There is the potential for innovation happening in the network industry to bridge the divide and cross into cable access. Under the umbrella of software defined networks (SDN) is a technology called network functions virtualization (NFV) that could be used to define a service in DOCSIS."(Today DOCSIS) defines parameters around a service ... it does not define what the service is," said Andrew Smith, chief architect for cable MSO networks at Juniper Networks (NYSE:JNPR). "There is no way in DOCSIS to say every packet that goes down this cable modem is also going to go through this cache or network service .... What we propose is a way to define, using the DOCSIS provisioning system, that this data set should go through NFV. This allows the cable operator to construct new services using DOCSIS." At the Cable Show, he presented a paper detailing these ideas. It was co-written by a Juniper colleague and Saif Raiman of Comcast (NASDAQ:CMCSA).This could result in a reduction in equipment and power costs, "elastic" scaling of the services plane, and faster innovation times. In data centers, things like cache functionality, firewalls and virus scanning all have been deployed on individual proprietary appliances. Other things like mail and web applications have been virtualized in a cloud model. With NFV, the same virtualization concepts are applied to network services. When a new server or virtualized server comes online, a network provisioning system and not a human can create the service chain that is required."All the scaling (mechanics) we get in cloud data centers we can use when implementing network services," Smith said.In the cable world, this would mean that a cable operator could choose specific flows of data that are flowing down to the residential cable modem and steer them through the NFV service chain or set. This steering mechanism would be software running on the CMTS, the CCAP device, or the edge router of a non-routing CCAP."We at Juniper believe that the software innovation in the CMTS marketplace has not kept up," Smith said. "This is an example that could help improve the status quo."The ideas behind the proposal in Smith's paper could be built even into legacy CMTS systems, as it is "fairly straightforward," he said. In the end, the service chain associated when a particular modem comes online could be created using open DOCSIS standards."(This is) taking innovation happening in the networking industry and (making it) happen to cable in a way that lets them do something new that hasn't been done before," Smith said.Monta Monaco Hernon is a free-lance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].