The constant demand within networks is for more speed. High-quality video, conferencing, and big data need lots of bandwidth.
Cable providers need to push the speed limit while serving more customers, but they face constraints. The longer the distance is from the provider’s equipment to the customer’s cable modem, the more noise there is on the channel, and the more signal strength is needed. Distributed Access Architecture is the solution to the ever-increasing demand for bandwidth.
Moving the Starting Point
Brute-force approaches like more voltage don’t work very well. A better way to improve the signal is to move its starting point closer to the customer. This doesn’t require moving the central office and all its equipment. All that’s needed is to move the point that generates the cable signal. The headend, as it’s called, stays at a data centre and uses long-distance Ethernet to communicate with the signal generator. This is called Distributed Access Architecture (DAA).
The device that generates the cable signal is called a Remote PHY (physical) or Remote MAC/PHY node, depending on how much of the logic is moved out of the headend. DAAs currently being deployed use Remote PHY since its specifications are more mature.
The Remote PHY node could be in an office building, in a small local building, or even on a utility pole. It’s close to a small group of customers, so it has more bandwidth per customer to work with. Another benefit of Remote PHY is that it allows more cable ports than can fit on one machine at the headend.
The devices are compatible with existing cable modems, but taking advantage of the higher speeds requires getting an upgraded modem that supports the newest protocols. The newest-generation protocol, called DOCSIS 3.1, supports up to 10 Gbps downstream and 1 Gbps upstream.
A Two-Way Information Highway
Those speeds are impressive, but more will come. Internet connections are usually asymmetrical; you can download faster than you can upload. The next generation of DOCSIS 3.1 will change this and allow 10 Gbps in both directions, at the same time. It’s still a work in progress but should be available in some areas soon. It builds on DAA since shorter connections allow more speed both ways. It works best with hybrid fibre-coax (HFC) cables, which provide more speed than regular coax.
Having top speed in both directions is valuable for SD-WAN architecture, which combines remote locations over the Internet into a single, private business network. It’s one of the greatest advantages of distributed access architecture. Within a business’s network, there’s no clear upstream or downstream direction. For top-quality video conferencing and connection to servers, speed in both directions is necessary.
What it Means for Business IT
The transition to Distributed Access Architecture (DAA) is a gradual one. It means big changes for cable providers since they have to deploy and maintain equipment miles away from the main office. The change is definitely coming, though.
Greater speed and symmetric full-duplex access open many opportunities to businesses. Faster connections allow tighter integration with cloud services. Taking full advantage of the service does require a local network that can keep up, as well as a cable modem that handles the high-speed connection. Without a local network upgrade, the cable upgrade may not show any significant advantage.
Increased speeds will let cable stay competitive. Other alternatives, such as direct fibre to the building, are expensive to set up. On the other hand, they’re available now, while local availability of DAA may be years away in many places. The smart thing to do is to look into the cable company’s plans for upgrading and compare them against the feasibility of alternative connections.
Upgrading your network requires considering every part of it so that you don’t squander money on speed at one point while leaving bottlenecks in other parts.
Greater Efficiency is Available Right Now
It’s all part of the changing landscape of MSPs and IT departments in data-heavy businesses. And while hardware systems continue to improve, ServiceTree delivers immediate gains to businesses on existing architecture with its intelligent rostering and guided problem-solving technology. Because while speedy networks are a good thing (maybe even a must-have), they won’t do much for the efficiency of your tech support team. That’s where an intelligent PSA solution like ServiceTree comes in.
Talk to us about how we can improve your business today while remaining competitive well into the future.