis happening. If networks don't automate, they're going to become unsustainable."

"For years," he said, "the CMTS chassis has not inherited the innovation [in automation technologies] that has gone into the service provider apparatus."

Panelists also included Manish Jindal, head of technology strategy and portfolio management for Ericsson; and Justin Paul, head of network and PBU marketing for Amdocs.

Wednesday's wide-ranging discussion spanned out beyond the network into areas like CPE virtualization. Paul said that virtual CPE could open up a $1.4 billion combined revenue and savings possibility for operators with more than 100,000 customers. "It unlocks the ability to innovate and create new services," he said. 

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