Yes, But Does It Scale?


In combing through pages of notes from last month's CTAM Summit '09 and SCTE Cable-Tec Expo, one word popped up over and over (and over): scale.

Examples: “What EBIF will give us is scale.” “Part of my job is, I'm supposed to make it scale.”

And, my personal favorite: “Even if you dual-stack or single-stack your mail servers, many of these spam mitigation techniques, especially if you're depending on an IP address, don't scale so well.”

Scale, in the context of a consolidated industry operating in compressed times, is about the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can get enough materials, from suppliers who aren't going to do something crazy — like go away or be gobbled up by a “frenemy.” It means deployable to millions of customers.. The components of “scale” usually include cost, physical space requirements and the ability to nestle comfortably and quickly into data-center workflows, like provisioning and billing.

Here's an example. You're hot with a new service that will assuredly stuff gobs of cash into everyone's pockets. Giddy with the possibilities, you find a way into your cable partner of interest to lay out the plan.

Let's say you need at least one digital 6-Megahertz chunk of shelf space. You need a corner in the headend, for your racks of gear. You're pretty sure you can link to the provisioning system. You'll have just a scant impact on billing. And you'll figure out a way to make sure field techs and care reps are nurtured (just as soon as you find someone to put together some documentation).

Uh-oh. Before you even pull out the laptop with the slide presentation, you've struck out. Twice.

Hey! At least you have the gobs of cash. If you'd polished your product as a churn reducer (as its major feature), you'd still be waiting for the meeting.

As a fallback position, there's always the other kind of scale, which always comes to mind around the major Eating Holidays. (Which kick off next week, unless you count Halloween.) Tipping the scale in that sense can usually be remedied on the treadmill.

As for this other kind of scale: It's a front-of-mind ingredient for everything that needs to happen, from here on out. May yours be palatable.

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