By Jim Davis for the451.com
Scientific-Atlanta isn’t just sitting around and waiting for the slump in telecom spending to end. The company added to its product portfolio this week with the acquisition of Atlanta-based ChannelLogics for an undisclosed sum. S- A is betting the software it has gained will be a hit with operators as they look to implement tiered pricing and other service offerings that require better bandwidth management tools.
The message Data services are the cable industry’s big growth engine right now. S-A’s acquisition of ChannelLogics’ bandwidth and traffic management system means it can offer operators technology that will let them better handle the increased IP traffic on their networks, either as a stand-alone product or on an ASP basis.
Competitive landscape Motorola and ADC are the two primary vendors that have network management systems deployed in cable networks, but these systems tend to be more focused on hardware management. Others, such as SolarWinds, BigBand Networks and Acterna, have offerings that place more emphasis on bandwidth management and could be considered as competitive threats.
The451 assessment The timing of S-A’s purchase couldn’t be better. Operators aren’t keen on buying new equipment, but do need to make better use of existing gear, and ChannelLogics’ software fills that need.
Context Cable network operators are becoming increasingly concerned about their ability to manage IP traffic on their hybrid fiber-coax networks. On the one hand, it’s a definite boon that cable modem customers continue to sign on and boost revenue figures, but cable operators are more experienced at managing one-way traffic. Add in the problem of some subscribers sharing bandwidth through the use of 802.11 wireless networks (Wi-Fi) and others consuming a disproportionate slice of bandwidth through file swapping or website hosting, and soon there will be customers complaining about network performance. Looking further out, operators will need to have the ability to track and predict bandwidth usage as home networking becomes more prevalent.
Technology What S-A bought with the deal is the CableLogics software platform. The software can take a real-time look into the network and report back on bandwidth usage by modem, CMTS (cable modem termination system), or by blade or interface on the CMTS. This will help operators figure out which customers need to have bandwidth caps placed on their service, or help them sell customers the appropriate tiered service. The software also permits dynamic allocation of bandwidth. In cases where an individual user only consumes bandwidth during a certain part of the day, for instance, that bandwidth can be temporarily reallocated to another user. The end result is that operators will be able to safely add more subscribers to their network without fearing a degradation of service quality.
CableLogics can be used to view and enforce these bandwidth caps from the CMTS level (for instance, guaranteeing bandwidth to a node that offers VOIP) down to the individual modem. Not only does the software work with S-A gear, but also with equipment from Arris, 3Com, Cisco, Motorola and RiverDelta (which is now part of Motorola).
Another important feature of CableLogics is the ability to track CMTS system health. Usage and downtime figures can be used along with proprietary predictive algorithms to model bandwidth usage and maintenance needs for up to a 90-day window. These reports can point out areas where system upgrades might be needed, or can identify excess bandwidth that can be used to balance loads across different blades of the CMTS.
Competition Motorola and ADC are the two primary vendors that have network management systems deployed in cable networks, but these systems tend to be more focused on hardware management. The extent of Motorola and ADC offerings are related to the provisioning of service to a piece of hardware and monitoring the status of the signal as well as equipment health. All important things, but that leaves out pieces of the bandwidth management puzzle.
Others, such as SolarWinds, BigBand Networks and Acterna, have offerings that place more emphasis on bandwidth management and could be considered as competitive threats. SolarWinds has a background in enterprise network management, but expanded into broadband network management earlier this year. BigBand’s point of differentiation from a system such as ChannelLogics’ is that their routers can dynamically allocate bandwidth to MPEG video streams as well as IP streams. Acterna is trying to leverage its background in service assurance into sales of a full-fledged OSS platform.
Products The CableLogics software will be offered along with S-A’s existing ROSA and TNCS management systems, and may eventually be offered as a managed service offering through the company’s SciCare program. SciCare provides services for improving cable plant operating efficiency such as network planning and remote monitoring.