The Velocity of Change at SCTE

Engineering wise, how’s the industry doing? With that question in mind, hundreds descended on Denver for this year’s SCTE Cable-Tec Expo.

That question begs to be answered. Really, can we still separate the engineering ‘cool’ stuff from the business chic? By which I mean the business requirements from subscribers who demand communication and entertainment when they want it, where they want it, and on whatever device they want it delivered to.

Technology’s role as an enabler of change has been brought to the forefront of the industry like never before. In such a transformative way, the velocity of change is accelerating at a fast and furious pace. We, sitting on the enabler or ‘vendor’ side, are seeing an increasing demand from operating partners and customers for faster delivery of solutions, blueprints, and roadmaps.

SCTE Cable-Tec Expo lifts the curtain for us all, so we can take a peek at what the internal velocity of change looks like. From keynotes, to a multitude of workshops on agile and fast development, testing, quality assurance, and the delivery of tools and devops, the industry is shortening the time it takes to put tools in the hands of operations. This service velocity is what drives the engineering velocity. It is a competitive broadband world out there, and cable guys are certainly taking notice.

The rate of innovation and collaboration has visibly accelerated. At SCTE, you hear a recurring theme from even the top technologist at Comcast: innovation, velocity of change, and faster speed to market. That’s how cable has survived and thrived over the past 50-some years, fighting off competition from the early days of videocassettes, to today’s satellite broadcasting, Telco TV, and the onslaught of OTT content. To cut down the time it takes to deliver next gen functions, Comcast initiated Reference Design Kit (RDK), a software framework aimed to expedite delivery of functionality onto set-top boxes involving all players in the ecosystem — CPE vendors, consumer electronics, software apps providers, etc. It exemplifies the ambition and effort of cable operators to shorten development cycles, and has surely galvanized the industry.

Both inside the operator organization and outside, the entire vendor community is answering the call to arms: developing faster product delivery cycles. I’ve never seen this level of collaboration and openness. An example is CableLabs and Comcast, together with Intel, talking about publishable interfaces and the use of cable operator APIs to accelerate the support of consumer-owned and managed devices within a global network of developers. Collaboration between cable operators is what drives the development of new tools that will deliver fast and reliable API access using publishable APIs.

So, what can we learn from each other — from independent software houses to operators’ internal development teams? We’ve learned that the industry would be better off if we collaborate. Technology standard is key, interop is a must, and quality assurance is the best practices of research and development to quality and configuration. SCTE is doing a good job in bringing everyone in the broadband ecosystem together, to deep dive into the issues and share our best practices.

Engineering wise, the industry is undergoing major change, and driving that change is the service demand in the multi-screen world we live in today.