Cloud complicates home networking

The home networking paradigm is becoming increasingly complex thanks to the rise of cloudhosted content and the growing need for open-access DRM standards across multiple devices, experts said Thursday.
With industry hype growing around streaming content services like Netflix, YouTube and Rhapsody, and content-hosting services like Apple’s iCloud – all of which tout the ability of users to access content via multiple devices – the traditional paradigm of home networks is arguably changing, said Jim Williams , president of consultancy Media Strategies and Solutions.
“Typically a home network is defined as where content is resident in your home and you can move it around between devices within that home, and you can watch it without necessarily being connected to the internet,” he said. “Is that what home networking is still going to be, or is it going to be the cloud, where it’s not about moving content around from device to device but enabling devices to connect to wherever it resides?”
Alvin Lee, Asia Pacific executive director for international relations and public policy at Time Warner, said that content can reside in both the home network and in the cloud, but that “it’s up to the customers to decide where they want their content hosted.”
Intertrust VP Shawn Ambwani said it would depend on the network, the business models and how people consume content.
“For something like Netflix, for example, it’s in the cloud, but you have to be connected to watch it, and it has to be a good connection, otherwise it’s useless and has no value,” he said. “If you want to watch a movie from iTunes, you have to download it first and that takes awhile.”
The paradigm of being able to access content from multiple devices inside and outside the home network is also becoming a challenge in terms of protecting content with DRM, Ambwani said.
“Service providers want to be able to offer different types of services – streaming video, downloads, or a hybrid of the two. Users want to be able to access that content on different devices, or they want to access iTunes or other services,” he said. “All that content needs DRM, but if they all have a different DRM standard, it limits your ability to get content on all of your devices.”
Proprietary DRM can also be a problem within home networks, he said. “You can’t have an Xbox, an Apple TV box and a TV set in your living room with different DRM standards.”
Ambwani’s company Intertrust advocates Marlin, an openstandards DRM platform that promises to not only lower costs for service providers, but also enable a practical solution for protecting content across different devices and services. Japan has adopted Marlin for OTT IPTV services, Ambwani said.