News

To Succeed, Manage Performance

7/04/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

As cable MSOs evolve and expand from analog and digital video to offer Internet protocol-based services, they’re adding a wide range of infrastructure elements, components, equipment and complexity.

An explosion in data traffic demand has led to increasing infrastructure growth and complications, accompanied by a new set of performance-management challenges, such as more devices and applications to be managed; the strain on bandwidth utilization and management; evolution, optimization and assurance of high speed data, voice-over-IP, digital video and integrated wireless networks; and in-depth service-level management for business services.

To face these challenges in a highly competitive and unforgiving marketplace, MSOs can utilize proactive service assurance. Different from traditional fault management, proactive performance management allows MSOs to monitor and troubleshoot network and IT issues before they negatively affect service, and can accelerate problem resolution by combining historical and real-time data.

The conventional focus for applied service assurance has been to resolve problems identified by a series of notifications (or traps) sent from individual elements in the network. Such traps tell operators about equipment and connection status, but only about a specific element, port or connection. Some type of manual correlation or fault-management application then gives operators more detail.

While the information from traps is useful for identifying problems, it does not offer a broad, service-management perspective. And although traditional fault-management capabilities have been enhanced to allow for quick responses to service outages, it’s still like closing the gate after the horse has bolted. Today’s MSOs cannot offer premium services based only on this type of fault management.

The key is to evolve from a reactive response to network faults as they occur — to ensuring network managers have maximum visibility into service performance to prevent problems before they are experienced by end users.

The critical aspect to the delivery of proactive performance management is the ability to use a combination of real-time and historical performance data to create accurate predictions of normal user behavior to form trends. These can then be leveraged with advanced analytics to track usage and alert support staff based on abnormal patterns. These analytics ensure that operations teams can provide pre-emptive care of user services, which helps to minimize potential SLA violations and improve end-user perception of the service, leading to improved customer care and satisfaction.

Many network managers still rely on manual processes to link failures or performance issues to the actual impacted end users. Proactive performance management includes in-depth service-level management and visibility into the cross-silo, multivendor and multidomain environment that supports complex, next-generation services spanning the network.

Additionally, in providing high-level quality of experience, superior end-to-end service is only as good as its weakest link. If any of those links drop below expected levels of performance, you need instant notification of its location, which predefined performance thresholds have been crossed and, most critically, which users are affected. To maintain efficiency, this should take place directly at the operations level, rather than relying on lengthy customer database correlation processes. That way, responsiveness is improved and additional levels of the operations organization are brought closer to the customer.

While attention-getting advertising and promotions can help cable MSOs get new subscribers, keeping customers requires delivering on service promises. Business customers will demand service-level agreements with violation compensation, but in reality, these customers would prefer to have uninterrupted, high-quality service. They may suffer only one or two outages before they start shopping around for a more reliable alternative.

Residential consumers also have very high expectations of their triple-play services. Slow, unreliable or interrupted service will only be accepted for a minimum amount of time, and there are fewer barriers for them to churn to a competitor.

For cable MSOs, the answer is to diagnose potential problems before they happen to reduce or entirely eliminate any negative impacts on users. Such proactive service management is a significant means of supporting QoE, and to meet and exceed customer expectations. Customers will be drawn toward a reliable service.

October