Saturday, January 27, 2007

Triple Play Plus - Servicing the Home NOC

I was out in the Valley this week for a bunch of meetings with partners and SPs (service providers). As you can imagine, a lot of the discussions revolved around generating revenue through value-added services and the future of SPs.

A lot of SPs are betting there will be a huge market for centralized “just in time” provisioning of services, and warehousing of data, to the digital home. Some SPs, such as AOL and MSN, are betting the farm on a centralized provisioning strategy.

I’m not at all certain that the centralized SP approach will pay off. I believe the digital homes of the future may not be all that “thin”, and as a result, the real revenue opportunity may lie in on-demand utilization of “local to the ZIP code” human assets, rather than the assets of the network.

Whenever I fly into cities around the world, I am always struck by the number of swimming pools that have been installed in private homes - in many cases, just a block or two from a large public swimming facility. When I look at the amount of computing power being installed in my friend’s homes, I see the same trend. And then there are the extremes, which, given the rising wealth of the middle class, provide a glimpse of what the world will look like a few years from now.

A few years ago, I was invited to a dinner party at the home of a billionaire in Park City, Utah. The owner took me for a tour of the house, which was, of course, impressive.

The chateau was, the owner informed me, located between the equally-large mansions of two Hollywood moguls. The massive kitchen was able to cater for up to 250 guests. The winding staircase, adorned with floor-to-ceiling portraits (in oils) of my host’s three children, was carved from imported hardwood. The in-house cinema facilities included velvet-covered reclining chairs. The wine we had at dinner was… well, you get the idea.

But all that aside, what really caught my eye was the basement. The scale of the technology crammed in there, illuminated by the blinking lights of two full racks of servers, would have put many NOCs (network operations centers) to shame. Not only did he have an entire library of media assets on tap, but you could access it throughout the house, without once a request being made to an outside service provider.

The point of this story is this - as great a customer as this guy must be for his chosen data access provider, I doubt he will ever centralize his data warehousing requirements, or maintain a single media assets provider: this guy will never be a “thin client” when it comes to provisioning service to his home. The play here is not selling the guy a fatter pipe - the play here is the money an SP can make “on demand” when the home owner suddenly smells that “model train engine” smell in his hallway and opens the basement door to find his the blinking lights in his home NOC have gone out.

Sure, it’s a different kind of revenue-generation play, but SPs already have the assets in place they need to generate revenue from this customer. The “here and now” play lies in leveraging services over network assets, including teams of roving service technicians, to provide a high quality of professional services on demand.

Of course, there is money to be made in providing secure access from the home “NOC” via VPN, and/or security apps such as continuous data backup and restore - but the real money lies in leveraging the power of the local “truck roll” to provide on-demand live support, in conjunction with a well-equipped centralized service desk.

Call it “Triple Play Plus”: Internet, telephone, television - plus support.

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