Moving VOD content closer to the viewer isn’t a new concept, but with more IP pathways available, it’s becoming more of a reality. "Since IP is evolving, and since we have quite a bit of VOD on IP, what we’re looking at next is how we can take the learning from viewers, such as the trends, and position our content closer to the user," said Charter Communications Vice President of Engineering Pragash Pillai. Pillai said that by moving the content closer to the customer, Charter will optimize its capital and improve the operations of its systems. "If you look at grooming your content, say 5,000 to 10,000 hours, you want to use the cheapest drive you can to store this content," Pillai said. "If do we everything on a DRAM (dynamic random access memory) base, it’s going to be very expensive to deploy on your system." "What we’re looking at are users’ viewing habits and trends so we can position the content better. Is it on DRAM or a long-term drive? If we know which content is being used and when based on dynamic algorithms, then we can put the most-used content on this high-performance storage with the DRAM. The low usage content we can store on really cheap drives. Now we can use the capital more effectively, but the consumer won’t see a performance degradation." Content that still has value to Charter’s customers but isn’t going to be high usage can be stored on less expensive drives. Pillai said the advantage of DRAM is that it can "spit out a lot of streams, but the disadvantage is you don’t get a lot of storage out of it." It comes down to understanding customers’ viewing habits and what content gets used the most. "With IP, we can now distribute access across our network either closer to the consumer or farther upstream to the consumer," Pillai said. Cox favors hybrid approach Cox Communications favors a hybrid approach when it comes to its VOD and digital simulcast architectures. Steve Watkins, Cox’s director of Digital Video Technology, said the hybrid approach allows Cox to pick whatever solution is best for a given system. "We’re not locking ourselves into any one solution," he said. "It’s not a one-size-fits-all environment." Cox’s VOD hybrid designs can push the services to the edge either virtually or physically, which Watkins said gives it maximum flexibility. "When you go into a system that is fiber-rich, you can centralize your servers and services, but if you’re not fiber-rich, or not yet fiber-rich based on the available fiber count, then we have an architecture that allows us to push closer to the edge with those services." "Some of the MSOs tend to deploy one (architecture) vs. the other. We tend to, on a pretty consistent basis, do our designs in a very hybrid approach."