In this effort, they’re pushing digital technologies closer to subscribers, adopting virtualization technologies and employing approaches like Headends Re-architected as a Data Center (HERD), which is an adaptation of the telco Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center (CORD) initiative for the MSO market.

A new approach, ‘fiber deep,’ underpins this effort. Fiber deep is a large part of the next generation of cable—one that pushes fiber close to the end-user and yields a better customer experience.



Why are MSOs turning to fiber deep?

Coax isn’t going away anytime soon, but not as much of it will be strung between utility poles. That’s because fiber is penetrating further into the subscriber base. Cable MSOs are turning to fiber deep to scale and unburden themselves from legacy radio frequency technologies.

These are the reasons cable MSOs are rolling out fiber deep:

  • More responsive Internet services: Cached content that sits hundreds or even thousands of miles away from the user is at the center of the modern Internet. The long distances data has to travel to get from a server to a customer can result in poor performance and a bad user experience. That is starting to change as cable headends transform into mini data centers. There’s a distinct advantage for cable customers during this shift: content is just down the block, not half a continent away in a remote data center. The simple physics involved in moving data at the speed of light means proximity improves responsiveness and quality of service. The once-simple cable headend, which for many years served up basic on-demand video content, is transforming to bring content even closer to subscribers.

  • Redefinition of the network edge: Netflix became an early innovator when, to gain near-real-time responsiveness, it placed servers at the Internet’s edge. Fiber deep takes a cue from that approach and improves performance even more by offering more bandwidth and optimizing caching.

    To improve latency and provide a platform for video aggregation, cable MSOs can use fiber deep to move content closer to the end-user. Fiber deep also enables cable MSOs to reduce maintenance costs and power consumption while improving available bandwidth.

  • Convergence of cloud and transport: The cloud is pushing closer to the end-user and cable is following this approach. Being able to offer services closer to customers means faster speed and higher quality. Streaming video consumption continues to grow, without an end in sight. The only certainty is that unexpected and sudden spikes in demand will happen. This tests the reflexes of cable MSOs; to keep customers happy, they must react quickly to customer needs and differentiate themselves from competitors with a user experience that is second to none. Fiber deep places data files close to the user, so consumer data is ready at a moment’s notice.

Cable MSOs are transforming at a fast and furious rate. In a few short years, they will be unrecognizable. Cable MSOs, looking to stay ahead of the pack, are unbundling programming and now even offer OTT packages. Remaining on this course of innovation will require a better, more flexible architecture they can use to differentiate themselves. Operational gains such as improved network availability and reduced reliance on the external power grid are key advantages of moving to fiber deep. But the clearest reason is simple: customers are best served down the block or across town, rather than from a centralized headend and data center half a continent away.

Why MSOs turn to Ciena

As cable MSOs extend fiber deep and transition to the next generation of technologies and services, they will need to overhaul the access network between the headend, hub, and digital fiber nodes (DFNs)—a packet-based network the industry refers to as the Converged Interconnect Network (CIN). Ciena’s Fiber Deep solution for the CIN is based on industry leadership in the integration of coherent optics, packet aggregation, and transport technologies. Ciena’s comprehensive solution for the CIN offers a roadmap that supports a variety of architectures based on interoperable products. Operational efficiencies come from high-density packet aggregation/switching and integrated coherent optics, reduced space, power, and installation time due to a ‘wire-once’ approach, and the benefits of software automation. Ciena’s Fiber Deep solution supports extending fiber deep, and also provides a common CIN infrastructure for mobile front/mid/back-haul and enterprise business services. 

Ciena products within the Fiber Deep solution have been recognized with Broadband Technology Report Diamond Technology Review honoree awards (2018) and received high scores from the Lightwave Innovation Reviews (2019).

Ciena’s Fiber Deep Solution for the Converged Interconnect Network (CIN)
Edge aggregation from digital fiber nodes (R-PHY, R-MACPHY) is supported with Ciena 5170 Service Aggregation Switch—an energy-efficient one Rack Unit (RU) switch that performs edge aggregation to 100GbE for controlled environments. Ciena’s 5171 Service Aggregation Platform provides high-density switching and aggregation of 1GbE, 10GbE, 25GbE, and 100GbE to 100G to 200G coherent DWDM utilizing Ciena’s WaveLogic 5 Nano or other footprint-optimized solutions. Temperature-hardened and compact, the 5171 provides deployment location flexibility, including street cabinets and other uncontrolled locations. Ciena’s Service-Aware Operating System (SAOS) maximizes the networking flexibility and resiliency of the 5170 and 5171.

Secondary aggregation of 100GbE signals to a 100 to 800G wavelength is performed using Ciena’s 8180 Coherent Networking Platform—a high-capacity 6.4Tb packet switching and aggregation platform with programmable coherent optics in a compact 2RU footprint that provides a high-density on-ramp to the coherent optical network. 

Optical transport over high-capacity wavelengths between the hub and headend occurs via Ciena’s 6500 Reconfigurable Line System (RLS)—a dense configuration that reduces footprint and expands fiber capacity. Stacked shelves are managed as a single node with auto-discovery and zero-touch provisioning.

Ciena’s Waveserver® Ai is a high-capacity packet-to-optical interconnect platform that takes the wavelength from the 6500 RLS and converts it to Ethernet. The Waveserver Ai consumes low power in a compact footprint. It is easy to deploy and operate with industry standards, and highly programmable with open APIs.

Ciena’s Blue Planet® Manage, Control and Plan (MCP) software provides multi-layer management, SDN control, and planning for Ciena’s Fiber Deep solution, and enables fast integration.

Wayne Hickey, What is Fiber Deep?