Research and Markets has announced the addition of IPTV Middleware Ranking Report
June 2007 to their offering. This report defines and describes the software category known as IPTV middleware and provides a comprehensive view of the status of this important technology category, and in-depth views of the vendors participating in the category and their products. It also provides trends and conclusions about the “four generations” of IPTV middleware, ranks category leaders by a variety of criteria, and recommends best practices for service providers evaluating these platforms as the foundation of their IPTV deployments. In March 2007, the author ranked the leading middleware vendors based on their actual deployments.
IPTV middleware is a system of software that provides both the organizing framework for the video delivery ecosystem and its command and control center: its brains and much of its nervous system. IPTV services include standard ad-supported and pay multichannel television, video-on-demand, time-shifted television, digital video recording and related multimedia content services that are framed and presented in a controlled manner to a TV screen. IPTV middleware also defines and manages subscribers, the services available to them, the business rules and the billable transactions associated with their use of the system. It also oversees or directly manages content assets, physical assets, and to an extent, oversees and manages many of the subsystems of the end-to-end IPTV deployment ecosystem.
As such, it is extremely complex, not to mention the fact that the operators deploying it are generally not familiar with some of its core enabling technologies, nor with the services it enables. IPTV, as a service and as an enabling platform, is also becoming a catalyst for operators to bring a broad range of fixed-line and mobile communications-based services out of their individual “silos,” and offer them to consumers under a converged services umbrella. IPTV also presents a wealth of new opportunities to business stakeholders. For operators, it will contribute significant new revenue while providing justification for the operator to create a single all-IP network that can host voice, broadband data, video and other services, thereby helping reduce capital and operational costs associated with the converged network.
In recent years, and with increasing momentum, incumbent operators in Western Europe and the UK, North America and in some countries of East Asia have been transitioning from internal experimentation, lab trials and limited external trials among friendly customers, into scaled production IPTV deployments. The largest deployments in the world are now found in these regions.
In some regions, most notably in the US, IPTV deployments happened later for the large operators than it did for US independents and Canadian ILECs, which were pioneering video services as early as the late 1990s. This was before the advent of all-IP broadband networks or true high-speed access. In addition, enabling technology platforms – including middleware, video encoding, content protection, test-and-measurement and end-to-end IT software platforms – all have evolved significantly. In order to offer TV services, operators must assemble, deploy and manage a highly interdependent ecosystem consisting of networks, computing systems, content processing systems, customer premises devices and software. The domains that make up this ecosystem are detailed in Section 4. Now, due to the evolution of these systems and enabling technologies, as well as the emergence of new service and business models, the increasing sophistication level of consumers and the rising expectations of operators, many early IPTV adopters are evaluating ways to update their IPTV deployments – and in some cases, replace their middleware altogether.
Platform Leadership Criteria
If operators are to make well-informed decisions regarding their choice of middleware platform, they must weigh two key concerns: technical competencies that facilitate new and innovative revenue-producing services while minimizing risk, and leadership in the platform marketplace.
If IPTV were still a service and technology category without a critical mass of deployments, as it was just a few years ago, technical competency and a breadth of features alone might pass muster. After all, features equal revenue, at least theoretically. But, given the fact that many operators are counting on IPTV middleware platforms to support a rapid scaling effort that, for many, will ultimately serve millions of subscribers, a platform’s proven ability to scale is equally important.
The report contains detailed profiles of the products and their suppliers. Some of them are longstanding in the industry and others are relative newcomers. Although several additional platforms are available from other vendors, the author believes that the platforms detailed in this report represent the overwhelming majority of IPTV deployments today. The author recognizes several other middleware vendors that are not profiled in this report. They include NDS, Netris, Dreampark, Industria, Northport, Nordija and Ortikon.
IPTV middleware platforms are client-server software systems, in which the service definition and management functions reside in servers and deliver the user experience to managed, secure set-top boxes. Some of the platforms deliver video services to additional consumer devices.