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The importance of a different perspective

Dom Robinson

While I have been writing for trade press for nearly two decades now, focused on Streaming Media and IP/OTT TV throughout, I am delighted to have been invited to contribute to Media + Networks as an extension of the TV Connect event series.

My writing style is often quite candid and opinionated and underpinned by a relatively deep engineering experience producing thousands of live webcasts and setting up hundreds of TV and radio channels online.

By day, I look after business development for my own software house, and since we turn out components that address most aspects of online content delivery infrastructure, I rarely compare or review other technologies these days – not in any specific details anyway. I do, however, focus my writing on trends and patterns in the sector – those an engineer, not an analyst, would notice.

I chair, moderate and speak at a wide variety of conferences (TV Connect and Content Delivery World by KNect365 included). However, I also make it a habit to always try to attend a few events each year which at best may be in the periphery of online media delivery topics, and sometimes may be wildly outside of scope (the Arable Crop Fair I attended last year was extremely stimulating!).

The reason I do this is because at times one can use this external viewpoint as a check and balance on my approach to my home territory. At other times, one finds that adding a little media-delivery thinking to the challenges faced in seemingly unrelated sectors can make all the difference.

This year, I was very interested when I was invited to the Telco Cloud Forum, (London April 25 to 26). But interestingly all was not as I had expected it to be.

Telco cloud as a term clearly evokes different interpretation depending on the individual. Some of the attendees, myself included, expected that the day was going to be closely focused on telco cloud (and fog) architecture. Certainly, a quick skim through the agenda gave familiar acronyms such as ETSI MANO and NFV/SDN. And I was not disappointed: There were some very solid, deep presentations digging into various architectural aspects, and a good interactive debate with the room and speakers, which let me know that I was in like-minded company.

But the interesting thing was that there was clearly a completely separate group in attendance: They were focused on telco and clouds’ working in partnership. Now, this is a much more commercial discussion between marketing teams. That community was largely trying to understand how telcos could add more value to their customer proposition by reselling scalable solutions from off-net (and occasionally data-centre on-net cloud) service providers. A good example was a key event sponsor – Weebly – explaining how they had moved their own site builder focus from a consumer proposition to a reseller channel model, with the ISPs and telcos being their ideal channel partner.

The idea is that your ISP, faced with ever diminishing returns on larger and larger investment, needs value added services to reduce churn and increase ARPU. So an ISP (with Weebly in partnership) can contact all the small and medium business clients and offer them a low-cost, quality way to build their web presence.

There were some interesting crossover discussions, where some of the application developers explained how well suited their deployable software was to virtualisation within a telco environment, and how that could lead to better margins for both the app vendor and the telco. But, beyond this, there was a clear separation between the two groups.

Now I find that very interesting. As a wordsmith in the sector, it is key that if I write about telco cloud I have a sense that the audience is on the same page.

But now I realise that I must be careful: At one end we have pre-market technology discussions on technical architecture, and at the other end we have commercially mature models, which actually may or may not share commonality with the technical architecture discussions.

So, when the marketing guys start talking about telco clouds they may refer to business partnerships, rather than architectural evolution. Both are extremely exciting areas and share a lot of language, but they are schisms apart when you look in some detail.

I also want to give credit to the organisers for realising this and planning the two tracks as part of the agenda.

For those purely interested in TV Connect-related technical issues, the architectural track in Telco Forum will have obvious relevance. However, for the TV Connect audience, there is a LOT to be learned from those other online businesses that have managed to mature their products into a ‘resalable’ form. Telcos have always been key providers to broadcasters. Providing TV-like capability to telcos to in turn resell should be an obvious evolution.

But, notably, I was the ONLY representative from a video-related business in the room. Which is a situation that I expect to change dynamically over the next 12 to 18 months.

About the author

Dom Robinson has spent more than 20 years focused specifically on live/linear content delivery over IP, which requires not only a deep understanding of the computational issues involved but also of intricacies of network provisioning. 

He is Co-Founder, Director and Creative Firestarter 2 id3as ('ideas') - a Software company producing high availability virtualized video workflow and workflow/orchestration platforms for online broadcasters.

Widely recognised as a sector visionary, he holds several International Awards for his work, and regularly Chairs or speaks at conferences ranging from Cloud TV, SDN/NFV, CDN, Distributed Computing, OTTTV and IPTV. He has been a Contributing Editor of (and its print magazine) for 15 years, has been published by Wiley Academic Press and is a visiting lecturer at Sussex University. 

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