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Citing flexibility and feature velocity, CommScope technologists Tom Cloonan and Chris Busch dispelled the myths around virtualization at SCTE – and helped network innovators see a broader definition of the trend.
What happens when you put the power of the future into the hands of industry engineers? Good things.
CommScope empowered a capacity crowd at SCTE’s Innovation Theater last week, handing out flow diagrams of the decision tree that innovators travel when transforming their network from centralized, appliance-based architectures to distributed, virtual approaches.
The occasion: SCTE’s Innovation Theater. The topic: Report from the Front Lines: The Real Real About Virtualization.
“You can virtualize anything,” said CommScope CTO for Network Solutions Tom Cloonan. “You can virtualize your control plane, your management plane, or your data plane. And when you open it up to all those things, there’s many things you could virtualize going forward.”
Flexibility is the driving force of virtualization, offered CommScope engineering fellow Chris Busch. “You can have conversations about cost, but those are all relative to different use cases and scenarios,” he said. “At the end of the day, virtualization is granting the operator incredible freedom in the way that they can … handle their growth and manage their business.”
Agility and feature velocity are significant benefits for operators, added Cloonan. “Because this is in software, operators can more rapidly develop features; they can bring in third parties to come in and help them develop features… So, this will help drive features out into the field more rapidly."
One of the most striking conclusions of the discussion, moderated by Leslie Ellis: One size will never fit all when it comes to virtualizing network functions.
"Virtualization is permitted at any point in a network’s architecture," explained Cloonan. “A lot of folks think the only virtualization out there is for virtualized cores in a Remote PHY environment. That’s not true. You can virtualize the control plane, the management plane, the MAC plane, the data plane…and you can pick and choose which you want to use at any point in time."
Subscriber-consumed applications can also become part of the fabric of how operators move their business forward, added Busch. “The great example is e-gaming…the delivery of that next immersive or ultra-low-latency experience for the customer. We can bring that gaming service into the edge that may also be serving some virtual DOCSIS cores. It’s part of a unified management plane that says 'We know these customers are e-gaming opt-in subscribers; we know they’re in these service groups. We can give them low-latency DOCSIS service; and we can bring that gaming experience very close to the hub, maybe even deeper into the network over time.’ So, at the end of the day, the gaming community is going to say, `You need to be on cable because that's the best experience for gaming.’”
"We’ve never had so much bandwidth,” Busch concluded. “And we’ve never had so much opportunity to deliver it as fast as we can."
And finally, virtualization is not new. “Virtualization's roots go back to the 1960s and began with IBM mainframes,” said Cloonan. “In the 1990s, it got a big kick with the arrival of virtual machines. And six to eight years ago, it got another big kick with the arrival of containers.” Earlier at the conference, CommScope celebrated its 10th anniversary of offering virtual network functions in the cloud.
Both Cloonan and Busch agreed that security is the most important — and too often overlooked — priority for network innovators inserting virtualization.
“A lot of open-source code gets used in virtual environments,” said Cloonan. “Strong test programs from your vendors are key.”
Open platforms - whether code or cloud-compute platforms - increase the importance of a vertically hardened stack of micro services and first-class-citizen applications in a DevOps release pattern, added Busch. “You want to have that warm embrace of knowing that you’ve got security, sustaining, QA all coming along for the journey."
Download your copy of Network Transformation to the Edge Decision Tree — which lists pros and cons of a number of virtualization paths here.
Watch the session here.