AT&T gets into the game

July 18, 2008 by Dave Haynes

Fresh off the press release wires is news that telecom giant AT&T has lined up some partners and gone into  the content distribution network business, including digital signage.

SAN ANTONIO, June 24 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ — AT&T Inc. , today announced a suite of content delivery and digital media solutions to help companies package, deliver and distribute video and rich multimedia Web content across their networks to the three screens that are core to AT&T’s multimedia strategy — the computer, the television and mobile computing devices such as the iPhone and the BlackBerry(R).

AT&T’s Digital Media Solutions(SM) portfolio includes content distribution and management, broadcast video and digital signage services and solutions that are targeted to companies ranging from businesses with multiple small office locations to the most sophisticated multinational companies in industries that include media, financial, education, medical, manufacturing and retail.

AT&T has struck strategic agreements with ExtendMedia, Qumu and Stratacache, which are software companies that specialize in formatting and packaging content that is suitable for both business-to-business and business-to-consumer applications, such as streaming video, live and on-demand webcasting, e-learning and virtual trade shows, as well as the delivery of advertising over emerging media networks.

AT&T plans to complete deployment of nearly $70 million in network infrastructure and development investment by year-end to support its digital media capabilities across the United States and Europe (European Union countries) and Japan, Hong Kong, China and Taiwan within Asia. Over the next several months, the company will integrate the software expertise of ExtendMedia, Qumu, and Stratacache with its own capabilities to provide companies with one-stop shopping and simplified network-based solutions to encode, deliver, manage and support video and multimedia files. Businesses will also be able to combine these services with AT&T’s industry-leading security capabilities, hosting, applications and professional services to address their most pressing needs with complete and reliable solutions.

With today’s announcement, AT&T is responding to customers’ need to cope with exploding demand for rich and graphics-intensive multimedia content that has been fueled by the wide adoption of high speed Internet services, sophisticated computing technologies and the need to deliver to multiple play-out devices including digital signs, PCs and smart wireless devices. The content delivery network (CDN) services market totals $800 million, according to analyst firm IDC, and is expected to significantly grow in the future(1).

AT&T is creating a new unit to accelerate the company’s activities in the content space, and it named Cathy Martine, executive vice president-Content Distribution, to lead AT&T’s enterprise digital media efforts.

“Today’s announcement is the latest proof that AT&T is delivering on its promise to connect businesses to their world, and do it better than anyone else,” said Ron Spears, group president, Global Business Services.

“Enterprise customers are using video and multimedia content to communicate with their employees, shareholders, partners and suppliers, but they are grappling with the complexity involved in staging, managing and distributing their content to their end-users. AT&T’s network is at the heart of a simpler way to achieve this, using the scope and scale of our networking capabilities, services and professional expertise to deliver applications to both companies and the end-users they serve. We are uniquely positioned to help enterprises more simply and efficiently manage their digital media assets for improved performance.”

AT&T’s routing and access infrastructure within its global Internet Protocol (IP) network today reaches 14 million broadband users, 70 million wireless customers, and 97 percent of the world economy. As a result, AT&T can deliver content more quickly and reliably to companies, while directly monitoring details such as performance, congestion and other activities over the entire path from the source of the content to the destination end-users.

Additionally, AT&T’s network has security built in to every layer from network transport through end-user application and is supported by 1,400-plus security experts and support professionals. Because AT&T’s content delivery services are built into its network fabric, it is protected by security at every layer, enabling AT&T to predicatively and proactively detect and repel malicious activity.

Available today, AT&T Digital Media Solutions features the following capabilities:

– AT&T Intelligent Content Distribution Service A network-based Content Delivery Network (CDN) service that replicates information across the Internet, such as Web page content, large files for download, live video and video-on-demand. At the heart of the service is the ability of the AT&T global network to deliver content closer to the end-user by determining the optimal distribution path based on factors such as server load capacity and user proximity. Because the content is sent from the nearest and best caching node, CDN customers are able to distribute files to end-users more efficiently. What’s more, the service can significantly improve Web site capacity, reliability and performance because AT&T delivers content that uses its network of geographically distributed and diversely placed servers. — Content Ecosystem AT&T is creating an ecosystem of software providers that it is working to simplify indexing, tagging and encoding services that are required to format content for delivery. Today, AT&T is announcing the first of these agreements with ExtendMedia, a Boston-based provider of digital content services software, Qumu, an Emeryville, Calif-based software company that enables organizations to easily capture, manage, publish and distribute live and on-demand video content while leveraging existing IT infrastructure, and Stratacache, a Dayton, Ohio-based software and services company that provides both multi-platform software and appliance based technology designed to empower the delivery of media applications within the distributed Wide Area Network or Internet/intranet powered enterprise. — AT&T Digital Signage(SM) An end-to-end managed service that enables businesses to distribute their own customized video and other multimedia content to both employees and customers. AT&T Digital Signage helps customers sell more, communicate with customers and associates more efficiently and drives new advertising and product sales revenue via emerging media networks. The AT&T service is scalable and typically delivered on High Definition LCD monitors displayed in high-traffic areas, such as retail outlets, employee lunch rooms, airport terminals, hotel lobbies and office reception areas. Application examples range from breaking national news to up-to-the-minute local weather conditions to employee benefit updates to the latest Dow Jones industrial average. — Broadcast Video A host of full-motion video transport services that deliver high-quality video images and stereo-quality audio over a fiber-optic network.

Interesting. The history of Stratacache has been much more about gear, like network acceleration and caching servers, than it has about software. But they have been in this space a while, and the name comes up as a competitor here and there on software jobs.

As the saying goes, you are known by the company you keep.

On one hand, a big, honkin’ telecom with a lot of enterprise clients and a thirst for moving lots of big fat media files across its terrestrial and
wireless networks.

On the other hand, a big, fat honkin’ telecom that changes course about as quickly as an oil tanker, has 1,000s of people with long, mystifying titles on business cards, and a culture built on long, meandering meetings and endless documentation.

Adrian at Daily DOOH was musing about how no one in this business has really worked with the big telecoms. Actually, a lot of people have tried … and most of them gave up.

Everybody raise their hands who has had a great experience working with a massive telecom … Ok, anybody???

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