Content Networking

5:00 PM -- Red Panda was ruminating on the future of our industry this morning. Here's his prognosis. Comments?

The Convergence of Communications and Content in the 21st Century

Most of the last century was spent overcoming the challenges involved in building networks that could carry voice, video, and data at the same time. Now that these networks are starting to be deployed, the focus is shifting from the network, to the content that is carried over it. In the 21st Century, the real challenge is anticipating what these networks will be used for.

Communications is at a crossroads like no other in its history -- caused by the proliferation of high-capacity broadband and the explosion of digital technologies and content. These are creating powerful new businesses and new models that are challenging (and often dismantling) the old. The shift from infrastructure to content impacts everyone on the planet.

The effects are being felt first amongst horizontal communications industries (telecom carriers, network equipment manufacturers, and software developers) which must re-invent themselves or die. Examples of this succession from the old to the new are already commonplace: Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) is building an optical network to compete with incumbent carriers; Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT), Oracle Corp. (Nasdaq: ORCL), IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM), and Sun Microsystems Inc. are looking to IPTV to make their entrée into digital broadcasting; service providers now offer VOIP, VPN, WiMax, and 802.11 offerings that transcend enterprise and telecom boundaries; and Lucent Technologies Inc. (NYSE: LU) and IBM are using technologies like IMS to help telecom carriers develop personalized services.

Content providers (music industry, television networks, and game developers) also must work out how to take advantage of the new comms order or be eviscerated by their competitors -- new and old. And industry verticals (pharmaceutical, financial, petrochemical, transportation, and so on) also will be revolutionized by ubiquitous communications networks.

In other words, the traditional competitive set and their roles are being turned upside down. But communications in the 21st Century will impact much more than "industry" -- reaching into every part of society.

In this new communications order the Internet becomes an Übernet -- an enveloping force that is far more pervasive and powerful than the current Web.

Ubiquitous peer-to-peer communications at high speed and over a choice of media will become the norm -- and not just for the technocrats and digerati, but throughout every stratum of society, in (almost) every corner of the world.

Such a network has the potential to support both great good and terrible iniquity. On the one hand, for example, it makes it far easier for people to give money to charities, and to track the effectiveness of those donations. On the other, “net warfare” (use of public networks to co-ordinate terrorist attacks and the organizations that plan them) is already becoming increasingly common.

For all that remains obscure some things are clear. The ability to deliver raw capacity will become less and less critical as time passes. 40-Gigabit and 100-Gigabit Ethernet already are upon us. Optical technologies that deliver Terabits of throughput are being deployed. Yet faster speeds will inevitably follow. Ultimately the prognosis for building block technologies and the companies that make them is bleak; capacity will be a commoditized, a given.

Conversely, and for the foreseeable future, a number of “shim” technologies that sit between capacity and content, helping to control the new comms universe, will remain relevant. Examples include SDP, IMS, and policy based networking. But even these technologies are not the future of communications -- they are simply the enablers, the digital middle men.

Yes, no, maybe?

— Red Prognosticator, Light Reading

Scott Clavenna 12/5/2012 | 3:46:15 AM
re: Content Networking Personal content is blowing everything else out of the water lately. MySpace and YouTube are way bigger than anything created by studios this year, and have completely changed a whole generationG«÷s thinking about what they like to see and how they see it. How else could YouTube go from nothing to 200 million videos overnight? Kids. IG«÷m amazed at this. And sharing my amazement.

I think some companies are trying to get their arms around this idea of personal communications converging with personal content. Personal communications is one wave: combining fixed and mobile communications in ways that let users customize services for their own devices and locations. Personal content is the next: uploading everything from mixtapes, to home videos, to very high quality content that quickly become G«£programsG«• on the net. Studios have to be afraid of this, as itG«÷s so hard to harness and so hard to predict.

So it seems to me there might be parallel worlds for a while: one in which a bunch of big-ass companies try and get into the content game with limited success (MSFTG«÷s Xbox is doing pretty good), and another in which everyone under 21 is already in it, ignoring these big guys and doing it themselves with little more than broadband connections and a stock network.

Tho, rumor has it all the good content creators that show up on the web will get snatched up by real media companies, leaving these web-based sources with mediocrity (think mentos-and-coke fountains, pet tricks, karaoke) and flimsy business prospects.

But the trend is real. Communications is personal.

Scott C.
Rick Thompson 12/5/2012 | 3:46:15 AM
re: Content Networking If Internet TV (Google Video, YouTube, etc.) can find a good business model and it takes off as a meaningful service, are the infrastructure requirements unique and different for an ASP versus a telco for IPTV? Specific example: Would a VOD server vendor selling to Verizon or AT&T have to develop a new product, different version, etc., to sell to a Google, Yahoo, or YouTube? Extend the example to encoders, etc. Include subtle things like packaging of technology, etc. ...?
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 3:46:15 AM
re: Content Networking "It makes it far easier for people to give money to charities, and to track the effectiveness of those donations."

In case you wondered, this is a reference to a project I'm funding:

Rick Thompson 12/5/2012 | 3:46:15 AM
re: Content Networking 1. Multimedia content pushes the envelope for many playersG«÷ technologies: intelligent networking, server storage capacity, server streaming performance, processor performance (client and server), user interface & application software. These technologies need to evolve in cooperation with one another for the user experience to continue to improve.

2. Whether there are one or many distribution platforms, the requirements are being defined by numerous multimedia content types: mass market, niche/long tail, and user-generated. The content creators don't care what the distribution platform is, as long as it reaches an audience. Until the optimal distribution platform can be argued/conceived there will be several distribution platforms based on multiple underlying technologies: walled garden traditional (cable, satellite, etc.), walled garden IP (telco IPTV), Internet (optimized with CDN and other technologies). The platform that is most flexible, interactive, and provides the best user experience on a number of end-user devices will win. The Internet is the most far reaching and has the most potential, although technical limitations exist. It is also the platform that gives the most control and revenue back to the content generator, I would assume.

3. There will soon be intersections of these distribution types, for example a channel option in a walled garden IPTV environment that provides a window to some amount of Internet multimedia content (requires middleware/EPG work and technology partnerships).

4. Multimedia and/or Content Aware Networking/Infrastructure is required to enhance the Internet platform for the delivery of these new services. This is what could define the "convergence" of communications and content. Content is interesting and cool and coming from a number of old and new sources in old and new formats, but communications infrastructure is still evolving rapidly to support it. It hasn't evolved enough yet, despite thoughts that innovation is slowing.

5. It's an end-to-end problem that needs to be solved, whether via a walled garden or open distribution platform, from the content source to the user device that the content is rendered on. This means that opportunity exists at multiple network layers (0-7), multiple network segments (access-core), and in the next-gen home (connectivity of devices).

6. Multimedia/Content Aware Networking needs to focus on two things: user experience (this is 100% technology - QoS, format, compression, simple/secure access rights, flexibility of location/device to access content, etc.) and revenue generation (this is a combination of technology, process, business partnerships, etc. - the right ad model for the distribution platform, optimal revenue sharing between distribution platform and content owner, etc.)
Peter Heywood 12/5/2012 | 3:46:11 AM
re: Content Networking I guess we're talking about the consumer space here when we talk about MySpace/YouTube on the one hand and "big ass companies" on the other.

Personally, I think there's a lot of potential in the business space.

LRTV is one example of this.

Another example would be people posting little videos to enable folk to troubleshoot common technology or business problems. I have a project going on in this area so if you know of folk already doing this, or you have some video tips you'd like to share with your peers, please get in touch!

[email protected]
Sterling Perrin 12/5/2012 | 3:46:10 AM
re: Content Networking The impacts on broadband/digital on the content companies are huge, already. Sony Pictures had a huge reorg in April (see article link) to deal with the digital threat/opportunity, which followed 2 other large reorgs by big studios: Warner Brothers and Paramount


In telecom, we hear G«£content is king,G«• but itG«÷s pretty uncertain times for the content incumbents as well.

Social networking G«Ű of which MySpace is the current Poster Child G«Ű has a huge buzz factor right now in the world of content G«Ű as a threat and opportunity. At the CTAM conference in Boston, both MTVG«÷s CEO and YahooG«÷s CMO went on about how this trend is changing their industry.

- Sterling
DCITDave 12/5/2012 | 3:46:02 AM
re: Content Networking I have a lot to say about this. But I need to reboot my PC.

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