News

Jottings From SCTE Cable-Tec Expo

11/01/2010 12:01 AM Eastern

TV BECOMES AN APP, HEADENDS
become “data centers,” VOD
storage gets hierarchical.
Conditional access meets
digital-rights management,
set-tops morph into gateways,
“soft clients” become the way
to get the TV app onto nontraditional
screens.

That’s a sampling of notes
from the Oct. 20-22 SCTE
Cable Tec-Expo, in New
Orleans, where engineers
gathered to figure out how to build all the stuff
that’s coming.

Let’s start with the “soft client” — the thing
you’ll click to get to your TV subscription or ondemand
title from your other screens (tablets,
smartphones, laptops). All together, North
American cable operators buy something like 10
million digital set-tops per year. Portable screens,
laptops and tablets could easily enter homes at
two or three times that rate.

Hence the need for a “soft” set-top.
Conversationally, it goes like this: “Where’s your
API (Application Program Interface)? I’ll build a
button!”

In the on-demand world, it’s hard to go two
sentences in without bumping into “CDNs”
(content delivery networks). Once the exclusive
bastion of companies like Akamai as a way to
move and keep popular stuff closest to users,
cable operators are rapidly building their own
vats of hierarchical storage: a few big, centralized
“library servers,” feeding the most popular
content out to local VOD servers.

Big changes ahead for the headend, too. For
the past two decades, they’ve been consolidating,
mostly because of advancements in optical
techniques to blast signals 50 miles or farther.

Now, and as characterized in the spookily titled
“Death of the Headend: How IP Will Transform
Cable Services,” presented by Cisco Systems’
Dave Brown, racks of servers make up the scene;
“Web services” provide easier links into legacy
back-office systems.

But I’m guessing at least one vestige will
remain, though — those phones with the really,
really long cords, so as to reach the farthest rack
when troubleshooting.



Stumped by gibberish? Visit Leslie Ellis at  www.translation-please.com or www.multichannel.
com/blog
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