Troubleshooting in a Multi-Services World

July 7, 2016
By Huw Price-Stephens, Mariner - How can operators can best monitor and analyze the complex nature of today's evolving pay TV offerings ...

By Huw Price-Stephens, Mariner

How can operators can best monitor and analyze the complex nature of today's evolving pay TV offerings, reduce OPEX, and boost QoE? Let's examine some of the common questions.

From a monitoring and analytics perspective, what are the key challenges facing operators in the telco, cable, satellite, cellular, and ISP environments?

The pay TV market is changing, both on the content and service levels. Content is increasingly being viewed by consumers on multiple platforms, and for more hours. As a direct result, operators are looking to capture economies for expanded service bundles that include a mix of pay TV, OTT, and high-speed Internet. In this increasingly complex and chaotic service domain, an inability to see and react to individual and systemic issues and degradations can undermine service integrity, customer satisfaction, and commercial success. If pay TV operators want to survive and thrive, they need a software-based monitoring and analytics platform that meets the flexibility, scalability, and speed-to-market demands of the multiscreen service environment.

Given the fragmentation of wireless devices and streaming, how can operators deliver more successful services, on time and affordably?

It's important that operators deploy a service assurance platform capable of monitoring and analyzing an expanded and interrelated set of services, content, service-delivery environments, and devices. Moreover, the platform must address the economies of scale needed for innovative service bundles, supporting IP-based consumer devices across all networks, including telco, satellite, cable, and in-home WiFi, to drive new revenue. The in-home environment is a particular focal point, given the complexity associated with device diversity and the proliferation of services. Enhanced monitoring and troubleshooting of the in-home environment is a must.

To support widely varying KPIs for different operator stakeholders, the platform should be flexible enough to allow definition and measurement of all possible correlation relationships among the available data. The correlation dimensions can be based on common attributes and trends, geographic location, network or other topological proximity, service delivery chains, or any combination of original or derived metrics determined to have value. Finding a service assurance platform with a simplified way of defining multiple "connectivity" types within each correlation domain is also critical. End-point devices can belong to multiple domains, further maximizing operators' flexibility in the multiservice realm.

Finally, quick data ingestion capabilities allow rapid and easier integration of the variety of QoE data sources needed to monitor today's multiservice ecosystems.

How can operators address the monitoring and analytics issues that exist with bundled service offerings?

As the service domain becomes more complex, the likelihood increases that the quality and integrity of an individual service will be adversely affected by those around it. Operators can take the complexity out of troubleshooting multiservice offerings by choosing a holistic monitoring and analytics platform that supports a coherent view across a wide range of services and service types. Cross-fertilizing available metrics helps expose issues or degradations resulting from the combination of factors, rather than being intrinsic to a specific service.

When it comes to service assurance, flexible troubleshooting and root cause analysis are very important. After evaluating data correlation and grouping relationships, operators can define auto-detected patterns or signatures.

Since a scalable monitoring architecture can make or break an operator's plans for growth, scalability is also essential. Operators will need a platform that can ingest and filter through hundreds of millions of devices in a single deployment.

Is there a correlation between analytics and providing a superior QoE to viewers?

Absolutely. Without a rich wealth of data, operators would be left in the dark about subscriber QoE. By turning big data into smart data advanced service assurance platforms allow operators to quickly identify the root cause of service issues and degradations, to provide a better quality of experience to customers. By automating remedial action, or by provision of self-help capabilities, or by integrating the analytics results into existing operational workflow processes, the improved QoE is achieved without increasing the training budget.

We're starting to see platforms incorporate advanced multidimensional data correlation, complex signatures, and the ability to manage QoE across the breadth of the operator's IP services portfolio. These tools bring substantial OPEX savings to operators by enabling them to spot challenging problems before they're noticed by subscribers. What's more, they equip operations, care and field teams with fast, accurate automatic triangulation of customer QoE problems.

When it comes to launching new service offerings, operators must be quick to stay ahead of the competition. What's the best strategy for integrating a new service from the perspective of the service assurance platform and existing workflows?

Software-based monitoring platforms are the ideal choice for integration flexibility and cost savings. One of the beauties of software-based solutions is that upgrades are quick and easy. Any time there is a new feature or technology available, operators can perform an instant upgrade that is largely invisible to customers, future-proofing their investment in the platform.

Integration of a new service may involve new data sources and monitoring metrics being ingested into the service assurance platform, with new corresponding KPIs being calculated. These may be transmitted as alarms or alerts, or passed through APIs to extend and enhance existing dashboards and workflow processes.

Huw Price-Stephens is a senior xVu product strategist at Mariner.

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