Agama claims gold in R-PHY monitoring race, employees go AWOL

Rethink Technology Research

By Thomas Flanagan July 19, 2018

Swedish video quality specialist Agama Technologies claims to have launched the market’s first video monitoring system for remote PHY (R-PHY) cable network architectures – a technology fundamental for permitting a CMTS (cable modem termination system) to support an IP-based digital HFC plant.

Analytics is a dangerous game as Faultline Online Reporter has warned in the past, but for a company evolving from a supplier of hardware probes to software for OTT video services, the announcement is a reminder that the physical layer is undergoing repeated improvements.
If Agama’s claim is true and it is indeed first to market, then it looks set to piggyback on the success of networking technology vendors, most notably Arris with its E6000 routers finding favor at major operators including Comcast to deploy R-PHY. Liberty Global is also well on its way and these cable giants will be interested to know how deploying R-PHY for IP migration strategies looks from the view of a video assurance expert.
Agama has added R-PHY monitoring capabilities to its Agama Analyzer product, providing a portal into the DEPI (Downstream External PHY Interface specification) streams from the CCAP (Converged Cable Access Platform) core to the R-PHY itself. This tool, Agama says, ensures any streaming or content integrity issues can be detected.
Specifically, it means analyzing video streams transported in the DEPI tunnel, where Agama Analyzer correlates video performance before and after the CCAP core.
But then what? For fear of sounding like a broken record, we admit this specific field of video analytics is rather different to pure QoE analytics which we have investigated in more depth, but it still faces the same hurdle – how does analytics go about solving problems once flagged?
Crucially, this distances Agama from competing with the likes of Conviva which we see as the current market leader in QoE analytics, building a successful architecture whereby code within an app is combined with a collection point and a visualization tool.
Agama claims its new DEPI Analyzer probes have already been deployed with “leading technology vendors and in live customer cases, proving to be extremely useful in testing, deployment and in live operation.” We probed for more information, but upon calling the Agama office we were informed Swedish workers are blessed with generous vacation allowances and tend to take it in bulk in the July to August period.
With virtualization strategies high on operator roadmaps, R-PHY allows for cloud processing of complex processes demanding more memory and storage – moving IP over the internet closer to subscribers.
There is tradeoff between R-PHY and R-MAC-PHY, the latter distributing both PHY and MAC (Media Access Control) layer functions down to the fiber nodes, with R-PHY distributing the PHY function while the MAC remains at the site. Both deliver benefits within changing networks, while the argument for R-PHY is that it simplifies migration, a camp Liberty Global is leaning towards.
Meanwhile, the emergence of virtualized CMTS technologies, for example from Nokia, claim to have solved this debate – deploying both R-PHY and R-MAC-PHY devices within the same network and enabling switching from one to the other based on network requirements.
The vCMTS can be placed in the data center, headend, hub, street cabinet or the access node itself, whichever is viewed as the optimal location. Nokia is developing a comprehensive portfolio of cable access technologies to rival Arris and Cisco, and realistically it must be one of these three vendors Agama has slipped into its press release this week. Casa Systems could also be added to that list.
Earlier this year Arris released the second-generation modules for its E6000 Converged Edge Router (CER) CCAP platform, enabling customers to achieve up to 70% increase in headend service group density without consuming more rack space, with a software-based headend upgrade path to R-PHY Distributed Access Architecture. An educated guess would suggest this is the perfect place for an Agama R-PHY monitoring system deployment.
It’s a crying shame such an interesting product launch could not be given the comprehensive coverage it deserves with inside insights. We will follow up of course, but an assault on the Agama stand at IBC looks like our best bet.