Alcatel-Lucent joins small carrier IPTV push
New solution builds on Microsoft Mediaroom server virtualization model
The Microsoft Mediaroom IPTV platform was a big hit with big carriers like AT&T when it first came out, but did not seem like a viable option for smaller service providers until last year, when Microsoft adopted server virtualization to make the platform more appealing to Tier 2 and 3 operators. Now, Mediaroom ecosystem vendors are starting to push out their own solutions to compliment the effort to adapt to smaller footprints.
Alcatel-Lucent today became the latest vendor to do so (following a related announcement from Sigma Designs yesterday), by announcing its Integrated Solution for Microsoft Mediaroom, a turnkey, single-rack IPTV solution aimed at networks supporting between 1,000 and 100,000 set-top-boxes. The new “micro architecture” will see its first deployment activated next week, as Indiana’s Cinergy MetroNet uses it to roll out IPTV services to 50,000 customers in six markets, said Geeta Chaudhary, vice president of Alcatel-Lucent's Multimedia Integration Services group.
The new system is based on Microsoft’s Mediaroom Hyper V, which uses server virtualization to dramatically reduce the number of servers, the size of the physical footprint and the overall investment required to launch IPTV with Mediaroom. However, Chaudhary said Alcatel-Lucent took its own steps improve on Mediaroom server virtualization. “We can now deploy the solution on 10 to 15 servers, which is down from 120 in the original design, and we can serve up to 100,000 subscriber devices, which is up from 30,000,” she said. “Also, one physical server can handle up to nine virtual machines. The basic Microsoft design was the foundation for what we are doing, but we have enhanced that approach.”
Also, Alcatel-Lucent has worked with Hewlett-Packard’s Bladesystem and Virtual Connect technology to reduce the number of cable connections required between servers. The overall result is an architecture that should be able to tap into an under-developed opportunity for rural U.S. carriers, as well as smaller international carriers in countries with low-density population profiles, to launch IPTV services. The Tier 2 and 3 operators in the U.S. have become particularly important to IPTV vendors as larger carriers like AT&T have started to dial down their IPTV expansion and investments (Alcatel-Lucent estimates that 11 million IPTV subscribers will be served by regional carriers in the next three years). Chaudhary said the new solution also could appeal to existing IPTV operators who rolled out services to prime markets early on, but stopped when they reached market fringes where deployment expenses would dramatically increase.
Vince Vittore, principal analyst at Yankee Group, said the micro architecture effort goes a long way toward crafting an IPTV solution fitting the needs of small service providers, but that it doesn’t alone assure deployment. "There definitely are multiple complex factors that go into the IPTV business model,” he said. “This solves one, but not all of them. The two other significant ones are in the cost and number of CPE, as well as the cost of constructing a head end."
Alcatel-Lucent, however, said it is working on those aspects, too. Chaudhary said the vendor is broadening its list of set-top box partners to include Broadcom and others, including Tatung, which is the first vendor using Sigma Design’s new Mediaroom-compliant chip for developing low-cost STBs for small carriers. In addition, on the headend side, Alcatel-Lucent is working with noted small-carrier expert Avail Media.
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