Harmonic’s relentless network pursuit drills down to analytics

Harmonic isn’t holding back the horses after IBC, darting out of the blocks with a triple measure of cable announcements which sees the US encoding expert establishing cloud infrastructure and analytics as a core component of its virtualization push.

CableOS – Harmonic’s software-based cable modem termination system (CMTS) technology – has this week been treated to an injection of containerized DOCSIS CMTS and passive optical network (PON) applications – for enabling converged delivery of broadband and FTTH services. Again, Harmonic is sending out some serious warning shots for competitors in the space just three months after securing the deal of a lifetime at Comcast.

Harmonic has also bulked up CableOS on the analytics front, unveiling the data analytics service CableOS Central – powered ambiguously by artificial intelligence. To the potential dismay of network analytics vendors, CableOS Central marks Harmonic’s foray into accessing, analyzing and reporting network data, initially targeted at enabling operators to predict and address issues before services are hit by anything serious. Prediction and AI are very different beasts and Harmonic has failed to distinguish between the two, although we are sure the encoding expert has all the answers.

CableOS Central also features a 24/7 team of cable access and networking experts with an AI toolset at their fingertips for detection and diagnosis of network issues, as well as an engagement portal featuring tools for case planning, calendars, software downloads, product and deployment documentation and event management.

In the same breath, Harmonic has landed a DOCSIS 3.1 deployment at Carolina-based cable operator Comporium this week which might look a little trivial when placed alongside Comcast’s name. But securing any corner of the US cable market away from vendors like Arris (CommScope), Cisco, Casa Systems and Nokia Gainspeed – which have been pioneering virtualized converged cable access platforms since 2013 – is an impressive feat. The deal includes Harmonic’s Electra XT high-density transcoder to maximize bandwidth efficiency for IPTV service delivery.

Comporium last appeared on the Faultline radar earlier this year when the internet and TV service provider rolled out multiple mesh extenders from Turkish WiFi expert AirTies, creating an intelligent mesh network in subscriber homes. Comporium is also using AirTies’ cloud-based Remote View platform for providing in-home WiFi performance data and analytics.

With the latest CableOS upgrade, essentially Harmonic is saying that CableOS now has additional cloud-native capabilities as a result of adding smaller operating domains and high-availability architectures. In short, CableOS is capable of delivering Remote PHY DOCSIS and Remote OLT (optical line termination) DOCSIS FTTH services simultaneously – significantly simplifying the process of operating and scaling multiple broadband access applications. This is done on a single CableOS instance running in a centralized data center.

By becoming more cloud-native in nature, Cable OS is able to support converged DOCSIS CMTS and FTTH PON OLT applications, and additional containerized access applications such as DOCSIS 4.0 in the future. The new version of CableOS includes 10G EPON and 10G XGS-PON, as well as a remote CableOS OLT module that has the same footprint as Harmonic’s Pebble Remote PHY device.

The previous CableOS update came in June when Harmonic added a new low-latency mode to its CableOS virtualized cable access platform, enabling double throughput performance using 1-RU Intel servers with a 100 Gigabit Network Interface Card and virtual segmentation with network-wide QoS capabilities. Harmonic says the upgrade ultimately helps operators break out of the cycle of waiting for and purchasing expensive and quick-to-be-obsolete custom hardware-based CMTS platforms.

Comcast’s increasingly close ties with Harmonic, revealed in a July 8K filing, come after the operator completed field trials of CableOS last summer and reiterates its commitment to virtualization of network components spearheaded by DAA (Distributed Access Architecture).

At the time of the initial agreement between Comcast and Harmonic, the announcement spoke not about virtualizing the CCAP, but creating a new operating system for CCAP masquerading as CableOS, which implied the use of Software Defined Networking (SDN) putting the control plane in the middle of a network and the data plane out among the forwarding components, like the RF tuners.

But at the warrant announcement the company made it clear that the system can run with a remote or centralized PHY, so that it did anticipate a distributed architecture. So, the COTS (commercial off the self) servers can be in a private cloud or out on the edge or even, for some less conservative operators, in a commercial cloud. Ultimately, the CableOS software-defined CCAP product is about taking the entire cable DOCSIS upgrade footing down to COTS servers.