Inside RDK

Inside RDK – WebPA Gains Ground as Device-to-Cloud Connectivity Socket

WebPA first entered the RDK lexicon at the 2016 RDK Americas Summit, as a way to more quickly handle real-time data transfers, from devices to cloud, using TR-181 data — in a way RDK pioneers characterize as “trivially scalable.”

What’s WebPA? In short, a lightweight, always-on connectivity socket designed to enable device-to-cloud links for RDK-based consumer premises equipment (aka CPE). The “PA” in webPA stands for “Protocol Adaptor,” and is the change agent that enables near-real-time correlation between “box data” and customer care data (call-in rates, as one in a growing range of examples) to proactively find and fix problems.

In essence, it provides low-level protocol connectivity between devices, and the cloud — much like a websocket. How it works: Individual RDK clients register with the cloud, which opens and maintains a perpetual socket connection. On the cloud side, APIs enable event polling from other cloud-based components, or event translation into TR-181 device data, for additional analysis.

At the 2017 RDK Americas Summit, webPA was variously described as “the modern version of SNMP,” “a nice websocket approach,” and, “a great way to change how data goes back and forth, with common TR-181 data.”

Weston Schmidt, Director of Engineering, WebPA for Comcast, delivered a presentation specifically focused on WebPA — a project that started about 20 months ago (as of Feb 2017.) At the time, the development request was for instant access to event streams, within one to five seconds of real-time, from CPE to cloud, using TR-181 data parameters.

“We couldn’t find one,” Schmidt said. “So we built WebPA.”

Is WebPA Real?

WebPA is in production and widely deployed within the Comcast footprint of RDK devices, exchanging billions of data elements daily. On a broader RDK scale, it’s scheduled for inclusion in all RDK device profiles. “It’s real,” Schmidt said, adding that it’s not as expensive as one might think — it comes free with an Apache 2.0 license, and its client code is planned for inclusion in the RDK Management LLC repository.

“I look at it as the modern version of SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol), noted Jacob Gladish, Software Engineer with Comcast. “It’s very useful in that it gives you this manageability aspect to configure and diagnose things remotely.”

The near-real-time nature of WebPA means that MVPDs in the RDK community could:

  • Show customers their data usage from as recently as five minutes ago
  • Allow customers to quickly capture still images from (forthcoming) RDK-C-based cameras, for immediate viewing on TV or app
  • Relay the data needed to turn on a feature to millions of customers, in just a few hours
  • Help troubleshoot connectivity issues
  • Integrate IoT devices quickly and seamlessly

WebPA is in production, passing billions of notifications, every day, between millions of RDK-based devices, using 100-200 servers. “It really scales well,” Schmidt said.