The new face of what we’ve always called “engineering” — defined as “the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building and use of engines, machines and structures” — means we all need to brush up on software and its people.
That is the inexorably true thing, from lamp posts to big networks, and especially in cable: Software is eating the world and its sous chefs are software people. Whether it’s science or technology; design or construction; engine, machine or structure, chances are high that an industry needs software people right now.
This means widening the view of your information technology (IT) colleagues beyond “those odd folks who fix my digital stuff ” to “those gods and goddesses I cannot live without.” These days, “engineering” is all about innovating with IT. Analysts are already predicting that within the next three to five years, everything we buy over $100 will come with a smart sensor. We’ll control them with apps (software).
Building software-based products means swift and dependable provisioning. It’s what I used to call “the goo of the back office,” except that these days, it’s much less gooey. Monitoring, supporting and billing — long the blackest magic of cable — are all being deconstructed into manageable bits, because of what’s happening in The Software World.
Then there’s the matter of scale. “At scale,” in the softwaredominated world of IP (Internet protocol), goes beyond bandwidth and capacity. It comprises pretty much everything from how services are presented to you (user experience), to how your desires for services are communicated (signaling), to how they’re delivered (cloud!), to how they’re consumed (metrics/analytics/big data.)
So it’s time to get ready for the language that comes with software. Like “elasticity,” which has nothing to do with how your clothing fits and everything to do with how your cloud lets you flexibly use storage and compute process for TV applications, based on demand.
Then there’s the “information bus” — designed to move subscriber transactions super-quickly, using carefully defined interfaces. Intent: To let billing systems can do what they’re intended to do (rate and bill), without the hassles of yore.
Watch for modularity, fault tolerance and a constant focus on how to adjust things in step with consumer desires. Design consistency means building a TV app that tunes a channel in less than 300 milliseconds — with nothing in the way to slow it down, like a lookup on the back end or a subsystem falling down just when it’s needed to scale up.
Long story short: Take a moment to do something nice for your IT pals. They’ll appreciate it, and you need them more than you may know.