DENVER -- Cable is ready to take a lesson from its competitors, by plunging head first into the cloud and adopting a DevOps approach to service delivery.
When Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) Executive Vice President and CTO Tony Werner addressed the Society of Cable Telecommunications Engineers (SCTE) Cable-Tec Expo audience here in a keynote speech, he emphasized not only the growth the industry has enjoyed over the last 60-plus years, but also what cable will have to do to compete against new threats going forward. Werner's prescription for cable success includes leveraging industry organizations such as the SCTE and National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA) , taking advantage of work done by fellow cable operators as illustrated by the RDK initiative, and learning to develop products and services much faster in a model embodied by many Internet video competitors.
Both the cloud and agile development figure heavily in Werner's vision for cable acceleration, and the opinions offered in his keynote were echoed by several executives who later joined him on stage for a panel on Cable's Cloud Forecast. Mark Muehl, senior vice president of platform technologies for Comcast, even provided details on how operating in a cloud environment has allowed the MSO to try new things -- from launching an app tied to a single event like the Olympics to building new redundancy into the cable system by using Amazon Web Services. (See also Comcast Opens Up on OpenStack.)
At an infrastructure level, Cisco Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: CSCO) cloud architect Geoff Arnold pointed out that the cloud enables operators to slide in new technologies without disrupting existing applications. That creates huge speed advantages in the development process if the decision-making in cable companies can keep up with technology disruption.
And there may be the rub. While technology marches forward into the cloud, service providers have to learn quickly how to adapt internal processes accordingly. As Muehl explained it, using the cloud gives operators a chance to build a system, achieve success and scale up in rapid fashion. However, keeping development and operations teams organizationally separate during that process can hamper progress. Development teams are focused on getting new features out, while operations teams are oriented toward stability and keeping risk out of the system. Only by blurring the line between those two teams with a DevOps approach can companies remove that friction.
Fortunately, the cable industry is accustomed to adapting to new circumstances. Since 1950, cable companies have been forced to evolve in the face of competition from over-the-air television, satellite TV, DVD rental companies and now over-the-top services. Despite the challenges, the industry has increased its annual revenue from $750 in 1950 to a whopping $110 billion today. And with the cloud and a DevOps approach, there's likely more opportunity ahead.
— Mari Silbey, special to Light Reading