While service convergence has been a buzzword for years now in the cable industry, Bright House Networks is well on its way to network convergence in its Florida footprint, thanks to its deployment of Cisco's ASR 9000 edge router.
Bright House Networks, the nation's sixth-largest cable operator, has a lot on its plate with DOCSIS 3.0 deployed across its footprint (including upstream channel bonding), Start Over and Look Back rollouts, switched digital video implementations, EPON for its Metro Ethernet services for businesses and cell backhaul, as well as provisioning its traditional triple-play services.
Bright House is in the process of converging all of its residential and commercial services on its access layer in Florida onto dual ASR 9000 routers in some of its edge hubs. Last year, Bright House replaced next-generation service routers from an unnamed vendor in roughly half of its 110 edge hubs in the state.
In the fourth quarter, it started replacing the Cisco 6500 and 7600 routers with the ASR 9000, and it anticipated having the project done either later this month or by the first week of May.
"Bright House has had a very aggressive goal for network convergence and service convergence," said Craig Cowden, Bright House Networks' senior vice president of network engineering and operations. "I know convergence is a buzz term that has been used for quite some time, and there are various definitions and degrees of commitment to it, but it's generally inevitable based on what I think is an IP delivery model for all bits to the home.
"I think Bright House has been on the forefront of convergence for the last couple of years. We've had a network transformation across all of our elements, but particularly at the service edge where we do convergence right now for all of our services."
Cowden said the 6500 and 7600 routers were shipped to other systems outside of Bright House Networks' Florida systems for reuse.
While Cowden said Bright House Networks uses Cisco's CRS-1 router at the core and will take a harder look later this year at the CRS-3 for future deployment, the operator needed to gear up at the edge.
"I think its very important to try to have a multi-purpose platform," he said. "I don't think it makes sense in the long run to have single-purpose networks, especially as it's all inevitably converted to IP. More practically, it's nice to have that vision, but you have to have a very robust service edge routing platform to make that a reality. We absolutely believe the ASR 9000 does that for us."
Bright House Networks typically works in tandem with Time Warner Cable on technologies and services. While Time Warner Cable and Bright House have reclaimed bandwidth through switched digital video (SDV), Comcast has opted to use digital-to-analog adapters, although Cowden thinks Comcast will eventually deploy SDV.
Cowden said it was too early to tell if Time Warner Cable's Converged Edge Services Access Router (CESAR) initiative or the Converged Multiservice Access Platform (CMAP) that is championed by Comcast would prevail.
"I think Comcast and Time Warner, whether its CMAP or CESAR, haven't done the level of network convergence that we've done up to this point," Cowden said. "We're very interested to see how CMAP and CESAR evolve, but I'd like to see it as more of a common set of attributes, so there are not two sets of requirements for the vendor community.
"We do think that one of them will likely be our sort of next-generation CMTS, but it wouldn't displace at all the ASR 9000. We believe the ASR 9000 is the lynchpin element to make our network convergence model work."
Cisco first introduced its ASR 9000 in 2008. Greg Smith, Cisco's manager of service provider marketing for the company's routing and switching products and services, said the ASR 9000 was specifically designed to scale at the edge of a network.
"The ASR 9000 fits well for customers that have a requirement for high-density Gigabit Ethernet, high-density 10 Gigabit Ethernet and a roadmap for deploying 100 gigabits," Smith said. "In the addition to scale, one of the other key aspects of the 9000 was around the quality of service capability. This is something our engineers put a lot of effort into in order to make sure that we had very accurate, consistent, high-performance quality of service policies.
"With a converged network, you have businesses and residential traffic on the same interface, and you need to make sure that you can prioritize your customers with the right quality of service policies to insure that everything works properly."
Carrier deployments for the ASR 9000, which has up to 6.4 terabits per second of total capacity, include Canadian MSO EastLink, NTT America, Verizon Wireless and Deutsche Telecom.