Virtualization – The Virtual Headend

Moving existing HFC networks into the future with flexibility and scalability

The HFC network is evolving to meet the increasing demands of our digital lives, society, and economy. Virtualization of the Cable Head End and HFC network components are key to providing greater capacity, upstream, and flexibility. This approach allows service providers to adapt and evolve existing hardware, software and architectures into a software-defined network to deliver ultimate versatility and resilience.

At current growth rates, 5G, Wi-Fi 6 and services such as OTT HD video, digital TV, IoT, cloud applications, immersive experiences and e-gaming will be using up the entire capacity of today’s HFC networks in a few years. Networks must evolve now to survive. That requires solutions for flexible and adaptable network deployments. Virtualization helps operators meet these requirements by providing elastic scaling, flexible deployment models, automation, and improved feature velocity.

CommScope is uniquely qualified to cover all parts of this complex virtualization process. That’s why service providers across the globe trust CommScope to optimize network performance and investments to deliver more. Our decades of experience with networks and HFC allow us to bring data, video and access networks know-how to intelligently evolve your network – without overspecifying or overspending.

Broadband Technology Report - 2020 Diamond Technology Reviews

CommScope Technology Scores Three Diamonds

Broadband Technology Report recently conferred our Virtual Headend Portfolio, RD1322 R-PHY Device, and Smart Media Device (SMD) platform to its 2020 Diamond Technology Reviews. These recipients were selected by a panel of cable telecommunications engineering experts to highlight the leading cable technology solutions on the market today.

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Virtualization is the process of consolidating hardware and software resources into a software-based, virtual network. This helps create flexible solutions that work on widely available, highly standardized common computing platforms. Instead of purpose-built hardware, commercial off-the-shelf hardware (COTS) servers are used, driving cost down while boosting flexibility. Tasks performed by the virtualized head end solution are dynamically optimized with virtualization techniques, such as microservices and software containerization. Virtualization isn’t limited to any part of the network - you can virtualize your control plane, management plane, or data plane by consolidating resources into a standards-based software architecture.

Virtualized Network Design

Service providers want to optimize their networks to prepare for the next step in their service evolution, meeting today’s demands and be ready for tomorrow’s. In order to deliver the service and operations flexibility required for gigabit, multi-access connectivity, the design and management of networks needs to evolve from ‘hardware’ systems to more flexible virtualized solutions, where software management platforms monitor, configure, and manage network operations.

HFC networks will need more fiber, deeper in the network. In the resulting fiber deep distributed access architecture (DAA), analog fiber connections are replaced with IP connections to create software-controllable connections that become part of a software-defined network. Tasks traditionally performed by operation engineering resources can be executed as a software-based platform that enables automation and highly efficient management of demand, by finding and instantly adding available resources in the network when required.


Integrating new virtual elements into the existing network represents a massive change that requires careful planning and involves new strategic and organizational considerations.

How do we create the Virtual Head End?

Until recently, functions in network head ends were performed by dedicated, expensive, and resource-intensive equipment. Each device needed to be procured, deployed, and maintained throughout its service lifetime, and over-dimensioning was used to accommodate more traffic, all of which resulted in significant cost. Today, CommScope Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) solutions make it possible to build future-ready network head ends without worrying about these issues! The combination of Network Functions Virtualization (NFV) and Software-Defined Networking (SDN) allows providers to break through the ‘service silo’ model and to lower the relative cost of capital assets by use of commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software, resource pooling, network visibility and analytics. Service changes (such as VUE-RPD changes) can be implemented more rapidly and repeatable; automated management methods enhance stability as well as predictability. These factors support cost optimization.

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RMD and Virtualization

Virtualization leverages the cloud computing delivery model to bring efficiency, flexibility, and scalability to core management and control plane functions—whether they’re deployed in an integrated or distributed access architecture. Applications are packaged in separate containers that are dynamically orchestrated to optimize resource utilization and enable them to be modified or scaled independently. Virtualization is a powerful tool in the evolution to distributed access architectures, particularly when combined with an RxD-capable node, which can be configured as a Remote PHY and transitioned to a Remote MACPHY device with a simple software upgrade.

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RxD Remote PHY/Remote MACPHY Device

As the newest step in the continuing evolution towards a full Distributed Access Architecture (DAA), the Remote PHY/MACPHY Device (RxD) supports operation as either an R-PHY Device (RPD) or an R-MACPHY Device (RMD), hence the designation as an RxD. The RxD helps operators make use of cloud computing for the management and video planes, while helping them prepare to virtualize network functions.

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VUE – Video Plane

Video Unified Edge (VUE) is a suite of modular software functions that can be deployed in the Service Provider's cloud environment to virtualize the legacy video headend network, replacing traditional appliance products, simplifying the video network by automating configuration and improving uptime. The VUE is a video auxiliary core in the CommScope dual core DAA architecture, for Remote PHY and Remote MACPHY devices and SCTE 55-1 ‘Aloha’ and supports the video data and control planes.

For the video data plane, the VUE builds broadcast and narrowcast video multiplexes and sends them to operator-defined user subsets via IPv6 multicast. For the video control plane, the VUE is responsible for provisioning the RPDs (Remote PHY Devices) for all video related parameters, including mapping multicast groups to RF frequencies. VUE works with the VTM (Video Topology Manager) which serves as the operator dashboard (UI) to manage the video DAA network. The VTM enables the operator to allocate RPDs to defined video groups to manage the video content received.

VUE is part of the CommScope next generation ad insertion system (NGI), which unifies ad insertion for set-top box and IP clients, eliminating the need to maintain two separate ad insertion systems.

ServAssure NXT

CommScope ServAssure® NXT combines enterprise-class software with our deep expertise in broadband, video and video service delivery to help service providers unleash the power of data to prevent and solve performance issues. The automated collection and analytics platform provides critical insights into service performance, capacity, and delivery patterns, allowing operators to proactively identify and manage risk so anomalies can be resolved before the subscriber is impacted.

Network intelligence and automation provide end-to-end visibility across the service delivery environment, and works within physical and virtualized environments allowing operators to make the virtualization journey with confidence. Beyond the resulting customer experience improvements, a platform such as ServAssure is the only way operators can manage the complexity of today’s heterogeneous networks without support from numerous highly-paid experts.

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Professional Services

The CommScope Pro Services team can help audit and assess your current infrastructure and its readiness for virtualization. We can recommend the best path forward, develop custom software to virtualize key network functions across CommScope as well as other vendors’ products and help manage and execute the transition to a virtualized environment

Why CommScope?

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Now meets next

Our extensive portfolio, flexible architecture, and professional service capabilities enable service providers to optimally evolve their broadband network. Built upon 20+ years of field hardened code and a vast installed base, CommScope’s Virtualization platform is specifically optimized for broadband and video service delivery and designed with growth and scalability in mind.

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Relentless innovations

CommScope unveils three breakthroughs that dramatically improve network scale, speed and latency, extending our leadership in next-generation network technologies.

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End-to-end solutions

Whether you need copper, fiber, wireless, indoor, outdoor, active or passive optical, CommScope has you covered. Not only do we offer industry-leading products, but we have the expertise to help you select the right solution to maximize your network.