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July 27, 2009
Edge routing startup Zeugma Systems Inc. has come out with another application that happens to hit a cable hot button: the "turbo" button.
Zeugma introduced SmartBoost today, following up on SmartMeter, a bandwidth-counting application it brought out in February. (See Zeugma's Brainy Bandwidth Meter and Zeugma Adds SmartBoost.)
Cable operators have been considering ways to temporarily boost bandwidth for a fee, a feature that might appease peer-to-peer (P2P) networkers who've balked at bandwidth limitations in the past. (See Cable Crafts 'Turbo' Option, Bright House Ups 'PowerBoost', TWC Powers Up 'Powerboost', and Amdocs Intros 'Turbo Charging'.)
Zeugma debuted last year with its Zeugma Services Node (ZSN), an edge router that includes computing blades that can house applications. In the months since, Zeugma has been developing and debuting some of those, trying to show off the router's utility. (See Zeugma Rethinks Edge Routing.)
SmartBoost is meant to be controlled by the subscriber, and the hard part of a service like that is getting different pieces of the network talking to each other: the DSLAM, the authentication server, billing systems, and so on, says Kevin Walsh, Zeugma's vice president of marketing.
Zeugma's argument here is simple: Since the ZSN can handle many of those functions -- subscriber management, in particular -- most of that cross-communication gets avoided, making the application theoretically easier to implement.
(You'd still have to connect to a billing server, "but that's a standard inferface that's more or less easily done," says Kevin Walsh, Zeugma vice president of marketing.)
The simplicity argument works best if an operator doesn't already have a subscriber management infrastructure in place. That makes smaller operators a particular target for Smart Boost, since "they're only now moving to B-RAS [broadband remote access server] architectures," Walsh says. In those cases, Zeugma can swoop in and handle both access routing and subscriber management.
SmartBoost could also get into a Tier 1 or 2 network by having the ZSN sit alongside the B-RAS, taking over some aspects of the latter box's job. "But let's face it: Those are lengthy campaigns to pursue, especially if what you're doing is an entirely new service for them to provide."
One operator on the verge of implementing SmartBoost is Texas-based Hill Country Telephone Cooperative Inc.; it's still working on getting that billing interface completed, Walsh says. Hill Country is using the Roku Inc. digital video player in subscribers' homes, so Zeugma was able to work with Roku's software development kit to get SmartBoost onto a TV menu.
Zeugma also concentrated on the cosmetic side of things, to make SmartBoost feel more like a turbo button. That's a problem with the cable approach so far: "You, as a subscriber, can't see it or feel it, and can't determine that it's happening."
So, what's a fair charge for a boost of bandwidth? Walsh says some service providers are looking at about 1 cent per minute for each additional Mbit/s.
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading
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