Servers: From A to V
Manufacturers offer units of all sizes but pretty much one shape
By Peter J. Brown and Ken Kerschbaumer -- Broadcasting & Cable, 5/20/2001 8:00:00 PM
The Abekas 6000 digital video server uses 180GB hard-disk drives to deliver both DVCPRO and MPEG-2 compression in the same machine. The 6000 supports two, four, six or eight independently controlled digital video channels with up to four tracks (two stereo pairs) of digital audio per video channel when operating in either the DVCPRO or DVCPRO50 mode. Recording and playback on each channel is also independent of the other channels. Maximum storage capacity is more than 390 hours in a single server when recording at the 25-Mbps bit rate.
One new feature is TruClip, a file system that allows media to be stored on a clip-by-clip basis using unique IDs. The ID number remains unique both inside a single server and across a network of servers. In addition, the clip ID contains not only video and audio but also a matte key signal. There is also an SDTI option and the ability to interconnect as many as 32 6000 servers via a dedicated Fibre Channel network.
AgileVision's AGV-1000 MPEG master-control switcher/server is a one-box system for both DTV and centralcasting. Jerry Berger, AgileVision's vice president of marketing, describes the AGV-1000 as the first of the next generation of integrated software-based products. It can manipulate and store MPEG Multi-Program Transport Streams (MPTS), while integrating a full array of functions, such as splicing and remultiplexing, along with data, logo and PSIP insertion.
"With the convergence of broadcast and Internet technologies, broadcasters are rethinking their business models. In the past, they made money from advertising. In the future, they will make money in a variety of ways," says Anthony Gargano, CEO of AgileVision. "The amount of time available for consumers to watch any one provider of entertainment is quickly diminishing. Broadcasters are trying to determine how they can maximize their revenue opportunities while converting to digital."
The AGV-1000 offers seamless insertion of compressed HD or SD program content from its internal file server, and it accepts MP @ ML MPEG-2 streams at any bit rate up to 19.39 Mbps in either DVB ASI or SMPTE 310, along with uncompressed baseband video. The server will store up to 876 GB of content with 12-73 GB hard-disk drives.
After acquiring Pluto Technologies, Avid arrived at NAB with the server manufacturer's AirSPACE lineup. "The AirSPACE product line, when we acquired it from Pluto, had a reputation for great quality," says David Schleifer, director of product marketing, Avid Broadcast and Enterprise. "What we needed was compatibility with our editing products and something that we call a production server. And we focused our efforts in that area."
Schleifer says that has a couple of layers of complexity: one is media compatibility and the other integration in a system. "We have the ability now with our lowest-end news editors to send material right to air on the server."
New this year is the AirSPACE IMX, a 50-Mbps i-frame-only MPEG server utilizing Sony's latest compression technology. The lineup comprises AirSPACE, AirSPACE NP (NewsPlayer), AirSPACE CP (CartPlayer) and AirCHIVE IMX.
"We can now say 'buy our systems and, whether it's DV25, DV50 or DV IMX, you have the same look, feel and work flow,'" he adds. "The CartPlayer is designed as a cache. You could buy a system with all these features, but we tend to trim them down for the particular job at hand."
AirCHIVE IMX is an interface between the AirSPACE server and tape or optical backup machines. "It supports Avalon software, which is basically the gateway that allows it to back up material to any of a large list of vendors," Schleifer adds.
Storage capacity for the AirSPACE is 12, 24, 48 or 96 hours at 25 Mbps and six, 12, 24 or 48 hours at 50 Mbps. Standard features include two, four, six or eight video channels, one to five programmable inputs, and one to five programmable outputs.
Ciprico's latest product is the FibreSTORE 2210, which the company says offers 2-Gbps storage. It taps the company's FibreSTORE RAID and NETarray 1000 technologies and provides delivery speeds of 400 Mbps per enclosure. The RAID-4–based system offers isochronous performance in a 10-drive system with capacities up to 730 GB per array. It supports as many as 100 drives in 10 enclosures per rack, totaling 7.3 TB per rack, using 73-GB drives.
Ciprico also recently made available Seagate 180-GB drives for use in Ciprico's commercial 7000 series of disk arrays. The new drives will increase the total storage capacity to 1.4 TB per unit. The 7000 is offered with redundant hot-swappable power supplies and redundant cooling modules.
Da Vinci's STOR Product Group (formerly Sierra Design Labs) will unveil new multiformat, uncompressed image recorder/ servers. Da Vinci's products are geared toward the high-end post-production market, especially for users involved with film-based acquisition. The two new products are the HD2 for high-definition and Qf2 for standard-definition applications. Both are dual-channel, shared-storage servers that allow for access to material as soon as the first few frames are laid down. New features include support for 10-bit, real-time 16:9 RGB images and 2k data RGB 4:3 at up to 20 fps in High Speed Data Link (HSDL) format.
The V1 server from Doremi Labs supports MPEG-2 and M-JPEG standards, offering up to 24 independent record and playback channels. The server works in conjunction with Doremi's V1 video disk recorders, and up to 24 of the disk recorders can be connected to the V1 server via SCSI and Ethernet. The system can be controlled via software from Louth, Odetics, SGT or Etere. The V1 uses Doremi's proprietary Constant Block Size Compression (CBSC). According to the company, every field "data block" occupies the same amount of storage no matter how complex the field image, dramatically reducing disk access time.
Drastic Technologies' VVW 2504 is a two- input/four-output DV25/DV50/MPEG-2-format broadcast server for ENG and network interface purposes. The VVW 7000 is a single-channel uncompressed HD broadcast server for post-production, graphic, storage/ playback, compositing and editing applications. All VVW models feature QuickClip basic clip-control software, MediaReactor Core file-conversion software (converts files to and from the native VVW format), as well as RS-422 control, Odetics protocol and onboard SCSI, 100BaseT Ethernet, and genlock.
Grass Valley Group
Grass Valley Group (GVG) recently expanded its server lineup with the PVS1100 Profile XP Media Platform server, which supports DVCPRO, DVCPRO50, MPEG II up to 50 Mbps (iframe) and D10 compatibility. Configurations include two, four, six and eight channels.
The PVS1100 also has built-in, dual-channel SDTI support, enabling it to accept compressed VTR video at up to four times real-time speed. It can also be used as part of the GVG Media Area Network (MAN) real-time shared-storage topology that can support more than 40 channels of SD and HD video at up to 80 Mbps. MAN gives broadcasters the means to share media via Windows NT with broadcast quality.
"Facilities with our older profiles such as the PDR300 can transfer media between MAN and their older Profiles, as well," says Mike Cronk, GVG's vice president of marketing. "The API's and control protocols have remained the same. Older versions of the Profile can use IP networking through a Profile XP Media Platform to access material on the MAN."
Scalability is another important feature of servers, and Leitch Technology Corp.'s Server Division in Burbank, Calif., offers that with its VR 400 series of video servers. Leitch's new VR 445 SpotBox allows users to start with a two-channel 4RU server with optional Gigabit Ethernet connectivity and scale all the way to a 44-channel, 30RU unit running off a 7.3- TB Fabric Switch SAN.
"The key here is tight integration and interoperability," says John Edwards, vice president of Leitch's server division. "We are trying to promote interoperability when it comes to exchange protocols, and we offer, among other things, a WAN product which allows MPEG-2 and DV file transfers over the FTP layer. We address storage directly, whether using arbitrated loop or Fabric Switch topology. Each drive has its own ID, giving our shared SAN bandwidth and resiliency."
Leitch also introduced NEWSFlash-II and NEWSFlash-II FX for DVCAM, DVCPRO, DVCPRO50 and, soon, MPEG-2i-Frame editing.
"We strongly support MXF, which we see gaining increasing support given the growing need for the movement of files with their accompanying metadata," Edwards says.
Omneon Video Networks continues to win converts to its Networked Content Server as the component of a highly scalable, enterprise-class shared-storage infrastructure.
At NAB, Omneon rolled out the new Omneon switch and Extended File System (EFS) capability for interconnecting multiple Omneon Directors, which are the server elements in Omneon's Networked Content Server System. The switch and EFS increases the number of users or channels and total storage capacity. Omneon demonstrated well over a dozen applications running on Networked Content Servers at the show. Omneon CEO Larry Kaplan emphasizes the fact that Omneon's systems address both current and future production, media-management and distribution requirements by capitalizing on non-proprietary off-the-shelf technologies wherever possible.
In addition to numerous deliverable solutions at NAB, Omneon also demonstrated IEEE1394 as a means for transporting real-time video over Gigabit Ethernet. According to Kaplan, by using both Ethernet and IEEE1394, Omneon enables broadcasters to increase shared storage in a linear fashion by adding additional server elements under a single-file system called EFS.
The Omneon Networked Content Server is based on a non-proprietary storage architecture called the video area network (VAN), which draws from both a Storage Area Network and Network Attached Storage.
"This eliminates the necessity to replicate files among multiple systems. We also use Quicktime as the file wrapper for content contained in the Networked Content Server because it's cheap and it works, but we certainly support industry efforts regarding other file formats, such as AAF," Kaplan says.
Panasonic's server offering is the AJ-HDR150, an HD/SD multiformat DVCPRO video server that can handle DVCPRO, DVCPRO50 and DVCPRO HD on the same server. The RAID-3 protected system is standard with 20 hours of 25-Mbps DVCPRO storage, expandable to more than 200 hours of storage with Fibre Channel attached external storage. Up to four SD or two HD video channels can be contained within a single unit, and three units can be clustered together to offer 12 SD or six HD video channels that can access the same storage.
"It has true HD and SD compatibility off the same server at the same time," adds Steve Cooperman, Panasonic Broadcast product marketing manager for video servers and editing systems. "One of the things I like to say is SD by day and HD by night, and, with the server system, you can do news format during the day. It's a fully networkable server, so some of our applications can be networked to the server over Fibre Channel. And in a broadcast facility, you can future-proof now and do HD programming and commercials at night."
Cooperman says that a single server comes standard with more than 20 hours of storage at 25 Mbps.
The server also offers SDTI as an option for transfer between the server and Panasonic's newsByte newsroom system or SDTI-equipped VTRs.
Pinnacle Systems is now rolling out 181-GB drives for the MediaStream server platform. Pinnacle is also embracing the concept of distributed broadcasting with new operations software, new edge devices, and an edge receiver for regional spot localization and content distribution. The manufacturer is introducing a RAID-3 shared-storage platform for MediaStream, known as MediaStream Networked Storage, which is available in 760-GB arrays as part of a new shared-storage architecture.
"We are providing multiple access to the same content, making it easier for automation systems to control the servers without the need to copy content," says Jim Jensen, Pinnacle's business manager for MediaStream. "MediaStream now offers both shared and independent storage solutions, along with server-to-server transfers driven by standard TCP/IP-based networking formats."
Pinnacle's new ConnectSync augments its Fibre Channel and ConnectPlus 100-BaseT WAN connectivity. ConnectSync is a network-management tool that allows content to be synchronized across the entire network, including auto-mirroring for off-site backups.
With MediaStream now available in the 300, 700, 1600 and Networked Storage models, Pinnacle is able to offer three-channel, seven-channel, and 16-channel systems and shared-storage systems with more than 100 channels. All feature MPEG-2 4:2:2 and 4:2:0 video, as well as ATSC/DVB MPEG streaming with anywhere from 25 hours to 370 hours of integrated storage, externally expandable to more than 1,000 hours. Archive transfer rates up to 300 Mbps are available with MediaStream ConnectPlus 1000. All server models offer Pinnacle's patented CleanCut IBP MPEG trimming capability.
Pinnacle also now offers support for 20-bit Dolby E and has begun shipping its HD boards.
Quantel's latest comprises the Clipbox Studio and iQ workstation. Version 3 of Clipbox Studio includes a new disk controller, which can handle up to eight simultaneous video channels using DVCPRO 25, DVCPRO 50 or MPEG (i-Frame) at 50 Mbps.
It's the newsroom environment that Quantel currently has in its sights. "The newsroom is still ripe for the picking," says Nigel Turner, Quantel's director of marketing. "Clipbox Studio is a very modular and scalable building block, including the server and graphics/DVE, which allows a station to put on news programming or a live production for under $150,000."
The live DVE, mix/effects and keying are complemented by allowing all clips to have an associated moving key. In addition, the unit can combine one moving clip over another, while resizing, positioning and masking, as well as playing the combined scene out of a single port.
Quantel's iQ can serve as a repurposing engine, which enables facility operators to produce content in whatever format they need from 2K through any HD format to streaming video outputs, such as QuickTime.
SeaChange International is looking to shake things up with new pricing, offering its Broadcast MediaCluster (BMC) 830 in a three-node cluster with two inputs and six outputs at the same price as the average single server. As of July, the 830 and 1230 will be available with 180-GB drives.
"The best way for small station operators in particular to purchase fault-resiliency is via our architecture," says John Pittas, vice president for broadcast products at SeaChange. "We are also seeing renewed interest in the centralcasting model, which we first implemented three years ago with the Ackerley Group in New York state and California."
In August, SeaChange will begin shipping both the BMC 1630 models and the D10-based 50-Mbps MPEG2 codecs. The codecs, which are targeted for the production and post-production markets, feature four uncompressed AES pairs to support high-quality PCM audio.
The BMC 1630 has 16 drives per chassis and completely revamped power and cooling subsystems. An increased drive count and the increased mechanical and power requirements in future higher-speed and -density disk drives are supported by the new BMC 1630 chassis.
SeaChange is moving beyond the online video server into more generic media-server architectures and connecting them together using an IP-based Network Attached Storage (NAS) model. This is happening as disk capacity is going to 500 GB in the very near future and eventually to 1 TB.
"Broadcast video servers have moved well beyond the realm of short-form material and spots," says Pittas. "With 180-GB disks, we can handle a month's worth of 50- Mbps material on a single online machine. When we start thinking of petabytes of disk storage, we can begin thinking of entire media libraries at near-line access speeds."
As for SGI, the company's MPEG-2 broadcast version of its SGI Media Server made a splash at NAB, following a DVCPRO version introduced last year. It will be compliant with Media Exchange Format (MXF), a top priority for server vendors, according to Product Manager Blandine Olivier.
"Last year, if you said MPEG-2, everyone had his own file-exchange format, although MPEG-2 already provided a pathway to a universal file-exchange format. Now conversion processes are much tighter for FTP over ATM or Fibre Channel," Olivier says.
The SGI Media Server looks to make things easier for the user by allowing for the use of I/O cards more suited to the user's needs. "In the SGI Media Server, you simply swap out the I/O cards; otherwise, the base server is the same. This is true on the networking side as well, if you want to start with Ethernet and go to ATM, for example," says Shawn Underwood, SGI's product-line manager for telecommunications and media.
A DVCPRO card is available to support uncompressed material for post-production and broadcast for asset-management purposes where users want to capture things in an uncompressed format so they could select the compression format for playout, according to Olivier.
The high throughput of the server facilitates simultaneous ingest, data-network-based file transfers to the server, and playout to air of multiple video channels. SGI Media Server is designed as an open system, which SGI views as a real advantage.
Sony Broadcast and Professional Co. is addressing multiple requirements for the broadcasters with the MAV-70XGI. This RAID-3, multichannel-transmission playout server offers 252 GB of integrated storage in a single chassis at a price of $44,300 and up to 2 TB of storage with additional RAID storage units. With most broadcasters demanding that server vendors adhere firmly to the notion of a totally lossless packet environment and with data switch and Ethernet card vendors already providing Quality of Service (QoS) over IP networking infrastructure, part of Sony's response has been to expand the near-line cache, while providing Gigabit interoperability and metadata transport.
"Our servers have always offered terrific-looking video, and our MAV-70XGI does long GOP playout very well, too," says Stephen Jacobs, Sony's senior vice president of network and systems businesses. "But being the best at video by itself is no longer so important with the emphasis today on networking software and centralcasting."
Hugo Gaggioni, vice president of Sony automation and transmission systems, adds: "The different implementations of MPEG compression systems employed by different video-server vendors produce noticeable differences in picture quality. Besides the picture quality, there is also the matter of system architecture, which determines whether I/O port can simultaneously access content without running into any obstacles or performance limitations."
The two-channel MPEG-2 version of the NewStore news-production video server has a built-in DVE and a linear keyer for customized video effects and audio effects. It also has analog, SDI and SDTI, and a touchscreen interface that is now in its fourth year of refinement.
"We were ahead of our time, although our customers have bought them all the time, and it looks like the touchscreens are seen all over," says Paul Lines, president of Spencer Technologies. "Since we came out with that GUI, we haven't sold another control panel, because it's intuitive: The operators are looking at the screen and see small pictures that represent a clip; they put their finger on the picture, and it plays."
Lines adds that the advantage his company offers is a touchscreen built for the size of the human finger. "Others have touchscreens, but you need a mouse to control it, and that is not so intuitive," he points out.
The basic package is four hours of internal storage (going up to eight hours) and then external storage on Fibre Channel RAID arrays. "Right now, we have a two-channel system, and I'd like to stick with that because, if we go with four channels, we end up in two different channels, which is OK but a real-estate problem," he says.
Thomson IT Broadcasting
Thomson's acquisition of the Philips Professional Broadcast activities recently resulted in the creation of a division that brought the content-creation group that remained inside Philips Digital Networks and the Thomson Multimedia Group together as Thomson IT Broadcasting.
"That product portfolio includes the Media Pool and Nextore servers," says Mike Wolschon, director of marketing for Thomson IT Broadcasting. "The Thomson organization bought into the organization because of the product portfolio, and the Media Pool product line will continue. The Media Pool line will be more focused towards the HDTV application, and the Thomson video server will be focused to standard-definition applications."
The latest version of Media Pool is Version 3.0 and was introduced at NAB. "It has a brand-new operating system, improved operating dynamics and a lot of low-level improvements in reliability," says Wolschon. "It's always been Unix-based so it's been more reliable than an NT system. But the internal guts of the product, as far down as the disk arrays, and the way they interact with the application software have been made more robust and reliable with the new software."
Base configuration starts with only one channel of uncompressed video up to 12 channels of compressed video. "We're currently configuring it with 36-GB drives. The minimum requirement is four of those drives, and the maximum is 346, which is just over 12 TB of online storage," adds Wolschon.
Thomson Broadcast's Nextore video server offers new compression formats including DV and MPEG-2, along with new applications specially designed for media acquisition, media playout and network administration. It is suited for Storage Area Network (SAN) architecture, which allows users to share data among several applications: acquisition, news, linear and nonlinear post-production, continuity, and archiving. The Evolution series 7690 offers a complete range of modular Interfaces for video, audio and fiber-optic signals.
Vela's RapidAccess video server is now available with an integrated DVB-ASI interface to record and play back DVB-ASI streams running under the same RapidAccess software. Facilities can record, manage and play back DVB streams or use existing MPEG-2 media to create a multichannel DVB-ASI output.
E. Scott Nix, Vela marketing communications manager, says that the server, which runs under Windows NT, creates industry-standard MPEG-2 files that are stored as standard NT FS. "That allows anyone who uses standard off-the-shelf networking like Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet or Fibre Channel that is supported by NT to plug right into it and access the server from the outside."
The minimum storage for the server is 10 hours at 8 Mbps, although the server is flexible enough to allow for storage at anywhere from 1.5 Mbps to 50 Mbps.
Regarding channels, the standard configuration maxes out at one in and four out, although numbers can be used together to provide an unlimited number of channels. "It's only dependent on the network that I put together," adds Nix.
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