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Platforms Set to Revamp Marketplace

Aug 11, 2003  •  Post A Comment

Following the standardization of the set-top box and cable modem businesses, VOD equipment may be next in line for open architecture. That could change the dynamic of the VOD equipment marketplace and significantly lower costs.
Along with the push toward open platforms, several newer entrants to the VOD server market are picking up speed, including Kasenna, Midstream and Broadbus, which focus on mix-and-match solutions.
With open platforms, a cable operator can choose different technology components such as storage and software applications to find a best-of-breed solution, said Ed Huguez, president and CEO of Midstream. “Because of the way we’ve architected this, you can have the choice of different storage solutions,” he said.
Midstream’s solution is about 25 percent to 40 percent less expensive than those from the incumbent server makers, he said. The company hasn’t announced any customers yet, but does have a deal in place with a top-three cable operator, Mr. Huguez said.
Software and server maker Kasenna just signed a deal with Mid-Hudson Cable in New York.
Despite the movement, the VOD server market is still a three-horse race among SeaChange, Concurrent and nCube. The newer entrants are likely to have better luck with telecom companies rolling out on-demand services or in Europe or Asia, said Erik Zamkoff, an analyst with Independent Research Group in New York.
Standardization
The key is to standardize around how the different components fit into the headend, said Raj Amin, VP of business development with N2 Broadband, which provides infrastructure software and services for cable operators delivering VOD services. “We’ve tried to drive standards around the headend infrastructure for VOD. When you drive competition within the vendor market, you get better prices and more innovation and you reduce your cost of integrating various vendors,” he said.
The DOCSIS standards for cable modems dropped modem prices from $400 to $50.
N2 has done its part to pursue standards through its OpenStream platform, a VOD platform that allows operators to integrate and interchange different components in the headend. The open platform allows any video server to plug into the headend and take advantage of the back office functionality.
“In order for VOD to really take off, this standardization [needs to happen],” Mr. Amin said.
As VOD becomes more pervasive, operators will place more demand on vendors to provide a better performance and a more cost-effective price. Open platforms and standards will make that possible, said Greg Carter, VP of marketing with Kasenna.