Synamedia sparks managed RDK offering for service providers

Synamedia is putting its weight behind the Reference Design Kit (RDK) with a new managed offering for service providers that initially will focus on small and midsized businesses and later add support for residential customers.

That offering, called Synamedia Gravity, centers on "eRDK," an enterprise-focused, productized version of the RDK. The RDK is an open source software stack for video, broadband and select IoT devices that's managed by a joint venture of Comcast, Liberty Global and Charter Communications (Charter inherited that position from its 2016 acquisition of Time Warner Cable).

Synamedia claims that eRDK is designed to be modular, portable and customizable to the service provider. On top of eRDK, Gravity will layer a mix of services and applications from yet-to-be-named third-party partners, as well as those developed in-house by Synamedia.

Managed Wi-Fi mesh services, advanced routing (such as VPNs) and cybersecurity are among the types of services that will be onboarded to Synamedia Gravity, Alok Gera, SVP and GM, North America, at Synamedia, said. Synamedia, he added, will pitch the new offering to both cable operators and telcos that have adopted RDK.

Earlier this week, RDK Management announced that more than 80 million RDK devices have been deployed worldwide, and north of 30 service providers have deployed RDK so far.

Synamedia, a company resulting from the acquition of Cisco's video software business in 2018, hasn't announced any takers for the new offering. However, it expects the initial thrust to include small and midsized operators that don't have the internal engineering resources of a massive RDK adopter such as Comcast, which offers a managed RDK offering of sorts via its X1 syndication program.

"We're going after operators that don't have really large engineering organization to go manage and run this, and run RDK," Gera said.

To amplify that point, Synamedia, in the role of systems integrator, will take on the task/headache of building, updating and managing the RDK stack. Synamedia will also handle the job of integrating the aforementioned services and plugging them into the service provider's backend and provisioning systems.

"We're coming to market with a platform that bundles that all together in one solution and plugs in really well into the operator's backend so [they] can offer services like zero-touch provisioning," Gera said. "It's a horizontal play inside a vertical play in our offering."

Goal: Stack and app unification

Gera likened an objective of Synamedia Gravity to extending an Android TV Operator Tier-like approach to the RDK world, whereby an operator can acquire and deploy devices off the shelf that are pre-certified and pre-integrated to run on the new managed RDK platform.

One big difference is that Synamedia Gravity is being built to support both legacy and new video and broadband devices. The Android TV Operator Tier, by comparison, is focused on new streaming devices, with no similar support (at least not yet) for broadband CPE.

"There is no [Android TV] Operator Tier in the broadband space at all," Gera said.

He notes that Synamedia is already engaged with operators that are looking to support a blend of legacy and new devices that run on a unified stack and are capable of running the same applications across the full footprint.

Gera said Synamedia Gravity could add support for residential services in 2022, though the timeframe could accelerate depending on operator demand.

And while the new offering currently supports only the RDK environment, Synamedia Gravity will eventually scale to work in multiple environments, such as OpenWrt, among others.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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