Next-generation networks (NGNs) -- voice, video and data all over Internet Protocol (IP) -- offer the allure of simplified telecom network management and reduced operational expenses, but deploying them can be complicated and expensive for incumbent telecom and cable operators with a tangle of legacy networks separated by service.
One cable operator is taking the plunge and expecting a swift return on investment (ROI) as it deploys Juniper Networks' MX480 routers in its core and distribution layers to marry its voice, broadband and video services on one IP Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) next-generation network.
Bresnan Communications, which serves 320,000 subscribers in Colorado, Montana, Wyoming and Utah, had for years divided its services into two networks: Its legacy cable network carried video traffic; its Carrier Ethernet network delivered voice over IP (VoIP) and broadband services.
As the operator sought to extend its reach from residential into commercial markets, running all three services for both markets on its legacy Ethernet platforms would have been too expensive, according to Pragash Pillai, senior vice president of engineering at Bresnan.
Pillai declined to name the legacy vendor but said its hardware was physically capable of supporting a converged network -- but not with the cost, sophistication and ease of upgrading that Juniper's hardware has achieved. The older equipment was repurposed for the network's aggregation layer.
"We needed to have one network so that we could drive efficiency, make better decisions on technology, reduce operational costs, [improve] day-to-day management of the platforms and also provide higher availability and reliability," Pillai said. "We knew we were going to really be able to deliver next-generation, advanced services over this network."
Bresnan brought its voice and data services onto the new IP MPLS network in April after about a year of planning, testing and implementation. The operator is in the process of bringing video services on board this year.
"We are well positioned now," Pillai said. "We probably have a one-of-a-kind next-generation platform in our footprint."
Next-generation network: Better uptime, simpler telecom network management
Since completing the year-long migration of voice and data services to its next-generation network in April, Bresnan has seen network availability improve "as suspected," Pillai said.
The improvement stems partly from the redundancy measures Bresnan took with the deployment, he said. Each core location houses a pair of MX480s in addition to a backup pair for failover in case the primary set suffers from a failed interface or a disaster. Distribution sites use one MX480, as well as a backup router, Pillai said. Power supplies are also redundant.
Streamlined telecom network management has also contributed to Bresnan's improved network availability, he said. Once all three services are converged on one Juniper network, the service provider can manage those services through the Junos operating system, rather than managing each service on a separate network.
"It's much easier to manage the network now because it's all under one management tool … [which] simplifies operations," Pillai said. "That also helps from a training standpoint because we don't have multiple types of devices to train on."
Building a scalable next-generation network
Bresnan sought not only to migrate to a single IP MPLS network but to invest in infrastructure that would not limit its growth, Pillai said. The operator's fiber ring now runs at 1 Gbps but can scale up to 240 Gbps symmetrically by adding line cards to the routers' chassis, he said.
Pillai cannot say whether Bresnan's services will soon need such a high-performance network, but having a flexible platform has given the operator confidence that its next upgrade won't require a complete overhaul.
"When we designed the network, we thought, 'What can we think of five years down the road that we want to do?' It's hard to [answer] that because the technology changes so fast," he said. "But Juniper is always coming out with new cards for the MX series that offer higher performance … [so] we don't envision we'll need to forklift what we have."
Let us know what you think about the story; email: Jessica Scarpati, News Writer