Cable operators deal with a very complex physical network that originated as the means to carry broadcast video and then evolved to also handle IP data. Today, Cisco unveiled its Remote PHY to help cable operators prepare for moving more of their network functions to the cloud.
The physical part of the cable network is dubbed “PHY.” And Cisco’s new Remote PHY helps cable operators push the functions of its converged broadband router system (cBR) — which typically sits in the cable headend — out further toward the edge of the network.
“We are decomposing the cBR-8,” said Greg Smith, a senior marketing manager in Cisco’s service provider business. “We’re making it so the physical part of the cable network, which can’t be virtualized, is pushed out into the cable plant. The next step would be to virtualize the parts of the router which are, in effect, just software. That part would be moved into a cloud data center.”
In addition to decomposing Cisco’s cBR-8 platform, the Remote PHY also leverages Cisco’s GS7000 node platforms. Smith said the remote PHY device itself includes “everything that is physical that we can’t virtualize; we make it as dumb as possible and push it out closer to the customer.” the Remote PHY hangs off telephone poles.
Cisco’s Remote PHY is based on open, standardized software that was contributed to CableLabs’ OpenRPD forum in 2016. This open source initiative creates an ecosystem of Remote PHY device vendors, of which Cisco is one such vendor. The OpenRPD software manages the turn-up of the Remote PHY in an automated fashion.
Cisco has been shipping its Remote PHY to customers in multiple countries since April 2017.
Ultimately, the Remote PHY will play into an overall cable virtualization strategy that includes a virtual cable modem termination system (CMTS). Comcast Cable, for one, is working with the Central Office Re-architected as a Datacenter (CORD) open source project to virtualize the CMTS.