In legacy broadband implementations, network operators had different network management systems for different network layers, putting them at a crossroads to compromise between quality and cost. In this deep dive, Ciena’s Vinicius Santos explains how Ciena’s MCP domain controller provides a better way of delivering broadband service, without compromises.

Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP)  is now known as Navigator Network Control Suite. You can learn more about it here.

Over 30 years ago, Pirelli published a picture of the American sprinter Carl Lewis in the typical starting position wearing a pair of red stilettos heels. Already a world record holder and having won his eighth Olympic gold medal, Carl Lewis and those heels perfectly embodied the message that Pirelli wanted to convey: “Power is nothing without control”. These words are as valid to Pirelli’s tire industry as they are for broadband networks, then and now.

In the past, purpose-built broadband networks were static and rigid by nature. Burstable best-effort applications dominated the internet and bandwidth congestion problems were addressed mainly by provisioning excess capacity at aggregation points or by allowing high contention rates. Service providers’ activities were much more focused on delivering access, activating customers, or solving physical problems. It was not simple or easy, but with a limited, predictable ecosystem of consumer applications, and customers whose lives were not yet overly dependent on connectivity, providers’ primary concerns were securing new customers while keeping the network up and running.

So much has changed in the past 30 years.

With broadband connectivity now a critical part of our society, the applications ecosystem has grown from a few categories to thousands, supporting diverse use cases varying from cloud gaming, streaming, work-from-home productivity tools, and virtual reality. These new market dynamics require unprecedented operational agility with increased adaptability and coordination of all network components involved in providing broadband services.

Siloed operations force network operators to compromise between customer quality of experience (QoE) and operational expenditures

In traditional broadband implementations, network operators had different network management systems (NMS) for different network layers (optical, Ethernet, and IP) and relied on slow and error-prone manual processes to coordinate workflows across them. This did not represent a significant challenge at the time because the middle-mile or aggregation network, composed of optical and IP elements, was static and did not require frequent reconfiguration to guarantee broadband services were delivered as customers expected. Most action happened in the access network and was supported by a very specialized NMS with limited scope.

However, as application demands became increasingly dynamic and customer expectations soared, the legacy NMS approach put network operators at a crossroads: either increase the size of their operational team to cope with this new environment – negatively impacting operational expenditures with no guarantee of success – or offer a subpar customer QoE, risking churn. The legacy siloed operational approach forces customers to compromise between quality and cost.

Figure 1 – Legacy siloed NMS approach

Figure 1: Legacy siloed NMS approach

At first glance, this may look like a problem only for larger service providers serving customers in densely populated urban areas; however, this is not the case. Working from home is allowing people to move to rural areas, and everybody, independent of where they live, wants to watch their favorite sporting event or TV show with the best possible quality!

QoE will differentiate service providers, so adequately planning the network to support existing and future application demands is paramount for operators of all sizes and regions. The quality of broadband connectivity has a major influence on the overall socioeconomic development of suburban and rural communities. It also has a direct impact on service providers’ financial viability.

Ciena’s Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) domain controller: A better way of delivering broadband service without compromise

New applications demand more capacity and better network performance. Service providers of all kinds realize that centralizing network intelligence in the core, and continually adding capacity to the middle-mile and access networks, is not only economically unsustainable, it also does not solve the problem!

There are better options.

Moving IP closer to the access network by integrating Optical Line Terminals (OLT) in IP routers, and adopting a disaggregated and virtualized Broadband Network Gateway (BNG), allows the user plane to be deployed at the network edge to enable operators to implement local breakouts. This simplifies the adoption of edge cloud and caching capabilities to reduce the stress on the middle-mile and drastically improves cloud application performance. Middle-mile networks have also evolved to support IP and optical convergence to increase network flexibility with the ability to adapt to different application demands via distributed peering.

You can get this with Ciena's Residential Broadband solution.

This new architectural approach multiplies the number of IP nodes and requires multi-layer coordination, so it is also vital to create a broadband infrastructure that is both sustainable and future-proof. Cost-efficient management of the broadband access, middle-mile, and core network components – including Passive Optical Network (PON), IP, and optical layers – simply cannot be achieved with a legacy siloed NMS approach. Rather, it demands a modern domain controller with full real-time visibility of the broadband network providing end-to-end analytics, software control, and automation to optimize multi-layer network performance and boost network operations to exceptional levels of efficiency and business agility. It demands Ciena’s MCP, now known as Navigator Network Control Suite.

Figure 2 – Next-generation broadband network with an end-to-end domain controller

Figure 2: Next-generation broadband network with an end-to-end domain controller

As part of Ciena's Residential Broadband solution, the MCP domain controller provides software control and automation of multi-layer networks throughout the entire operational lifecycle: network planning, device commissioning, service fulfillment, service assurance, and network utilization monitoring.

MCP is the industry's most advanced domain controller, with software-defined networking (SDN) control of multi-layer infrastructure and network services in combination with integrated online planning and optimization within a 'single pane of glass'. Network operators do not need to learn and navigate disparate tools for separate technology layers because MCP provides a unified view across PON broadband access, optical, IP, and Ethernet infrastructure. Operational workflows can be completed quickly with MCP’s unified and intuitive Graphical User Interface (GUI) with open Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to enable intelligent, data-driven automation. MCP's open REST APIs simplify integration with service providers' existing Operations Support System (OSS) and processes.

MCP is also designed on an open, cloud-native, microservices platform that is easy to deploy and integrate within any service provider’s holistic operational environment, featuring:

  • N+1 clustering and load balancing for ultra-high availability and elastic scale
  • Multi-layer online service and bandwidth planning with scheduled service activation option
  • Microservices, a container-based platform supporting rapid enhancements, modularity, and scale
  • Secure and rapid on-premises deployment, in the customer-procured cloud, or as a Ciena-hosted service

Figure 3 – MCP Applications simplify management of next-generation broadband infrastructure and services

Figure 3: MCP Applications simplify management of next-generation broadband infrastructure and services

Scalability of broadband access, without operational complexity

For broadband access, MCP supports the deployment, configuration, and management of all the access infrastructure, including Ciena’s extensive router portfolio, Ciena XGS-PON uOLT pluggables, and Optical Network Units (ONUs). On the OLT side, MCP provides complete PON service management, including configuration, visualization, alarm management and performance monitoring. Ciena's Residential Broadband solution is highly modular and scalable allowing customers to start with a single XGS-PON pluggable in a router and grow to offer 256 XGS-PON ports or more by combining host and top-of-rack routers into what we call an ‘Aggregate Node’ for massive scale and XGS-PON port density. With MCP’s Aggregate Node capability, network operators benefit from a layer of simplification and control across all the scalability the Ciena solution offers. MCP allows network operators to manage the multiple elements constituting an Aggregate Node as a single node, providing easy, consolidated management. Service providers can protect their investments by growing their network where they need it and when they need it by leveraging Ciena’s solution modularity without adding complexity.

For end-customer services, MCP offers full ONU management capability allowing full-service configuration automation, ONU auto-discovery, single or multiple ONU firmware upgrades, and detailed performance monitoring. In keeping with the Ciena Residential Broadband solution value-proposition of openness, MCP supports element and service management for 3rd party ONUs.1

In conjunction with Ciena’s Universal Aggregation capabilities, MCP goes beyond broadband services, enabling the deployment and management of a rich ecosystem of network services. Service providers can monetize their network by offering IP/MPLS and Ethernet services for enterprise and mobile xHaul for network operators looking to support the implementation of 4G and/or 5G mobile networks, either directly or via the wholesale market.

For performance monitoring, MCP supports advanced functionalities allowing operators to collect, analyze and present system data from the managed PON OLT/ONU network elements by retrieving the on-demand real-time and historical key performance indicators (KPIs) for an OLT PON port, OLT Ethernet port, ONU uplink, optical power, and pluggable optics. It also enables retrieving PON diagnostic data from both ONU and OLT devices.

Figure 4 – Ciena’s MCP domain controller PON management

Figure 4 – Ciena’s MCP domain controller PON management

Unified management of all broadband network components in a single interface

Moving to the middle-mile and core, Ciena’s MCP is the perfect tool to support next-generation IP/optical converged architecture by providing integrated planning and powerful analytics spanning network layers. From a single pane of glass, MCP allows you to easily manage your converged network and optimize performance.

At all times, MCP offers a real-time, accurate view of the end-to-end broadband network and service topology and associated capacity, utilization, and performance metrics. This enables operators to plan and optimize multi-layer networks, whenever needed, to meet dynamic capacity and performance demands. Advanced analytics apps extract insights from the wealth of metrics generated by the network, and these insights drive well-informed operational actions that help optimize network performance.

All told, the fully integrated suite of MCP Applications delivers intelligent network control to network operations.

With MCP, network operators looking to deploy a new broadband network or evolve an existing network have the following advantages:

Lower operating expenditures

  • A single system and user interface for managing, controlling, and planning Ciena's Residential Broadband solution infrastructure, as well as third-party routers, or ONUs
  • Integrated, streamlined workflows throughout the lifecycle of network and service operations
  • A simplified user experience with auto-assist or full automation

Lower capital expenditure

  • Effective deployment of multi-layer infrastructure capacity, from access to the middle-mile and core, with shortened planning lead times
  • Optimal utilization of access, optical, and IP resources

Increased revenues and ROI

  • Ability to fulfill customer services rapidly
  • Rapid turn-up of capacity and interconnect
  • Mining of latent capacity to add new services or protect existing high-value services
  • Quick troubleshooting of network and service issues, increasing customer satisfaction

Reliable, high-performance broadband is critical to socioeconomic development. As such, Ciena has created a modern Residential Broadband solution with MCP providing the required control features to ensure the success of broadband service providers now and well into the future.

Get ready to deliver broadband services, without compromise!


1.  For information about the supported 3rd party ONU please contact your Ciena account.