MSOs seeking cost savings should look to vendors’ network solutions. By Michael Grebb Better network management can mean reduced costs, higher revenue from new service tiers and potentially lower churn. Vendors are, of course, eager to help MSOs find their checkbooks. And while MSOs should always perform due diligence, a number of vendor solutions are worth exploring. Sure, there’s capex to consider. But when the alternative is ripping up the network again to match telcos’ greenfield deployments, the idea of patching together targeted solutions starts to sound appealing. A few ideas: Find and Fix Problems Cheaply – Several vendors offer monitoring tech that lets MSOs reduce truck rolls and save equipment and labor costs. Time Warner Cable and Cablevision, for example, are using Mixed Signals’ Digital Content Monitor to constantly check for network glitches. The system can run between $250,000 and $1 million depending on MSO size, but president and CEO Eric Conley says a threefold return on investment within a year is common. "When we put it in front of their face, it’s shock value," he says. Denver-based C9 Networks, meanwhile, recently announced its Advanced Cable Plant Monitoring System, a Web-based interface that lets MSOs remotely monitor RF, CMTS and cable modems and even manage the workforce—all from the head-end. Other vendors also offer monitoring solutions. Improve VoIP Quality – One way to beat VoIP players like Vonage or Skype (or even the telcos) is to limit "ingress"—basically, network interference from external sources—on the upstream path. Such ingress can wreak havoc with VoIP, which requires high QoS to function correctly. Enter the vendors. Proxilliant Systems’ Dynamic Ingress Manager, for example, "can cut the troubleshooting and labor down by 75%" by detecting problems remotely from the head-end, says John Susi, VP, sales, North America. The bonus: fewer technicians traipsing through front yards to check amplifiers (read, happier customers). JDSU, meanwhile, has partnered with Electroline to similarly help detect upstream ingress remotely. C-COR, which offers a number of network management tools, in June unveiled a QoS product that helps mitigate data traffic jams stemming from bandwidth hogs like peer-to-peer users. Such prioritization helps further improve VoIP quality by limiting congestion. Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com.