Oh, the things one can find by just remembering to go look again. Like Time Warner Cable’s technical perspectives on the RDK (Reference Design Kit), imparted during a “TV of Tomorrow” session that’s (finally!) up on iTunes.
TWC, which on Aug. 15 announced the creation, with Comcast, of a joint venture called RDK Management LLC, hadn’t said much about its stance on RDK, beyond agreeing that it’s a good way to accelerate innovation at the device level.
In case you’d rather not spend 42 minutes listening to the entire panel discussion, here are the highlights.
We start with why Time Warner Cable opted in to RDK in the first place: “This is an architecture that’s driven by engineers facing the reality of a competitive marketplace and time to market,” executive vice president Mike Hayashi said.
For TWC, RDK hastens service velocity by lessening the 300-plus software drops per year the MSO receives — from four vendors. “That adds complexity and challenges in terms of reliability, and frankly it slows us down,” Matt Zelesko, senior vice president of technology at the MSO, said.
By going to RDK-based “hybrid gateways” (half cable modem, half set-top), MSOs can curtail the drudgery of integration and regression testing.
Refresher: RDK is the base-level software platform Comcast is using for its “X-series” boxes, built to work as clients connected to cloud-based apps.
It grew out of this question: If one were to build a television system based on IP distribution, what components would one use? Choices were made around open source components well known to the software development community: Gstreamer, QT and Webkit, among others.
That’s instead of creating cable-specific components, which requires agreement. Agreeing takes time. Plus there are way more Internet-side software developers out there than cable-specific developers.
In that sense, then, RDK as a shared-source community is more like Red Hat, Ubuntu or Linux than prior efforts like OCAP (OpenCable Applications Platform), panelists agreed.
Ultimately, “the platform gets better the more it’s used,” noted Steve Reynolds, senior vice president of premises technology at Comcast, so watch for more MSOs to jump in the RDK pool. Charter, Cox, Liberty Global and Rogers have all expressed interest. “We hope that it’s an ongoing community source project,” Reynolds said. “We’d love to see more operators, but also more apps developers, more integrators, more set-top companies.”
There’s lots more in the podcast. (And the drumming does end. I promise.)