Cloud enablement

Comcast Courts the Cloud

TORONTO -- SCTE Canadian Summit 2011 -- If you want to know why MSOs like Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) are cuddling up to devices like the iPad and gravitating toward cloud-based architectures for video navigation and delivery in a big darn hurry, look no further than the efficiencies it's already getting with them when compared to the legacy set-top environment.

While Comcast has about 300 developers assigned to quality assurance for traditional set-top software, it's got a group of just 10 developers doing the same for the MSO's iPad work, says Comcast EVP and CTO Tony Werner, this morning's keynote presenter. (See Comcast Invades the iPad , Comcast Invades the iPad and Press 'Play Now' on the iPad.)

And the environment lets them complete work much faster. While Comcast can expect to put out a new set-top guide in 18 months and have it reach 60 percent of its footprint, it was able to complete its iPad app -- start to finish -- in just five months. In fact, it's already developing the fourth version of its iPad app, which continues to rely on a flexible, Web services platform.

Bottom line, Comcast (and other MSOs) like the benefits of the cloud and its ability to erase the time-consuming, old world of set-top regression testing. "It's the only way we can keep up with the [product] cycles that are important to us as we go forward," Werner said, noting that the MSO has developed something in support called "CPlatform," which stands up all of Comcast's backend systems to behave like Web services.

Tablets like the iPad, which are being optimized by operators to help customers find, view and even buy content, "fill a unique gap in the video experience," Werner added.

Cloud-based development was just one of 12 "up" trends the Comcast CTO identified that, he believes, will shape the remainder of the decade. In comparison, the old way of "embedded development" was on his list of downward trends. Here's an expanded view of Werner's view on both sides of the trending ledger.

Table 1: Techno Trends
Trending Downward Trending Upward
The information Web The social/entertainment Web
The channel grid guide Random access
Analog and MPEG-2 video Fragmented MPEG-4 (adaptive bit rate streaming)
Hardware-based conditional access DRM: "The term of the future"
Bound services JIT (Just in Time) service bundling to flexibly support myriad end devices.
Household relationships Individual relationships and catering of services that are important to individual customers.
Voice communications SMS and "tweets"
PC consumption of entertainment Tablet-based consumption of entertainment
Software monoliths Apps
Decentralized and local storage Hierarchical storage
Content-based logic Network-based logic
Embedded development Web-based development

And Werner also offered a prediction -- that "physical media" will disappear by 2020. Sure, DVDs will continue to collect dust in closets, he said, but likewise we'll also see the "cessation" of the manufacturing of devices like Blu-ray players. Instead, digital assets will move to the cloud.

"The future is digital rights," Werner said. He added that the goals of organizations like Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem LLC (DECE) (which Comcast backs, by the way) represent "the cave writings of where this ultimately will go. Ultimately these rights will need to 100 percent replicate what we do with physical assets." (See UltraViolet to Open its Rights Locker in Mid-2011 .)

He also offered a bold prediction on the growth of cable high-speed Internet services -- that it may not plateau, but continue to rise thanks to the voracious demand for more data and video, the explosion of connected devices and richer applications.

"The corn maybe can grow to the sun, if you have a flat-rate billing environment and a network with enough capacity for consumers to use it," he said.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

FbytF 12/5/2012 | 5:10:50 PM
re: Comcast Courts the Cloud

So I should take away from this article that Comcast is now focusing its attention on F in up the iPAD apps development arena? 

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