This week, join Jamie and Tim Winters, CTO of QA Cafe as they chat about;
⚡️ Where QA Cafe started with RDK, and how they fit into the community
⚡️ The RDK testing solutions that QA Cafe offer to clients
⚡️ How those testing solutions may have to evolve as IoT is brought into the mix
View Transcript in Full
Hello, and welcome to the RDK podcast. I’m your host, Jamie Walker. And today I’m joined by the wonderful Tim Winters, CTO at QA cafe. Tim, how you doing today?
I’m good. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me.
No, it’s great to have you on board. I’m really looking forward to getting stuck into this. But we’ll just jump right into it, shall we? So to start off with Tim, tell us a little bit about QA cafe and your role within the business.
Yeah, so QA cafe was a company that was started 20 years ago. It’s focused on making network products better helping the network networking community. And they’ve done that. And we have a couple of different products we have out in the world to kind of help with this one of them. Originally, it was founder Joe, McCarran started testing home gateways. So we came from a background of their early days, obviously, we were testing like DSL, like basic gateways. And it’s kind of expanded from there. So we have a main product we call CD router, you’ll hear me talk about a little bit today. And that’s really been focused on testing home gateways, and boxes directly from service providers, manufacturers, we work with all kinds of kinds of customers there. And we’ve also gotten into things like we have a tool called cloudshark, that’s helping network analysts look at devices. You know, all of those areas, or places where we were trying to help the networking community do things and my role here at QA Cafe is on the CTO here.
So my background comes from 20 years of testing, mostly in the ipv6 and routing areas is where my background is. And so I worked at the interoperability lab at UNH for 20 years. And then I moved over here as the CTO. And my role here is, you know, overseeing strategic decisions development, and you know, all of that stuff. So I’m excited to get into how we can help already K and do some of the stuff they do.
Definitely, I think, obviously, the background that you have flows very nicely into it. But give me an insight into how you joined the RDK. Community.
Yeah, so already my first experience with RDK was actually from the testing side. So I had customers bringing in early versions of RDK platforms to be tested. In particular, I said, my background was in V6. So we used to do, I was part of the IPV6 world launch, which was an initiative to test some home gateways for V6. And so that was kind of my first early experience with RDK was they were building their platform, and they wanted to verify the V6 and really through the community members, me personally.
And then for QA cafe, you recently had Glee Abraham on, and he came to us saying, “Hey, we’re doing engineering work around RDK, we’re building these platforms, we need to verify them, like we need to, can you guys help us out?” And that’s where we’re working with the community, they have a couple of CD routers to be able to run their testing to see what’s going on. And every quarter, they put out a public report saying, Hey, this is how we’re doing against CD router, these are the bugs we fixed, you know, a classic burndown chart situation where they’re they’re posting their results, so the community can see what’s going on, and where there might be issues.
Okay, so really being of that route to market support function for operators involved with RDK. Right. So tell us a little bit about the process of creating these testing solutions for the providers, and how it helps both of them? Well, the providers and the customers themselves.
Yeah, so you know, we talked about this a little bit earlier with CD router, you know, RDK, for example, puts their results up on, you know, up on the web, so anybody can get it. So of a manufacturer, I’ll talk about that site first. For the manufacturer, what they typically do is they get a city router, they they get the RDK release, and then they run the same test that RDK runs. And they’re really looking for a baseline, they’re making sure that when they did the integration of the RDK, you know, the source code that runs independently, that when they put it on their platform, there’s no issue. There’s a couple of things that often come up, you know, drivers wireless, you know, our CD router has the ability to test over wireless and wired interfaces. And so a lot of the integrators are checking those kind of things that might not get run in an already Kay on case on the provider side, really what we’re doing there for them is helping them eliminate any issues before they ship a box out so that they’ll run CD ROM or a lot of them use it in their nightly revisions.
One of the changes over the last 10 years, definitely for us has been service providers kind of curating their own operating systems or taking an RDK platform, adding their special bits on top of it, and they’re not using the reference design they got from an operator previously. So almost we’re seeing more testing on the provider side, for a while there was more of a, you know – I don’t want to call it a smoke test – but they were less because you know, they could get the results, they could literally get the CD router, TR69 results from their manufacturer, and they’d be like, great, this looks fine. They can’t do that anymore, because they’re not necessarily using the operating system they’re buying the hardware from. And I think that’s been a real change in the industry, I think, you know, it’s been good for the industry, but it’s also changed, kind of where the testing is happening. So a lot more provider, we’re working with providers a lot more on their setups of taking these open source software, and just verifying because all of them are making slight tweaks for a variety of very valid reasons. Right. So you know, we’re still we’re helping them smooth those edges is kind of what we’re doing there.
Yeah, I think on the aspect of the changes, I guess, does that impose a challenge to you, as well, for all of our listeners that-
It can in some ways, right? I mean, from our perspective, you know, CD writer test, what I would call black box, we’re not going into the box, we’re not testing the API’s, we’re really making sure that it’s when they ship the box out, which has a lot of benefits, right, is you take the whole box, you hook it up, we simulate the way in and land and all that stuff. And so it’s really black box testing.
So no, it hasn’t been a huge issue, I think where you’re getting to it is when you’re trying to, you know, test the individual API’s of the, you know, the how talking to the land manager, all those that’s going on inside of RDK. And they have their own TDK T testing, we’re really there to help them verify, you know, does the data model stuff work, because you’re using TR69 or USB? When you’re getting messages from a device, you’re doing the right things failover DHCP stuff on and then performance, obviously, right? When you put the box together, you want to know, know a lot of our customers, what they do is they’re running a nightly run, and they run the performance testing to see if there’s any degradation, like, hey, did that commit cause us to not push, you know, did we drop performance because somebody made a bad commit. And that’s where, you know, they want to use our tool and they want to I want to run through all these different scenarios to make sure that nothing blows up onwhat they’re doing.
Okay. Okay, so, obviously, you guys are based in the States, but customers from all over the world come to you, including some pretty big names. Can you give us an example of your testing solution you’ve worked on and what the results of that was?
Yeah, so I mean, we’re, we’re over all this time, we work with customers all over, we have providers from all over the globe, you know, everywhere from Deutsche Telekom, delivered global to Sky, they’re all customers of ours, they all work in the RDK community, we work with them right now through the RDK community. And what we’re really, you know, some of the stuff we’ve talked about is that they’re taking our test solution, they’re dropping the CD router in there. And both customers are using both sides, they can compare results on the biggest thing for them is, you know, the repeated repeatability, being able to run the testing and know that the customer and them are talking apples to apples, right, that they both know, they’re running the same test cases, and they can be repeated over and over again, that’s kind of important, right? If they’re running the testing manually, that’s not gonna work, or we’re using different tools that immediately gets into all I got this and I got that, you know, we for a long time, we were doing all the TR 69, we’re moving to USP, all of that we have covered and then we cover all of these different, you know, IPV6 has become a new, you know, not a new thing. It’s been around for 20 years, but now it’s actually being deployed. And so we’re getting a lot more testing around those kinds of things.
So I, I think we’re really what we’re seeing there is, you know, large customers take our box. And then the biggest change I kind of talked about a little bit earlier, was moving to open source, you know, it’s been a change, we work with RDK we work with purpleOS, we’re working with all these big communities that are building these, you know, open WRT, we’re working with those guys, too. It’s been a change in the industry. And so RDK is just an example of that. And we’re trying to find out the best way to help the community because what we, you know, we want to come up with better networking products, we want to help people build stuff and have it work so that they can focus on their individual app and not focus on the DHCP or IPV6 or TR69 stuff that that should be someone else’s, you know, you should verify that someplace else. That’s really where we’re helping customers. In general, it’s kind of what we’re aiming for.
Okay, okay. So I think obviously, these global customers are all using RDK in completely separate ways. Yeah. What do you think is one of the most innovative use cases for the software that you’ve seen
so you know, most of my focus is on the RDK B side, I think the V side is also interesting on the video side, but most of our stuff on the broadband side on it’s been really interesting because we’ve seen some really cool Small, I’ve been surprised at how small people have been going how not under power, it’s not the right word, but that they’re taking some of the functionality, you know, dropping an RDK box off in a small device, and then almost say offloading. But some of the some of the work they’re doing, they’re sending, you know, into the cloud, or a different, you know, a different like setup, which has been really interesting, right? I mean, some of these customers test on a regular basis on a Raspberry Pi, which years ago, you wouldn’t have, you wouldn’t have seen now, are they deployed on a Raspberry Pi? No, but it I think it just shows you know, where we’re headed with this is that you can use underpowered.
I’ve also seen the other side of this, where you know, there’s some gateways doing some really interesting stuff on the multicast ABR stuff is really interesting, those kind of things are taking us obviously the other way where the gateway is even getting more. So I’m kind of fascinated to see how this plays out. I find it all really interesting, I am curious to see, I think what you’re going to see is both sides and end up in the middle where the gateways, but it’s been interesting, I feel like it’s stretched in the last couple of years of going smaller, some for whatever reason, some service providers are finding or network providers, not even service providers, right, are finding that interesting. And then on the other side, some of them are loading the home gateway up, they’re getting rid of the set top box, they’re fully embracing, you know, IP over the top type stuff.
Yeah, that’s it. I think some of the biggest conversations I’ve had over the last 6-12 months ‘is the set top box is going to be around anymore’ right? And, and, you know, the delivery into the home from from that as well. I guess, I guess talking about that, let’s take a, let’s take a look towards the future, right. RDK is really starting to branch out into the world of IoT. The more this becomes relevant, the more testing will need to be done on this as well. Is this something you’d be looking towards within QA cafe? And if so what kind of use cases are you seeing coming from an RDK and IoT merge?
Yeah, so it’s definitely an area we recently launched a new tool called passport. And the reason we launched that tool was because customers were coming to us, kind of in two cases; one of them was, you know, the community that existed that we had, we were on the CPE side are sometimes manufacturing or building their own IoT devices. And they’re like, hey, this has been great. You know, it’s got a WAN and LAN, but we have all these devices that are sitting in the home that aren’t aware and land type setup. They’re only they’re an end device, right? And so they came to us and said, ‘You guys have been great for doing the CPE’s, can we branch out?’
So we built a new tool, and its real goal is to it’s kind of is a home gateway. And it simulates all these different home scenarios, because we have so much experience with the CPS, we did that to kind of help out those manufacturers. What we’ve also found is providers wanted that as well. Because often, you know, they’re having their own solution, depending on what the operators into what they’re doing. They don’t even know sometimes they’re partnering with people, they don’t know what the technical capabilities of those devices are, what’s in them. So they’ve been using it that way. And then on the other side, we’ve had some customers who, you know, well, another popular area has been IoT customers that have no idea about networking, they are really good at building a pool thermostat, they’re really good at building a meat thermometer, or whatever it is, and they’re looking for help on, I just need someone to tell me, you know, we’re getting stock, we have a contract to get a network stack or a network chip, but they don’t know if it’s any good. And they need help. In particular, you know, on the performance side, or what makes sense for types of configurations, all those complicated things, they’re really out there looking for help to try to figure out those kinds of things.
And so that’s what we’re, we’re headed that way I think RDK is, you know, they’re really focused on things like low latency for gaming, some other applications, I think there are some general IoT things that I think make a lot of sense in the RDK space. And so we’re hoping we’re hoping to contribute through the way of testing that’s what we do is, you know, testing and analysis, figuring out how we can help verify these IoT devices as they go out. Because what you don’t want is a bad experience, right? With an IoT thing, you hook it up, it doesn’t connect, right? You throw it out, you’re just frustrated as a consumer. It’s an interesting model, because the you know, you go through devices so much faster, there’s no software updates, there’s no I mean, there are but it’s a different kind of activity. And then you also have to deal with the fact that, you know, all these IoT devices have to connect to cloud services, and you want to make sure that they stay connected in all of those ways.
That definitely for sure, well, Tim, I really appreciate your insight into QA cafe, and and the support that you offer operators on a global scale. It really has been fantastic chatting with you today and I really appreciate you joining
Yeah, thanks a lot, Jamie, this has been great. We always love to talk about RDK and see what’s going on in the world. Great. Thanks.
No I look forward to nature’s episode for sure. But for all of our listeners, Tim, where can where can they find you online,
They can find us, you know, QA cafe site is www.qacafe.com. You can find us there and all of our products there. And then I’m also on LinkedIn if people want to look that up as well.