SCTE's Dzuban on bringing down cable's electric bill and protecting its networks from hackers

Mark Dzuban, SCTE

Dzuban

with Mark Dzuban, President & CEO, Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers

He drives a Jeep, and by all accounts, he's an outdoorsman. But don't be fooled by the aggressive energy-savings initiative Mark Dzuban is spearheading. Energy 2020, a wide-reaching cable-industry push to reduce electrical power consumption by at least 25 percent by the year 2020, is as much about hard economic reality for the cable business as it is about tree-hugging. What's at stake? By Dzuban's estimates, more than $1 billion, as the demand for energy by cable's increasingly powerful networks spikes right along with electricity costs. Six months out from his organization's eponymous trade show, we caught up with the president of the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers on the phone. Here's an excerpt from that conversation.

FierceCable: The top executives at major MSOs are really at the magic hour for important decisions on things like over-the-top distribution of video, how to monetize Wi-Fi, and how the FCC's new net neutrality mandates will impact them. Are they really thinking about the electric bill?

Mark Dzuban: They are, especially when it's directly impacting business and competitiveness around price points. If you look at the statistics, there's an opportunity of well over $1 billion dollars in the year 2020 in cost avoidance if we can take the right measures. We want energy never to be an obstacle to our competitiveness. Cable's bandwidth needs are going up 30-50 percent a year in some cases. And we're just assuming that in the year 2020, we'll have enough energy to support it. It's a high-ranking line-item on operational expenses.

FierceCable: So just how bad is the energy crisis you're trying to avoid?

Dzuban: We're talking about a 4X multiple on the need for power by 2020. And if you look at the issue from the perspective of price increases, you're also talking about a 4X increase in the cost of power. This is impacted by things like reducing coal power plants. We're trying to head off that trend. And we're getting help from people like Arris, Cisco and Intel. These are the guys who really understand the technology and how we can deploy the next generation of hardware.

FierceCable: Where specifically on the network can you save the most coin?

Dzuban: The outside plant, which is the access component, consumes 73-83 percent of energy. Even small changes there can have a pretty big impact. But we're also looking at everything from administrative facilities to the head ends--each one is a contributor. Servers, for example, if they're not supporting traffic, can be throttled down. If I can shut down 80 servers at 2 o'clock in the morning and just leave a few running at full capacity, that's also going to impact things like cooling and meantime between failure, which will improve if the average core temperature of your hardware is decreased.

FierceCable: Why is it the SCTE that's taking this on and not, say, CableLabs?

Dzuban: We are the standards body for the industry. We have more than 350 vendor partners, and we count 10 significant MSOs as partners. We're the natural organization for this task to fall on. CableLabs is responsible for customer premises equipment, which has a lot of focus because its consumption from the residence. The SCTE manages the network component.

FierceCable: You made DOCSIS 3.1 your focus at last year's conference pre-show. What will it be this year?

Dzuban: This year's focus is going to be cyber security.

FierceCable: The cable industry is more worried about North Korea than Netflix?

Dzuban: These service providers face an unbelievable challenge, even before [the Sony hack], of having their network operations severely disrupted by malicious software and the consequences are huge. There are a lot of angles for us to cover--everything from firewalls to what you do if you do run into trouble.

FierceCable: You mentioned earlier that the SCTE is partnered with 10 significant MSOs. What happens if the Comcast-Time Warner Cable merger gets approved, and Charter buys Bright House? Are you concerned about long-term relevance in a consolidated organization?

Dzuban: I actually think there are huge opportunities for the industry [if the deals go through]. I have huge confidence in [NCTA president and CEO ] Michael Powell on the regulatory end and [CableLabs president and CEO] Phil McKinney on the technology side. They won't take a threat lying down. I'm very confident that we're going to figure this out, and we're going to be in good position at the end of the day.

SCTE's Dzuban on bringing down cable's electric bill and protecting its networks from hackers
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