Video Forecast: Fair to Partly Cloud-y

Nov. 21, 2017
To keep up with the fast-paced speed of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and other over-the-top (OTT) video providers, who move in the world of the cloud, cable operators are working on transforming to help speed up ...

To keep up with the fast-paced speed of Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and other over-the-top (OTT) video providers, who move in the world of the cloud, cable operators are working on transforming to help speed up innovation and change. At a panel discussion during last month's Cable-Tec Expo, the consensus seemed to be that to move forward there will be a necessary mix of private vs. public cloud, a combo of being cloud-agnostic in one sense and in another exclusive, and there is compelling reason to investigate "edge cloud."

"When competitors are using this resource the way it was intended to be used and are getting great benefit, (operators) have to join and keep the playing field level in terms of the technology they are using," said Matt Haines, fellow, IBB Consulting.

The comfort with using the public cloud is rising among the operator set, in part due to cultural acceptance. While initially they were reticent after hosting their own datacenters for many years, they are growing more at ease with the security and reliability of the public cloud.

"Public cloud providers have innovated at an incredibly fast rate," Haines said. "The fact is that today the technology and services that are available at scale … are exceeding the capabilities that private cloud platforms can provide."

For example, the type of artificial intelligence (AI) and data analytics a company like Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) or Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) may provide are easy to use, but complicated to build, Haines said. "The cloud companies have invested to build in a safe and scalable way to allow companies to come in and use (the services)."

Operators also are growing more comfortable with the idea that while they want to be cloud-agnostic as a company (meaning they can use more than one provider), sometimes at the application level it is more useful to stick with one specific cloud provider.

Haines visualizes this by imagining the cloud companies lined up in a bar graph according to the services each provides. The first 25% of the graph for each is the same because there is a common set of applications (virtual machine, virtual stores, etc.) that each can handle. If an application runs in that band, it could be used across providers. Past that band, cloud companies specialize, which could constrain an application to that provider.

"The point everyone is making is that (they) don't want policies that say they must develop every application for the cloud to run in the lower 25% (area). (They) want to use the higher level function even if it means the application must reside in a given platform," Haines said.

Benefits of an application being able to run on the platform of more than one provider include the ability to take advantage of cost or reliability improvements. If the application runs in the area of commonality and one cloud provider goes down, it can keep running.

While the cloud model currently is mainly a centralized one, operators are investigating what it would look like if the footprint all the way to the customer was turned into something resembling the cloud. The discussion is in the R&D stage and is considering, in particular, applications with high bandwidth or low latency requirements.

"Operators acknowledge that they have this advantage that is the physical footprint," Haines said.

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