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Managing hybrid networks with ILC

The Office Network window offers simple visualization of IT equipment in an office environment, such as workstations, servers, switches and routers.

As broadcast networks grow to deliver video, DTV and other broadband services, managing the resulting hybrid network becomes more complex and difficult. The problem: The networks are converging, but network management products are not.

This leaves engineers and IT directors struggling with a patchwork of software systems, even as staff and resources in their broadcast operating center or network operations center are reduced. Adding pressure to an already difficult situation, the consequences of network downtime are significant, costing one major broadcaster $3.3 million every minute it is off the air.

Regretfully, chief engineers and IT directors often purchase one management system after another to maintain control over the evolving parts of the broadcast chain. This chain may include a mix of broadcast, satellite, cable, fiber, wireless, microwave, transmitter, IT, building and security systems, and equipment. The separate management systems installed to control this hybrid network often are not integrated and cannot speak to one another. This forces operators to contend with multiple graphical user interfaces and the resulting network blind spots that allow critical problems to fester.

Controlling divergent systems

The remedy is a powerful, yet easy-to-use, platform-agnostic system that can monitor and control all the devices in your network, regardless of technology type. ILC's solution is the MaxView broadband network management system. This software integrates technology and third-party management systems into one network management console, allowing network operators to fully automate control of next-generation networks and services. The system also allows further control, such as correlation of network faults, automation, service provisioning and scheduling.

The management system allows users to choose the level of control they require, ranging from basic monitor, control and reporting for disparate devices to consolidated control of existing vendor-specific management, master and control or automation systems. The drag-and-drop device integration functionality allows even non-programmers to add new devices into the system fast and easily. This eliminates dependence on device manufacturers to update drivers and frees technology experts to concentrate on critical projects that impact the organization's bottom line.

Consolidate and standardize

The broadband network management strategy starts with consolidation. Rather than operating with separate network management silos, operators using this system have a unified management environment with one worldview from which they manage all devices, systems and third-party applications in the network.

The system also standardizes network operations to promote quicker problem resolution, which leads to lower training costs and a staff empowered to optimize network operations. This standardization is achieved by:

  • creating uniform views of multi-vendor equipment to allow staff to monitor devices without special training;
  • depicting services that run across hybrid networks with simple icons to allow non-expert personnel to monitor and control service availability;
  • and enabling distributed or central-casting models with full access from anyplace with a network connection.

Using the system

Taking advantage of network-wide consolidation and standardization, the broadband network management system offers bi-directional data flow, enabling operators to exert command and control over the actions of specific devices to automate daily and event-specific operations, including:

  • outage recovery to provide uninterrupted programming during a catastrophic failure;
  • fault and configuration management, detecting failures and switching traffic to broadcast via an alternate channel or from a backup facility;
  • and event scheduling, carrier monitoring and service provisioning and activation to maximize bandwidth use by automating program collection and distribution.

In addition, the system offers manager of managers capability, eliminating network operators' common practice of swivel chair management — the constant turning from one graphical user interface to another as they manage the hybrid network. They can consolidate their control of the network by unifying these systems into a universal view of the entire network.

With consolidated, standardized and automated control of the entire hybrid network, operators have the power to easily perform advanced management functions within one software suite, including proactive network management, equipment control, automation and circuit provisioning, video quality of service monitoring, and carrier and spectrum monitoring.

Rolling all these capabilities into one system simplifies broadband network management, enabling the reliable and more profitable delivery of video and other broadband services.

MaxView's unique benefits include:

  • the ability to do end-to-end provisioning that spans an entire network or group of networks;
  • the cost savings and availability afforded through automation
  • a distributed architecture that allows unlimited scaling so that network management systems are guaranteed to grow alongside your network;
  • and the ability to identify service impact due to network problems and take corrective action.

This amounts to reduced operational costs, greater service assurance and greater speed in deploying new services. At the end of the day, this is a broadcast organization's bottom line.

Darrek Porter is director of corporate communications and marketing for ILC.