A Comprehensive Management Approach For HFC Networks (1999)

By Esteban E. Sandino, AT&T Broadband and Internet Services

Deployment of interactive data services over HFC networks demands a comprehensive approach to network management. Advanced customer terminals, such as standards-based cable modems and intelligent set top boxes, are increasingly talked about as the ideal vehicle for the collection and storage of information regarding the staie of the physical HFC network. The support for standard management protocols in these new advanced terminals greatly increases the appeal of this approach: It makes the process of collecting and analyzing network data platform and vendor-independent, and also facilitates the task of integrating multiple platforms and systems.

HFC network management is thus evolving away from the more traditional approach based on the deployment of proprietary systems and protocols to poll and collect status information from active network elements. However, this does not imply the demise of this type of monitoring system. Advanced customer terminals provide operators with indicators regarding the health of the HFC network but they do not provide data on the operational status of active network elements such as power supplies, fiber nodes, and amplifiers. Thus, the data collected using advanced terminals complements rather than replaces the monitoring of active HFC devices.

This paper discusses a management framework for HFC networks predicated on the deployment of standards-based platforms. In such a framework, there is still a strong requirement for systems that monitor active HFC network elements. It is discussed how data from these systems can assist in the more detailed diagnostics and troubleshooting process following the detection of threshold alarms and early warnings generated by advanced terminal devices. To achieve this goal it is imperative that management platforms intended to monitor active HFC elements move away from proprietary protocols and support the same standard protocols as emerging management platforms for advanced terminal devices. The ultimate objective is to have open-standards based systems to facilitate not only integration with other management platforms but also to allow components from multiple vendors to operate together over the same HFC network. This paper concludes with an update on the progress of standards-development activities currently taking place within the cable industry to help achieve this objective.

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