Proactive Network Maintenance (PNM): Cable Modem Validation Application(s)
Sometimes, two apps are better than one. We now have two versions of the Cable Modem Validation Application (CMVA) available for download and use: a new lab automation version, and a data exploration version.
Thing One and Thing Two
Lab automation and certification have unique requirements, but investigation and invention require flexibility. Because the CMVA found value as a cable modem (CM) data plotter and browser on top of its original purpose as a lab testing tool, we decided there should be two versions—one focused on each use case.
Sometimes You Feel Like a DUT
The newest, most complex version of CMVA is built specifically for CM Cert-Lab testing and includes several new features and automations:
- Improved efficiency for CMVA on certification testing: CMVA now discovers OFDM/OFDMA-based topology information from the CMTS and loads all related channel configuration information automatically for testing. CMVA also synchronizes PNM SNMP SET command parameters with XCCF for better efficiency and greater control.
- Automated discovery of the active DOCSIS® 3.1 CM list: Users can easily select CMs with their test configurations automatically filled to start tests with a few clicks.
- CMVA now runs multiple PNM tests sequentially on multiple CMs in parallel with simple clicks on a single user login: The latest test reports are directly served from the CM table. Different users are handled in parallel, as previously.
- CMVA now embeds detailed testing logs into the HTML test report: The log file can be downloaded from the HTML test report. The HTML test report is portable.
- CMVA now keeps copies of raw PNM test files together with the test reports for vendor debugging references: When downloading the test reports, CMVA packages the test logs in raw text, and forms the portable HTML test report into a single archive.
- All the Acceptance Test Plan (ATP) calculation activities are placed in the log file for vendor debugging references.
- We added a function for resetting CMs remotely with one click: This is important for testing and useful for other purposes.
Figure 1: New layout for test and configuration management
Figure 2: Select CM directly from the table to start tests; the latest reports are linked directly in the table for convenience
Figure 3: The test procedures ran last time are tracked, and the configurations are automatically filled
Figure 4: Detailed test logs are embedded directly into the portable HTML test report and can be downloaded as pure text log
All these new features are important for test automation, but some of them are useful for other needs. Go nuts! But if you simply want the basic capabilities that CMVA always provided, you can still get that version.
Sometimes You Don’t
Sometimes you just want a simple way to poll a set of modems and see what you can get. The previous version is a bit simpler, but it still has the validation capabilities if you need them. So, it might be the version that can address most, if not all, of your needs. We use it for many purposes but mainly as a testing and development tool. Here are some specific use cases we’ve encountered:
- Testing ideas in the lab: The PNM Working Group InGeNeOS conducted lab testing, as reported on before, and we used CMVA to grab data from CMs under test.
- Developing applications: As we work to develop our first large-scale PNM base application, inside our prototype PNM Application Environment, we use CMVA to develop theories about how the data can be processed for automated processing.
- Building reports and documenting: So often, we need to capture what certain impairments look like, or obtain a good visualization of a PNM measurement, and CMVA makes that handy.
- Investigating issues: With CMVA, it’s a simple matter to collect data from a pool of CMs and compare the results. This helps us investigate many issues, including changes in firmware versions, CM responsiveness, and other potential issues with plant configuration, software changes and so on.
- Combined Common Collection Framework (XCCF) development and testing: As we develop new capabilities with our XCCF, we can use CMVA to validate its functionality.
If you are a user of CMVA, let us know how you have used it!
Two Can Play at That Game
Although the more complicated testing tool can be used for all these use cases and many more, some users don’t need the automation, overhead and many controls required for automated testing. When you contact us to get an updated version of CMVA, please let us know what you would like to use it for. That way, we can offer you the right version.
Inform[ED] Video: Cable Modem Validation Application
Ever-present communication is an important part of life these days. Cable technology provides connectivity for homes and businesses, providing entertainment, information and increasingly important functions for life. As we rely more on all forms of communications access, we rely on our cable modems to help keep services running their best. Cable modems have therefore become more capable - they can report on network problems they see as they adjust around those problems. The cable industry refers to the information obtainable from these capable cable modems as Proactive Network Maintenance data.
CableLabs has created an application to share with the industry which can make sure cable modems are doing their best with reporting their Proactive Network Maintenance data. This sharing enables members, vendors and our own laboratories to be on the same page with validating our cable modems. The application automates the Proactive Network Maintenance tests that are part of the certification tests conducted at CableLabs for the industry. Everyone in the industry can use it to reduce their cycle times and costs around certification testing, but they can use it also to develop new capabilities, special versions of modems to support new capabilities, and more.
If you’re interested in learning more about the Cable Modem Validation Application you can read my technical blog here and watch the video below.
Validating Cable Modems for DOCSIS® 3.1 PNM Deployment
The cable industry is always trying to find ways to improve service. When the cable industry made proactive network maintenance (PNM) a part of the DOCSIS® specifications, we showed great commitment to service. CableLabs supports that commitment through its work in specifications, and particularly through its PNM project.
This blog entry in our PNM series focuses on cable modem validation. Cable modem (CM) validation is the work to assure that the CMs can fully support PNM. When CMs can be assured to report data about impairments in the network, service providers have a tool for finding and fixing network issues before they impact service. CableLabs built the cable modem validation application (CMVA) to help bring that assurance to the industry.
Validating CM PNM functionality for DOCSIS 3.1 network deployments might seem like a small step in a large technology life cycle. But it’s an important step, and one we wish to highlight.
Why is it important to validate PNM data reporting from CMs?
- Continuous service improvement: Before deploying a technology, it is important to know ahead of time whether CMs will be capable of supporting network maintenance and troubleshooting. We never want to introduce a new technology that costs more to maintain than the previous. Ideally, a new technology will cost less to build, be less expensive to maintain, and provide superior service. PNM capabilities are an important part of this needed improvement. A consistent approach with CMs is the first step toward CMTS testing and having integrated PNM capabilities for the entire architecture.
- Getting ready for future technology evolutions: New DOCSIS 3.1 modems provide more information about the plant and its ability to support enhanced services and deploy new technologies like FDX. This capability can become an important source of information for all sorts of planning and engineering activities. It is a critical first step toward many possible futures for DOCSIS.
- Best practices we can share: With a consistent industry approach to PNM data reporting, collection, and certification testing of modems, everyone can validate and verify consistent reporting. Therefore, we can build best practice operation solutions on that strong foundation.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure, so having modems capable of reporting PNM measurements allows cable operators to manage their networks effectively, inexpensively, and reliably!
Realize: It’s always too late to start thinking about reliability!
You can’t add in reliability as if it’s a separate feature. You need to design it into the system as early as possible for the lowest cost, or work it in later at a much higher cost. DOCSIS is a sophisticated system, especially 3.1 and Full Duplex DOCSIS. This complexity is why having PNM within the DOCSIS specification is an important move for the industry, supporting its ability to evolve. But, this is only a first step. We need to make sure these PNM capabilities work as intended in systems before we deploy and assure we can take full advantage of the capabilities once deployed.
The Common Collection Framework (CCF) and the Cable Modem Validation Application (CMVA)
CableLabs built two solutions that together help address this industry need:
- The Combined Common Collection Framework (XCCF): The XCCF provides management of data requests to network elements, and provides the data to a REST API to support applications of all kinds. The CMVA, one of those applications, uses the data provided by the XCCF to validate modem performance in support of PNM. If you want to learn more about the XCCF, you can read the previous entry in our PNM blog series here, or access the public version of the architecture document here. We are building the future of the XCCF right now, so it’s a great time to get involved.
- The Cable Modem Validation Application (CMVA): The CMVA allows any of us to test CMs for compliance to DOCSIS 3.1 specifications, specifically the PNM portions. The tests conducted are based on the Acceptance Test Plans (ATPs) supported here at CableLabs, specifically the DOCSIS 3.1 PHY and OSSI ATPs, based on the DOCSIS 3.1 specifications. But not only does CMVA provide concise test results based on these ATPs, but it provides nice graphical output (plots, tables) so you can visually confirm the results too. Sometimes what passes a specification is still not desirable or functional necessarily. Looking at the results is a great way to get introduced to the wealth of data available in DOCSIS 3.1 CMs, allowing the CMVA to be useful toward confirming specific results you may envision for your own PNM deployments. To facilitate that idea further, we are adding to the CMVA a few extra capabilities so that users can test additional PNM workflows, look for test anomalies, or further experiment with PNM capabilities.
We use it…
CableLabs and our subsidiary, Kyrio, are using the CMVA in our own CM certification testing. CableLabs will use it further to explore improved workflows for PNM, in support of the InGeNeOs Forum’s planned work on PNM Best Practices for DOCSIS 3.1 technology. Just like the XCCF is the foundation for a lot of PNM related capabilities, the CMVA is a step beyond and toward greater PNM capabilities that support low cost and high effectiveness in DOCSIS 3.1 network deployments.
…Others use it…
We envision a couple of important use cases for our partners.
- Vendors can use it to validate their modem for compliance to the PNM portions of the specifications, test chip capabilities, improve firmware, or explore potential PNM developments. We’re aware of a vendor using XCCF to test silicon, so, for example, the CMVA could be added to find issues and share them with their suppliers during design testing.
- MSOs can verify compliance in their own labs, develop CM builds that help them differentiate, and examine CM sensitivity and capability at PNM tasks and operations workflows. For example, if a particular modem is vulnerable to LTE ingress at the interface, a few lab tests might detect it before deploying the problem, and the CMVA would be one way to detect and display the problem.
…Wouldn't you like to use it too?
CMVA was designed specifically for Kyrio and CableLabs to use in certification testing of CMs, with vendors and members able to use it for their own equivalent needs. But, CMVA is well suited for exploring a lot of other needs. Thus, we look forward to working with you to get the full benefit from the XCCF, CMVA and all the CableLabs PNM developments completed and yet to be built.
If you first just want to learn more, please look for our demonstration video to be announced soon. When you are interested in gaining access or discussing it with me further, please feel free to contact me directly by clicking below.