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Camiant Commissions New Bandwidth Cop

Camiant Inc. has issued a new version of its Universal Edge Resource Manager (UERM) to ensure that it can hook into and support the on-demand architectures of both Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) and Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC) -- two cable MSOs that serve a combined 24.7 million digital video subscribers.

Camiant's UERM has previously operated in both environments -- Time Warner's Interactive Services Architecture (ISA) and Comcast's Next Generation On Demand (NGOD) platforms -- but the same product has not housed all of the required interfaces for both systems at the same time, according to Randy Fuller, Camiant's vice president of business development.

Sandwiched between servers dedicated to video applications and the edge QAMs, edge resource managers (ERMs) play a key role in next-gen cable networks. Functionally speaking, the ERM manages the edge QAM resources that an operator has available at any given time to support multiple on-demand applications, including video-on-demand (VOD) and switched digital video (SDV).

Without an ERM serving as the allocator, those edge QAM resources are siloed to a particular application. For example, if the QAMs dedicated to VOD are maxed out, they can't borrow from QAMs tied to SDV if there is no ERM present to share resources across that boundary. With an ERM, all of those QAM resources can be allocated and shared from one big pool, allowing the operator to use its bandwidth more efficiently and deliver more streams over the same set of QAMs.

Operators can expect to see a 20 percent bandwidth efficiency gain when on-demand video applications can be managed from one big pool, Fuller says.

Other "on-demand" applications that could reap some of those benefits include gaming and advanced addressable advertising, a category that's gaining momentum in the wake of the cross-MSO Canoe Ventures LLC effort. (See Verklin Picked as Cable's Canoe Captain.) On that front, Camiant just inked a tech partnership that integrates its UERM with Visible World 's "intelliSpot" targeted advertising platform.

"From a network standpoint, they [addressable advertisements] look like VOD applications," Fuller says.

ISA and NGOD
Camiant is supporting both ISA and NGOD in the same device via a new software release. According to Fuller, the key difference between the architectures from the UERM's point of view is how it triggers and enforces the allocation of resources. With the new software, "the operator can standardize at least the edge resource layer" independent of the larger on-demand architecture, he explains.

Although Camiant counts itself as the first "independent" vendor to support both ISA and NGOD, it's not the only vendor to hold that distinction. Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) also has an ERM operating in the Time Warner and Comcast environments. Motorola added that element to its broader digital video portfolio in the fall of 2006 when it acquired Vertasent LLC. (See Motorola Buys Vertasent.)

Because Camiant specializes in ERM technology and can hook the product into other "end-to-end" digital video systems, Fuller believes the company can prevent operators from locking themselves into a particular vendor's roadmap. "We don't have other irons in the fire," he says. "We don't sell video applications or QAMs, [which] means we can make the ERM layer as efficient as possible."

But it's too early to determine how successful Camiant will be with this strategy, because cable operators have yet to deploy ERM gear very broadly. Fuller estimates that ERM tech adoption is "maybe in the top of the second inning," noting that Camiant's latest version has entered some initial trials. Commercial deployments are expected to go live by year's end.

"We've shown that it [ERM] works and creates economic benefits. But rolling out a new layer in the video architecture doesn’t happen overnight," Fuller concedes.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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