By Joe Chow, VP/GM, Cisco Connected Devices BU

Part of the tech-buzz at this week’s Cable Show, in Washington, will be about customer premises equipment – set-tops, cable modems, gateways.

Of the CPE buzz, half of it will be about “RDK,” and the other half about how to divvy up what functions live in the house (via the CPE), vs. in the cloud.

That’s our prediction, anyway.

Let’s start with RDK buzz. It stands for Reference Design Kit, and is an industry effort to a) build new cable-specific hardware faster, and b) get new services and apps to the market faster, on that hardware. It was spearheaded last year by Comcast, and is expected to widen to other service providers.

At the Cable Show, we’ll be showcasing our work with RDK in a variety of forms. One of them is a cloud-based, multi-screen video gateway. It can interact with an MSO cloud to provide network-DVR type services. We call it the “XG1 v3” which is actually Comcast nomenclature, but much easier than saying everything I said in the preceding paragraph! We’ll also have IP “client,” devices for extending IP services to other TV sets in the home. And more!

An important point is that it’s all designed to maneuver well in open environments, like for routing, and for applications frameworks. RDK is built on an open, shared-source philosophy, and so far our experience with it would indicate that it’s delivering on its mission. It definitely accelerates the pace of development.

Gateway vs. Cloud

As far as how to draw the line between what goes in the CPE and what goes in the cloud – it’s one of those questions. The answer today will differ from the answer three months from now, because the line itself will move.

Our view is this: In many ways, the gateway is an extension of the cloud. It extends the cloud into the home, which enables operators to optimize how they deliver services.

Yet the scent of change invariably draws curiosity, however misplaced. Every few years, it seems, a feeding frenzy happens, questioning when the “_________” dies. The set-top, the gateway.

The thinking is that end screens will ultimately do cheaply, in software, everything that CPE does in expensive hardware. And that given a choice, operators would stop sinking capex into CPE before they’d shed a lot of tears over lost income from monthly CPE rental fees. Cloud and gateway are not mutually exclusive, is the point. Both are better at some things than others. Both will persist.

So – please come by and see us. We can talk RDK, gateway and cloud all day long. And we probably will.

Watch a short video for specifics of our featured CPE at The Cable Show.



David Yates

as Director of Service Provider Video Marketing at Cisco