RealTime IT News

Sun Helps HBO Go Digital

In a sign of how systems vendors are looking for customers in the entertainment business, Sun Microsystems Friday said its mid-range and high-end servers are powering a digital programming repository for 15 HBO and Cinemax networks.

Financial details of the deal, announced as JavaOne winds down in San Francisco, were not made public. Two Sun Fire 6800 mid-range servers will be used to manage and stage content and two high-end Sun StorEdge 9980 systems, will be used in a mirrored configuration for the HBO repository.

With those servers, Santa Clara's Sun will help HBO meet its goal to move from a tape- and server-based platform to a digital server architecture, capable of holding as much as 5,000 hours of content, over the next three years.

The catch is that HBO wants to preserve as much of the quality of its content in the process. HBO said this move to digital will make its content transfer operations more efficient and cost-effective.

The move is symptomatic of the digitization of the infrastructure world as many broadcasters move to replace more costly tape-based systems to digital storage for "to-air" content. Sun rival IBM has already dipped into this digital media well , launching a new digital video platform aimed at helping broadcasters switch from analog-based tape editing systems and deploy storage area networks.

One could make the case that IBM might have provided HBO the same service. As it is, one of IBM's main customers for its platform is Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) of South Korea.

The Sun StorEdge's QFS file-system will store large files created by video. Sun said the servers will ensure compatibility across multiple platforms, and aligns with HBO's strategy to develop its Video Network systems with Java.

The digital programming repository stores five terabytes (TB) of storage and can expand to 50TBs, sustaining a constant data rate of more than 300 megabytes-per-second to HBO's suite of Grass Valley Group Profile XP-based playout systems using fibre channel interconnections. This system can support as much as 900 MB per second in recovery mode, allowing HBO to deliver content to-air without a reduction in playout bandwidth while restoring the repository within a single broadcast day.

"Sun worked with us for close to a year to design this digital programming repository and was the only UNIX vendor to meet and exceed our system requirements with off-the-shelf components," said Charles Cataldo, senior vice president of broadcast operations at HBO.