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Deep Thoughts with Dr. Ken: Virtualization & Videoscape

Dr. Ken MorseContributed By Ken Morse, Chief Technology Officer, Cisco Service Provider Video Technology Group

It’s probably not all that surprising, given the state of the video marketplace these days, that what’s top of mind for me is the migration of video to IP (Internet Protocol) everything.

At this point, I think we’re all fairly clear on what the end game looks like – pick any definition you favor about “TV Everywhere” and “the four Anys” (anytime, anywhere, any thing, any device). I think we can all agree that that’s where we’re headed.

The challenge now is that so many different paths exist to get there. As usual!, right? Differences between service providers exist for understandable reasons: Starting position (which options were selected for bandwidth creation/preservation?), plant configuration (switched or not?), and economics (what’s the budget?)

As a vendor, one of the bigger challenges in building products for the IP video migration is identifying which elements to put in the toolbox, to support all of the different ways service providers are considering. There’s the QAM termination approach, there’s the “run high-speed data to the hilt” approach, and several other options in the middle.

My view is, serve them all by gradually “virtualizing” the elements in the toolbox.  Encapsulate the functionalities of a particular component - whatever it is - and then instantiate those same functionalities on another device.

Maybe it’s a set-top function virtualized into a connected device, or maybe it’s DVR feature, abstracted into the cloud, or maybe it’s a guide feature, virtualized into the network - either way, it seems a pragmatic way to reinforce what was already not a dumb pipe, into an intelligent network.

That’s why it’s important to build and work within an open framework - one that will allow you to dynamically support a whole range of different configurations. HLS to Apple, Playready to this, Widevine to that; HTML over here, Flash over there. Android.

Let’s be conservative and say that consumer electronics manufacturers create 20 SKUs per year of video-capable, IP-connected screens. In five years, at that rate - and excluding the set-tops, gateways, and in-home gear service providers themselves purchase and install - we could easily be facing thousands of different devices, all requiring connectivity and support.

Support. When you can’t get video service on my cable-connected iPad, who do you call? Apple? Best Buy? No. You call the service provider. Every call is cost. Consumer-purchased gear is great on capex, but its impact on customer care is gigantic.

Maneuvering it all starts with a framework mentality. When people ask me “what is Videoscape?,” I usually start there - it’s an architectural framework. Because when there’s lots of diversity in a marketplace, and it’s unclear who the winners may be, that’s when you need frameworks, not vertically integrated solutions.

I could go on and on, as you know. Come see me LIVE and IN PERSON at the Cable Show next week! I’ll be throwing video around like pizza pies at The Park on Wednesday, June 15, somewhere between 1-2 p.m.

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