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CED Person of the Year: Jorge Salinger

Sun, 01/01/2012 - 2:34am
Mike Robuck, Senior Editor

A one-man dynamo for the cable industry’s CCAP initiative.

Jorge SalingerWhile it may take a village to drive the development and implementation of something as far-reaching as the cable industry’s Converged Cable Access Platform (CCAP) specifications, Comcast’s Jorge Salinger has beat the drum louder and longer than anyone else.

And for good reason: Salinger, Comcast’s vice president of access architecture, first conceived of the whole CCAP approach during a Comcast meeting back in 2008.

To recap CCAP: The cable industry needed game-changing equipment that collapses edge QAMs and CMTSs into one device for increased density and capacity. The CCAP devices will also save on room in headends, be more energy-efficient and help drive the cable operators to an all-IP world – by integrating digital video QAMs with IP, or DOCSIS, services.

“Jorge was the one that recognized this need,” said CableLabs CTO Ralph Brown. “He looked at the growth of things, he looked at where the technology was, and he said: ‘Hey, this is a recipe for disaster if we go on. We have to get ahead of this growth curve.’

“So he really began the process of identifying the problem, getting people’s attention focused on how to solve the problem, and then driving the solutions to the point where the other cable operators realized they had to get on board with this plan.”

Salinger was attending a meeting in Boston with his fellow Comcast employees when the CCAP concept, which was initially known at Comcast as CMAP (Converged Multiservice Access Platform), occurred to him.

“I remember it like it was today,” Salinger said. “It was a meeting in which we were talking about what the next-generation architecture could or should be. During that discussion, I actually had the idea of what if we combine digital video, data and DOCSIS all in one box? Could that be done?

“I was sitting next to Sam Chernak from Comcast, who at the time was my immediate supervisor, and I leaned over to him and I said: ‘That’s what we should do. We should create a box that can do all video and DOCSIS QAMs.’ I remember thinking, ‘This is going to be big.’”

The roots of CCAP were conceived in that meeting, and then the concept was next fleshed out on a whiteboard with John Leddy, currently senior vice president of network engineering at Comcast.

Salinger not only kick-started the CMAP/CCAP initiative in 2008, but he also became its most prominent evangelist by spreading the word at industry events, among other cable operators and vendors, and with industry organizations.

CMAP started out as a product specification by Comcast and other MSOs and evolved into interface specifications at CableLabs. The collaborative CMAP effort – which included input from Cox, Cablevision, Charter, Rogers, NCTC and UPC/Liberty Global, among others – started in September of 2009. At the time, a large team of MSO and vendor engineers started working on the specs. Their efforts paid off quickly, with the first version of the hardware and management spec ready in March 2010. Other specs subsequently followed, and then they quickly transitioned to CableLabs when the CMAP technical report was established in December of 2010, soon to be followed by other specs.

“Pure and simple, Jorge has got an incredible drive, a drive that I rarely see,” said Charter CTO Jay Rolls, who worked with Salinger on CCAP when he was at Cox. “He just dogs it down and just keeps plowing ahead. That’s what’s so impressive about Jorge. When faced with obstacles, he doesn’t lose any momentum.

“That probably embodies the most important thing about Jorge. It’s really pretty impressive to watch. He dives in with vigor.”

CCAP BrainstormCMAP + CESAR = CCAP
On a parallel path, Time Warner Cable was working on its CESAR (Converged Edge Services Access Router) initiative, which shared a lot of common ground with CMAP.

“At the end of the day, the goals and objectives of Time Warner Cable and Comcast were very much aligned, but sometimes you end up talking past each other, and I think there was a little bit of that,” CableLabs’ Brown said. “Jorge worked with us at CableLabs to help everyone start talking the same language. Part of talking the same language was agreeing on what we would call it, and then really resolving what differences they did have so it was all under the same umbrella, the same program. I think Jorge was certainly a driving factor in that.”

The end result of all of those discussions was blending CMAP and CESAR into the CCAP name, which was announced at last year’s Cable Show in Chicago.

Comcast is currently conducting an operational readiness trial for CCAP. Salinger anticipates that CCAP products may start to become available this year, with increased product availability next year.

While it seems as though Salinger toils on CCAP 24/7 every day of the year, it’s just one facet of his job. Salinger works within the Comcast Converged Platforms team, which is developing the cable operator’s migration path for delivering IP video to various devices.

CHECKING OUT AND IN ON DIGITAL SERVICES
While Salinger has more than 20 years of experience in the cable operator industry, he got somewhat of a late start. Salinger and his wife, Silvina, moved to the U.S. when he was 27.

“Before I moved to the United States, I was running a supermarket with my wife,” Salinger said. “I was not in the electronics business, telecommunications or engineering before I came here.”

Salinger said Florida International University’s Wunnava Subbarao, an engineering professor, “was an incredible influence” on his life. Subbarao taught Salinger not only about digital systems, but also how to work more efficiently.

“He had a huge impact on my life,” Salinger said. “My father-in-law, Perfecto Lema, was also influential on my life. My dad passed away when I was 14, so the first father figure that I knew when I became an adult was my father-in-law. I learned an incredible amount from him. Those two were the most influential people in my life.”

Salinger, who has a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Florida State University, got his first taste of video services and cable modems while he was director of telecommunications for the university. The university used cable modems to connect outlying buildings back to the main campus through TCI’s cable plant.

Following his work at FSU, Salinger’s introduction to the cable operator world came in 1994 at Adelphia Communications, where he was senior director of digital services. Salinger counted Dan Liberatore, then vice president of engineering at Adelphia, as one of the most influential people in his cable career.

Salinger served a stint as vice president of engineering at High Speed Access. He said High Speed Access co-founder Ron Pitcock was also one of his early cable and start-up venture mentors.

Prior to going to Comcast in 2008, Salinger was president of the consulting division at YAS Broadband, where he served as executive consultant for Adelphia, Advance/Newhouse, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Rogers and Time Warner Cable, among others. While at YAS Broadband, Salinger worked for Rouzbeh Yassini.

“Rouzbeh had an incredible influence on my life,” Salinger said.

Salinger also served as executive consultant for CableLabs, directing the Broadband Access Certification programs and leading the certification process currently in use at CableLabs for all DOCSIS, CableHome and PacketCable specifications. And Salinger participated in the launch of four start-up companies, two of which were acquired, and holds numerous patent applications.

When he’s not at work, Salinger, who lives in the Denver suburb of Littleton, enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, Nichole and Christine; traveling; hiking; skiing; sailing; and occasionally being a “terrible golfer.” He’s also working on getting his pilot’s license.

CCAP has long legs and will be evolving for many more years to come, and Salinger, 55, will be right in the thick of it.

“Jorge is an incredibly driven and capable technology innovator who continues to find new solutions that make our industry better,” said Comcast executive vice president and CTO Tony Werner. “He has been a catalyst and a leader behind the development and adoption of CCAP, working cooperatively with engineers throughout Comcast, other MSOs, CableLabs and technology providers. This body of work will undoubtedly make an impact on our industry for years to come.”

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