AdvancedTCA plays supporting role for IPTV

Curtis outlines the reasons many equipment makers find AdvancedTCA is the platform that best meets IPTV carrier grade and scalability demands.

Today many cable operators are bundling voice, data, and video services and grabbing a larger share of household spending. These triple play packages are taking revenue from telecom service providers, many of whom lack television offerings to complement their voice and data services. Defending against intense competition, some service providers are adopting a new technology ingredient called Internet Protocol television (IPTV), which is an up-and-coming TV platform. It utilizes existing broadband connections, such as xDSL, coax, and wireless, and leverages the flexibility and scalability of IP to transform the television experience. Many equipment makers are choosing AdvancedTCA as the platform for their IPTV products to satisfy carrier grade and scalability requirements.

By deploying IPTV, service providers expect to increase profits and raise customer satisfaction through the delivery of advanced television services. One such emerging service is Video on Demand (VOD), which enables individuals to request and watch video content at any time on their television or computer screens. Customers control when and what they watch, whether itís specific movies, entertainment, news, education, or sports programming.

IPTV platform requirements

Unlike cable and TV satellite services that simultaneously deliver the same content to all subscribers across a multitude of channels, IPTV sends personalized content to each household through video streams over IP. IPTV is a bandwidth-sensitive service, requiring more bandwidth and computing performance than voice and broadband, so high-capacity infrastructure is needed to ensure reliable, high-quality video services.

One key node in the IPTV network is the Broadband Remote Access Server (B-RAS). The B-RAS forms the central aggregation point for many services such as accepting, authorizing, and authenticating users, as well as managing Quality of Service and business policies. Originally used to handle broadband data traffic, B-RAS functionality now includes streaming IPTV video, which increases the risk of new bottlenecks and greater latency. Equipment makers understand these issues and are designing-in high levels of modularity and scalability that allows capacity to expand cost-effectively. They are also integrating modules with 10 Gigabit Ethernet (GbE), which boosts network speed.

IPTV infrastructure must be interoperable with existing telco equipment. This means the IPTV platform needs to accommodate legacy interfaces, such as Asynchronous Transfer Mode (ATM), and interface to various I/O cards, along with Internet Layer 2 and Layer 3 signaling.

Why AdvancedTCA?

The popularity of AdvancedTCA is rapidly increasing because it enables equipment makers to build carrier-grade, high-availability, and high-density telecom shelves. These same features are critical to service providers who are planning IPTV infrastructure installations. In addition, AdvancedTCA easily supports hundreds of GbE ports per system, which is not uncommon in an IPTV network.

AdvancedTCA also offers drastically reduced development time, which in turn leads to faster time-to-market. Off-the-shelf modules incorporate the latest and greatest technologies and improve performance density and reliability. They provide the modularity, scalability, interoperability, and I/O flexibility needed to develop a single platform that meets the needs of a diverse set of customers. System designers can also develop a mix of functionality using AdvancedMCs.

A B-RAS can be architected from readily available AdvancedTCA modules, as shown in Figure 1:

n   10 GbE NPU line card for packet processing

n   Compute blade, with multicore CPUs, for control processing

n   10 GbE switch and COM Express module for system management

n   AMC line card for downstream packet processing

n   ATM packet processing card for legacy interfaces

Figure 1: B-RAS Platform Configuration Example

The stakes are high

The commercial viability of IPTV and VOD services hinges on several factors, including the cost to end-users and quality of service. Consequently, service providers are looking for cost-effective, high-performance infrastructure that can scale and serve more subscribers as demand increases. B-RAS equipment must be capable of streaming private data streams to a large number of subscribers in real time.

Service providers need to have sufficient capacity on-hand to carry special events, like the World Cup finals or the season finale of a popular television program. If television screens freeze due to system glitches, IPTV viewers will quickly find alternatives. AdvancedTCA, which already has a reputation for smooth scalability and high availability, offers a trusted platform for emerging IPTV infrastructure.

Curtis Miller is a product marketing manager at RadiSys Corporation working with next-generation networks. His experience includes more than 10 years in new product development and introduction, with a focus in the commercial, industrial automation, and telecom markets.