Title: Vice President, Business Development, IneoQuest Technologies

Broadband Background: Dion joined IneoQuest in April 2007 from Alcatel-Lucent, where he was principal engineer in the CTO office. During his seven years at Alcatel-Lucent, he led the IPTV service assurance initiatives and worked on IP video product and service rollouts. Prior to working at Alcatel-Lucent, Dion managed IP Applications at C1 Communications.

SCTE member since 2007

Your article in the current issue of CT discusses switched digital video troubleshooting. What general areas of trouble do you have in mind?

To be honest, I think that even the slightest amount of visibility we can provide to the MSOs will be greatly appreciated. Beyond the Web-based admin interfaces and logs coming from the network elements that compose the SDV network, the whole system remains a magic box. We definitively want to focus on the signaling aspects between the various components. This will be key to troubleshooting and also to measuring the performance of the solution.

One of your main recommendations is to divide the terrain into demarcation points. Could you briefly elaborate?

There are many distinct subsystems that compose the video service delivery platform (i.e., headend, core IP network, HFC network, etc.). Each one of those subsystems is typically managed by a core team with very specific skill sets, often divided in regions. In order to troubleshoot an end-to-end video issue, it’s critical to isolate the issue to a particular subsystem and provide tools and metrics that can be shared across all teams (MPEG teams, IP teams, HFC teams, etc.). With such demarcation points, a problem that originates in the headend could potentially be troubleshooted in isolation by dozens of individuals – all their efforts being fruitless, since the best they can do is prove the issue didn’t originate in their part of the network.

You also say a shared view of those points (e.g., of headend bulk encryption) is necessary. How do you attain that kind of visibility? What does your recently released IQDVx tool add to that equation?

In order to create an end-to-end video service assurance strategy, all points of the network must be able to talk the same language (share metrics and thresholds) and be correlated in a centralized platform. Very little can be done in isolation. Sure, you might be able to solve a particular issue, but the operational dollars get spent, and the root cause of the problem is never found or fixed, and the system never improves. Our "IQDVx" tool becomes a valuable and powerful analysis platform, which both IP and MPEG engineers can use, to troubleshoot an issue in unison.

In a paper at last summer Cable-Tec Expo, Glen Hardin of Time Warner Cable drew attention to the massive number of video streams that SDV is creating and suggested the general idea of watermarking as a service assurance technique. Are you promoting any particular approaches to that challenge?

There are many different schools of thought on this subject, and watermarking is an interesting approach. While I might not promote this technique over another, I can see the value in using it (watermarking). There are still many challenges to watermarking, since problems can occur at many levels (content, video stream, transport, transactional, etc.), so it most probably will be used in conjunction with other techniques.

What can you tell us about your work with SureWest? When did you deploy, and what are you accomplishing there?

SureWest has been using IQ for several years, first using the IQ gear to "ring out" and test their networks pre-deployment, and now for end-to-end monitoring and management. SureWest has successfully used the IQ solution to monitor the quality of the content they receive at their headend and has found and captured issues from the content providers. In one case, they even decided not to add a specific content provider’s package because the quality was too bad. The IQ PinPoint solution also identified problems with a new encoder when SureWest was performing a system upgrade. At the edge of the network, SureWest is using the IQ crickets to capture and solve problems in troubled homes. They now can deploy their technical team on installations rather than have them in a troubled home waiting for a problem to occur. The customer feedback mechanism that IQ has implemented in the cricket (via IR remote or push button) enables the problem to be captured and viewed in the context of the viewed channel throughout the complete network. This has reduced SureWest’s opportunity cost.

What are your expectations for the SDV category in 2008?

I expect to see a tsunami of deployments by most MSOs. SDV will be the core technology used in the short term to increase HD channel lineups and increase the availability of spectrum for higher DOCSIS speeds. I also think that short term, most deployments will probably focus on single-vendor solutions, as a way to mitigate risk. That’s not to say that MSOs will purely pick one vendor, but that open-architecture solutions probably won’t take center stage from the get go.

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