Advanced Television

Clouds gather. Shift Happens.

September 24, 2014

SCTE Denver. Shifts Happen was the pithy up sum on how cable has to keep on keeping up with every new innovation that tries to eat its lunch. It was provided by retiring Time Warner Cable CTO Mike LaJoie and was the prelude to a keynote by Tony Werner, Comcast’s current CTO, where he ran through all the bumps there have been in cable’s road: FTA, VHS, DTH, telco fibre and, now, the Internet, or OTT, call it what you will.

Previous foes have been fought off or somehow incorporated. But the Internet is too big for that. You cannot beat it, and so you must join it. You must embrace it, leverage it and package it so that your services are better, faster, more than the other guys. And so, perhaps counter intuitively, as Werner made clear, Cable is heading for The Cloud.

In particular, as the follow on speaker Rob Lloyd, President of Development and Sales for Cisco, emphasised, the supply side is moving to the cloud wholesale, and fast. And that’s because cable needs the speed and variety of innovation that only open source collective development can provide. That’s the OTT model and cable must follow it. No more silos, no more waterfall development, innovation and dev/ops must burn the Chinese Walls and bring new features to market fast – and be prepared to drop them just as fast if they don’t take.

To this end Cisco presents its Inter Cloud – the Cloud of Clouds providing a hyper market of common, often openly developed, solutions across industry sectors. In this market standard practices and foundation architecture are meant to provide well-proven and fast starts for developers to build specific functions and features on to and, as they prove themselves out, then they can be shared too. The priority is speed to market to challenge the open source multi-developer speed of Internet based services.

However, there will need to be caution of unintended consequences. It will be possible to fast breed applications and solutions that seem excellent and then turn out not to be, just when everyone has implemented them. Also, might a standard approach mean a standardised subscriber facing product, the opposite of the intention of innovation and differentiation.

And, most importantly, small, often start-up developers are the best innovators. Yet in a model where the price of buying in to the ecosphere is to contribute to open source, where is their monetisation? How do they protect their IP and therefore remain motivated to generate cutting edge progress? Making the supply side Uber Cloud open to, and profitable for, real innovators will be a real test of its success.

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