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SGI, Kasenna Woo VOD Market

With a nod to a burgeoning Video on Demand (VOD) marketplace, Silicon Graphics (SGI) announced plans this week for a new Open Cable Server combo that should have cable operators licking their chops.

The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said it is combining its SGI Origin 300 server and two SGI TP900 storage subsystems with neighboring broadband infrastructure software maker Kasenna's High Performance Networking (HPN) software in the first part of next year to create a six-rack unit VOD package that will deliver 480 video streams.

The software has the option for Gigabit Ethernet deployments giving Multiple Systems Operator's (MSO) the option of more than 3,000 streams. The SGI and Kasenna VOD server ships with two GigE ports, each will output 900 Megabits and internal support for N2 Broadband.

SGI said it is able to offer this level of stream density for three reasons: the 1.6 Gigahertz bi-directional internal bus bandwidth of the Origin 300 server, the optimization of the Kasenna MediaBase software on the SGI platform, and the use of low-cost Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) hardware.

"Efficient, new GigE QAMs (Quadrature Amplitude Modulation) will revolutionize the distribution of VOD streams through the HFC network. This is the opportunity for MSOs to take advantage of this change and make the move to open system VOD serving," said Kasenna CEO, Mark Gray.

The company also said the open file systems server configuration allows for storage of the VOD content including storage area networks (SAN), both JBOD and RAID direct-attached storage and in some cases a hybrid architecture including network-attached storage.

"The choice of open architecture server and storage means that the Cable Operator is not locked into a custom-built piece of hardware nor is he forced into a closed architecture down-the-road," said Gray. "The ability to add interactive services is not being considered much today, but in the near future the open interfaces of XML and RTSP will become critical to the ability for MSOs to tailor their service offerings to their subscribers."

SGI is heavily invested in making VOD work. Currently, the company is launching Europe's largest VOD network through a new service, named SmartTV.

The plan is to supply close to 22,000 homes Stockholm and expand to other countries. SGI has deployed a similar VOD network in Taipei in partnership with Chunghwa Telecom that reaches 20,000 subscribers. Currently, Kasenna and SGI have more than 1,000 installations of varying architectures and service offerings using Ethernet as the network protocol for server output.

Currently, the cable industry is moving toward more sophisticated distributed architectures; where edge servers employ just-in-time provisioning, where content is intelligently replicated, and where assets are captured from various points in the overall server network. But the increased demand for VOD could have an unexpected impact on corporate servers.

According to Internet content filtering company N2H2, if employees use their employer's high-speed connections to download Internet movies, the employer's networks could be brought to a halt by the increased traffic and bandwidth demands. For example a company relying on a 1.54 MB/sec T1 line for Internet connectivity could find Internet access tied up by a single movie download, wasting bandwidth and diminishing productivity for the entire company.