A Workman’s View from Tech Trenches

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While Wilt Hildenbrand gets to worry about the big picture at Cablevision Systems Corp. (see Operator of the Year special report, page 48), executive vice president of network management Reggie Workman gets to sweat some of the details.

His job is to monitor the network infrastructure at Cablevision, the labyrinth of Moving Picture Experts Group and Internet-protocol transport techniques that move different voice, video and data services to subscribers. “We manage the infrastructure of the network,” he said in an interview.

As such, when new products are launched, it’s his job to get them on the platform, and more importantly, to scale them as subscribership grows.

Once a new product request comes in, it first goes to Hildenbrand’s group to develop specifications, he said. Then it moves on to Workman’s group.

“We figure out what it would cost to implement the architecture,” he said.

ADDING AND SCALING

“The biggest challenge, in most of these new products and services, is that we don’t have a history on how these are going to scale. It becomes an issue to architect in a manner where we can stay ahead of the growth. The other piece is the complexity of the architectures, and how all the connections interact with each other,” he said.

“We manage those in a few different ways. The network itself was very well-engineered early on. There is also a very sophisticated network-operations center that has monitoring touchpoints up to the consumer premise devices. Then it becomes a matter of what parameters we want to measure so we can meet growth without contentions.”

Adding voice-over-Internet protocol service Optimum Voice was a natural addition for high-speed data platform Optimum Online. “We have a very highly penetrated [data] service already,” said Workman. “The plant was well-conditioned to accommodate this. We integrated the soft switch, the gateways, trunking, things like that.”

Cablevision has developed much of the software to provision new services in-house. “We have the ability to react quickly to any kind of issues we see in the architecture.”

20-MBPS TRIAL

The company is trialing a service at 20 Mbps downstream and 2 Mbps upstream.

“We have a tremendous amount of capacity built into the network,” he said. “Node sizes are very small, on average about 500 homes.”

But higher speeds can be achieved inexpensively, he noted. “It’s easy for us to split a node, or add a port to the CMTS.”

Workman said there are a number of things on the product road map.

“We’re perpetually pushing the envelope with ITV services. We’ve got the best user interface in the business right now. It allows us to easily launch an addition like Optimum classifieds. The platform is already there. It’s just like writing the Web portals. We’ll continue to proliferate those types of applications.”

Workman spends a lot of time at Cablevision’s network-operations center. “We perpetually look at aspects of the network. The architecture today is so complex, if you don’t act proactively on them and growth is fast, you’ll be caught. A lot of my time is spent on ways to improve monitoring capabilities. We take data and analyze the performance of the network to see if we can determine gross issues within the network prior to them becoming a service call.”

The toughest issue Workman faces is scaling service, he said.

“We’re launching so many new services that there is no history for, it’s difficult to see how they are going to be utilized and scaled accordingly.”

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