Title: VP, Global Communication and Media Practice, Sun Microsystems

Broadband Background: Darrell Jordan-Smith is vice president of global communication and media practice for Sun Microsystems. While Sun is better known for its work in computing and the Internet, the company has been deeply involved in cable for a long time.

Your company has been engaged in the cable industry’s software development activities at least since the adoption of Java as a foundation of the OCAP (now tru2way) stack. Could you briefly update us on this collaboration, including the hosting earlier this year of an OpenCable project on the Java.net site?

Sun has always promoted the development of industry standards. It’s part of our DNA. Now, as Tru2Way starts to roll out to consumers in large numbers, we are working closely with the cable industry to continue to develop and promote the standards and an open platform. Hosting the OpenCable project on Java.net provides the industry a great opportunity to tap into the vast Java development community. The Java.net site is one of the best resources available to bring the millions of Java developers writing code for the mobile phone environment into the emerging Tru2Way environment for cable.
In addition to Java.net, we are working with the industry to launch additional activities and events designed to pull together Tru2way and the Java develop community. We have events planned for the CableLabs OCAP Developers Conference, NCTA – The Cable Show, JavaOne, and Java ME Developer Days. Sun will continue to enable the cable industry to leverage the full suite of Java resources for Tru2Way.

What lessons can the cable industry learn from Sun’s embrace of the open source model?

Our open source strategy is great for driving the evolution and adoption of the Java platform. Since open source software is free at the point of acquisition, customer adoption is rapid. They just download it, and off they go. Customers are happy with low barriers to entry (and exit), and they only pay for what they perceive are true points of value: support, indemnification, training, education etc.

Low barriers to entry also encourage the growth of large developer communities driving the evolution of the platform itself. The open source strategy for Tru2way allows the cable industry to:

• Drive innovation on the Tru2way platform
• Encourage the entry of Tru2way suppliers and developers
• Promote the development and proliferation of Tru2way applications

For MSOs, developers, customers and vendors, this is a win-win scenario.

What’s your understanding of how service-oriented architecture (SOA) could play most effectively within an MSO’s back office systems and overall networks?

A service-oriented architecture is key to creating efficient IT and network systems. Who wouldn’t want to re-use and re-cycle rather than rip and replace? When looking at IT systems such as billing, a service-oriented approach enables integration across disparate applications. Leveraging features or data stored in one application enables or enhances functionality in another.
From a services creation and delivery perspective, the SOA approach is equally applicable. Let’s think about creating these services. A service-oriented architecture relies on the ability to loosely couple fine grained service elements (customer data, application components, security features, service life-cycle management, etc.) based on business rules to create new service offerings. At Sun, our SOA approach starts with an identity management layer that is integrated into the overall architecture and leveraged across the services and applications. A common identity layer facilitates single sign-on, secure access, rapid service activation, and other features customers expect. Also being able to better leverage customer information to create those new services enhances their appeal to subscribers. Services can be targeted and personalized.

Extending that thought, federated identity management and a stronger B2B integration enabled by SOA technologies enable MSOs to work better together to provide compelling services to customers. MSOs (such as in the case with Canoe) will need to combine their efforts to succeed in an increasingly competitive marketplace. This cooperation will be based on the construction of a trusted relationship and the ability to combine service elements quickly and securely to realize common business goals. An identity-based SOA provides that trusted services framework for creating secure composite services where revenue can be shared without compromising the security of the trusted partners and securing the information about the end customer.

How do you assess the migration toward more on-demand (including mobile) content, and what remain the technical and business challenges to that shift?

Consumers clearly want their content both "whenever" and "wherever" and even "whatever" they choose. We are seeing the explosive growth of user-generated content and the building of large communities around this content. And place-shifting and time-shifting are going to continue to gain acceptance and preference with consumers. We are now well into the "Participation Age," and with participation come preferences and personalization.

Service providers will continue to be technically challenged with the ingest, distribution and management of content. Digital rights management (DRM) is needed for the protection of intellectual property, and identity management is needed for the protection of the consumer. From a business perspective, monetization of content is the big challenge. Targeted advertising is often touted as an answer, but remains unproven. In this age of participation, personalization is key.

Which areas of Sun’s ongoing R&D do you think are of most relevance to service providers, including cable MSOs?

Customer information is arguably one of the most valuable assets of any business. In highly competitive markets, with rapidly changing industry dynamics and customer expectations, that customer information is even more mission critical.

In the cable industry, customer data can be the key to success. While much focus is often placed on "identity management," service providers must look to leverage customer data, not just manage it. They must have a better understanding of the customer as a whole from profile to preferences to usage patterns, and across all business units – a more complete picture of customers and their value to the whole company. A holistic, single view of customer information helps enable service providers to transform their business – to offer more personalized or targeted services, to improve customer service, and to uncover new business and business models that better leverage their information assets. Taking full advantage of customer information requires easily accessing and aggregating the data, analyzing the data, and leveraging the data to provide a more personalized, contextual and compelling experiences to the customers.

Sun continues to invest in all aspects of customer information – from identity and access management, to federation of identities across business units or partners, to user repositories and improved data warehousing. Sun’s products and solutions can better enable customers to fully leverage their customer information as a core business asset.

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