Cisco was among many companies with its head in the clouds at the IBC show in Amsterdam. Virtualisation is the name of the game, turning video production processes that previously required dedicated boxes connected with cables into elegant software-defined workflows that can run on massively scalable commoditised computer platforms.
Cisco is making much of virtualisation and cloud computing approaches for its Videoscape multiscreen solutions.
In a business that has been characterised by banks of glowing monitors controlled by banks of glowing buttons, the idea is that running everything remotely in a lights out data centre can cut costs.
There is just not much to see for it at the show. It is all a bit, well, vague, if not actually vapourware.
On the Cisco stand we were presented with a big button on an on-screen menu and told that if someone pressed it they could instantly configure a virtual system, somewhere in the ethereal network.
Apparently, the virtualised video processing solution orchestrates workflows, enabling operators to create new video services in a few keystrokes.
The gradual replacement of broadcast engineering with information technology, of cables with computer networks, is long overdue.
Yet while there is much to be said for moving video processing to virtual software environments, whether in a public cloud or on private on premise infrastructure, the volume of video data means it remains a challenge. This of course plays to the strengths of Cisco in providing network systems.
Meanwhile, like many other vendors, Cisco believes that the currently limited intelligence of the set-top box will largely move to the cloud, enabling more sophisticated, personalised, multiscreen services to be delivered and updated dynamically.
The service provider video group in Cisco is now headed by Yvette Kanouff, formerly of CableVision, SeaChange, and Time Warner Cable.
At an annual lunch for analysts at IBC hosted by Cisco, she fielded Mark Hess of Comcast to endorse this more agile approach. Comcast is also one of the prime proponents of RDK, or reference design kit, a standard shared-source software framework for set-top boxes and similar devices.
He suggested that cable and satellite service providers do not compete at this level and had much to gain from a common platform.
This rather undermines the value of proprietary set-top box software, such as that previously developed by NDS, powering the digital video recorders of service providers like Sky.
Cisco acquired NDS for $5 billion in 2012, to accelerate the development of its own Videoscape platform.
In August 2014 Cisco announced that it would shed 6,000 employees, or about 8% of its workforce. Despite losing over 25,000 staff since 2009, its headcount has risen from around 66,000 to over 74,000. Cisco reported revenues of $12.4 billion in last quarter, with a net income of $2.2 billion, down from $2.3 billion on the same period the previous year.