As cable broadband networks have evolved into more complex organisms, so too has the acronym-laden wizardry working its magic behind the scenes. Most upper-level cable execs are blissfully unaware of emerging techniques to manage bandwidth and ensure more efficient bit flows. But increasingly, these nerdy innovations are enabling MSOs to roll out new services more efficiently and provide better user experiences even as traffic and performance expectations increase exponentially every day.
    Let’s take a gander at one innovation in the pipeline: IPDR, which stands for Internet protocol detail record streaming protocol. Yes, it sounds boring. In fact, it is boring. But that doesn’t really matter because it could help MSOs thrive even as they face determined competitors in the coming years. Basically, IPDR is replacing SNMP (simple network management protocol) as a better way to manage capacity in multiservice networks, particularly in monitoring bulk subscriber usage data. For MSOs with lots of customers and multiple broadband services (VoIP, data, gaming, etc.), IPDR can efficiently manage those bits and find problems before they become serious drags on the network. While SNMP relies on polling to find problems, IPDR constantly streams data to the network monitoring station. It’s push vs. pull. IPDR is already a part of DOCSIS, but MSOs really haven’t deployed the protocol in the field yet. Cox Communications, an original proponent of IPDR, will likely be the first as it begins an IPDR trial this month. Ben Bekele, Cox’s senior DOCSIS engineer, says he first noticed SNMP deficiencies three or four years ago. “As the number of subscribers grew, we were having a hard time polling the CMTS and not impacting service,” he says. Cox is working with the IPDR consortium (ipdr.org), which includes firms like Cisco, Sprint Nextel, Narus, Amdocs and others, to make IPDR the de facto standard for managing broadband capacity. “We’ll be able to leverage it to do pretty much everything,” Bekele says. That flexibility is key. “Unfortunately, some of the existing systems are currently configured for fairly simple service models,” says Kelly Anderson, president and CEO of IDPR.org. “[There’s] a need for a flexible standard that can accommodate that roadblock.”
    Bottom line: more efficient networks mean lower-cost networks. And better network management generally leads to better user experiences. Don’t fear the acronym soup. For MSOs in an increasingly competitive broadband world, it can be quite nutritious.

Michael Grebb is executive editor of CableFAX Daily. He can be reached at mgrebb@accessintel.com.

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