Deep Dive: Simplify Firmware Upgrades with Client Classes, Classified Network Settings, and Device Classifiers

Firmware Upgrades: Challenges

In a typical firmware rollout, all cable modems (CM) of a specific model are told to update by the boot file. It starts with a download, even if it already has the right firmware. This has caused major resource problems in the past, where there have been instances where some devices will download large portions of the file before rejecting it. Many times the device does this every time it’s restarted.

Traditionally, firmware files were quite small. But with embedded routers, eMTA, CWMP TR-069 settings, and other sections, firmware file sizes are growing. This can affect normal CM operation, as the same service that creates and provides the CM file so hands out firmware files. If the TFTP file servers are overtaken with firmware requests, CMs may not come online.

To combat this, it has been best practice to reset only a specific portion of CM at a time during the maintenance window, for example, one interface of a CMTS. In this way, one specific CM subnet will be updated, and will reset without administrator intervention. As that subnet is complete, you could add in another subnet, and another, until all are added. The main issue with this method is the incurred downtime and multiple staff required to be online for maintenance windows.

To simplify the process of firmware upgrades, Incognito has designed a framework that allows operators to expedite and automate their operations, improving device management processes to satisfy customer QoE expectations and reduce corresponding OPEX.

Summary of Client Classes, Client Network Settings, and Device Classifiers

Client Classes (CC), Client Network Settings (CNS), and Device Classifiers (DC) are criteria-based groups which Incognito uses to classify different subscribers based on customizable logic, enabling global influence over service interaction to streamline operations with bulk device management.

  • Client Classes are used to apply settings to provisioned devices. For example, a Client Class with a corresponding MAC address as its criteria could be sent to a cable modem to provide firmware update information. The limitation of a Client Class is that it only allows one criteria selection: MAC address, model, vendor, a DHCP option, and so on.
  • Device Classifiers add further criteria, and are added using service provider-based logic. Device Classifiers can be used outside of a firmware management platform to serve general provisioning functions, but alignment with Client Classes in firmware management operations increases the system’s accuracy and speed when discovering devices, offering firmware upgrade packages, processing device requests, and acknowledging firmware transactions.
  • Classified Network Settings further define more criteria to choose from, and are added as an additional field to the Client Class. Each Classified Network Setting has its own DHCPv4/v6 settings to send to the device. Each Classified Network Setting is selected by its own Device Classifier and may be reused for other Classified Network Settings.

Here’s an example to bring everything together:

Let’s say you’ve selected a Client Class based on a vendor, you can then create a Device Classifier for DOCSIS 3.0 modems and another one for non-DOCSIS 3.0 modems, these could be reused in other Classified Network Settings like DCHPv4 or DHCPv6. Additionally, the reusable Device Classifier may have many criteria to choose from, and include custom logic based on operator requirements.

Firmware CC/CNS/DC Solution

By establishing criteria for Client Classes, Classified Network Settings, and Device Classifiers, operators are able to orchestrate bulk firmware upgrades in an easy and flexible way. Cable modems that once placed heavy strain on TFTP servers lessen their load so that upgrades can complete quickly, and automatically restart downloads if operations fail within a programmable time frame.

If the device does not have the desired firmware, the download information will be included in the CM DOCSIS file setting. If the device already has the desired firmware, it can be prevented from attempting an upgrade by withholding firmware upgrade information from the DOCSIS file. This will prevent the device from even contacting a TFTP/FTP server for the file, saving time and network resources.

Take better control over your DOCSIS network by ensuring fast and accurate firmware upgrades to a wide range of devices. By keeping firmware upgrades light and reactive with the Incognito firmware management solution, operators can hasten their firmware upgrade processes to not only reduce downtime for end-users, but to also free up network engineering time for other strategic tasks.

Schedule a consultation with one of our solution experts to see how you can simplify firmware upgrades on your network.

For a guided look at Client Classes, Classified Network Settings, and Device Classifiers in a DHCPv4 and DHCPv6 world, read this Tips and Tutorials post.