Making devices report their health rather than seeking it directly
By: Bruce Bahlmann - Contributing Author (your
is important to us!)
Created: March 31, 2001
White Paper written for NCTA 2001
Broadband operators have
extremely limited visibility into the health of Hybrid-Fiber Coax (HFC). Their limited
visibility is due to several factors including the complexity of their transport medium,
type of network, and sophistication of their back office. To navigate these factors, a
more non-invasive approach to managing HFC is needed. This paper will present such an
approach that is completely scalable, offers sophisticated location logic that enable one
to quickly locate the most common types of HFC outages, utilizes a mere fraction of the
bandwidth required by other network management efforts, and will fully integrate into
existing top-level network management systems without additional stand alone status
Broadband operators increasingly find themselves in a tough spot. Which is trying to figure out how to support and manage
new services that are nearing deployment or have already been deployed. HFC being a
complex animal as it is but now having to mange multiple services running on-top HFC
leaves most broadband operators scratching their heads. The fast paced deployment of new
services is usually managed with a brand new Network Operations Center (NOC). These NOCs
are quickly staffed with as many people (most internal) as it takes to provide 24-hour
coverage 7 days a week. The result of promoting installers and plant operations personnel
provides the broadband operator with increasing challenges in terms of organizing people
and equipment to perform the minimalist amount of monitoring of the HFC and its increasing
number of services training is a huge issue.
The scarcities of technical employees skilled in network operations to design, build, and run broadband operator NOCs contribute
to increasingly ugly statistics on building successful network management organizations.
Over 70% of the attempts to initiate network management resort in failure.
Considering the cards stacked against
broadband operators, they generally succeed in providing a minimal level of network
management over HFC. However, the areas they face the most challenge are providing
in-depth multi-service network management support, expanding their visibility beyond their
backbone and hubs down to their End of Lines (EOL), and developing more advanced
associations (correlations) between related events. While most broadband operators would
say they would like to explore these areas there is this problem regarding their obvious
lack of commercially available tools as well as experienced network operations people to
Managing HFC is far from an exact
science. In fact, HFC is so crammed with various types of technology, transmission media,
and content that it is extremely tough to keep operational. It is also difficult for
broadband operators to have visibility all the way down to their EOL the point(s)
at which each HFC node terminate. As a result of much of the HFC being invisible and
complex, Broadband operators end up picking and choosing which components of HFC represent
the most critical and monitor them with whatever tools are available. Basically the rule
of thumb is the more customers that share the same HFC component and/or transport the more
critical it becomes (thus their current focus of the backbone and hubs).
Unfortunately, there are still not many
tools available for managing HFC (the actual fiber nodes) certainly not many that
dont represent a completely new and often stand alone system. Since the last thing
broadband operators are looking for is yet another monitoring system to drop into their
already over crowded NOC, not many companies have gained traction with broadband operators
for their HFC management products. This has left much of the market of managing HFC open.
In fact, broadband operators to this day still do not have a cost effective way to manage
all the way down to their EOL. The key here is cost effective as some vendors have
provided solutions for EOL monitoring but they are extremely cost prohibitive and not all
together realistic to deploy operationally.
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