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IBM Launches Digital Video Platform

IBM has launched a new digital video platform aimed at helping broadcasters switch from analog-based tape editing systems and deploy near-line storage area networks .

The DMC platform is getting extensive demonstrations during the National Association of Broadcasters convention, which takes place April 5th-10th in Las Vegas.

IBM officials said the technology backbone of DMC is made up of a set of core products and technologies from IBM and its key technology partner technologies, including servers, storage, hierarchical storage management software and file system software.

By facilitating connectivity between varied broadcasting technologies, IBM officials said the DMC system allows them to take the first steps towards centralized, open and easily scalable storage. The goal, of course, is to remove the physical need to move analog tapes and video files from editing station to editing station, and then on to temporary storage before it is broadcast.

The more broadcasters deploy new digital video asset management systems, the closer the industry gets to implementating common digital file formats, the companies said.

The new system arrives as broadcasters increasingly weigh the costs of maintaining an analog-driven tape editing and storage system, and as the costs of hardware for digital asset storage have dropped.

Benefits of IBM's DMC include the ability to support already installed video production operations, including ingest and encoding systems, non-linear editing systems, news systems, and playout systems, including specialized content management software. The system allows real-time access to incoming video, eases sharing content among users, improves workflow, and allows content to be accessed by multiple clients as soon as the first bytes of content are being recorded on a disk. The infrastructure also offers interoperability, huge capacity, simultaneous realtime read/write of files, and simultaneous access to files.

At the core of the new Digital Media Center (DMC) is IBM's "FAStTStorage" system, which is built to distribute content across multiple servers, and allows easier assess to multiple file systems. The platform is also built on pSeries servers that run on its Unix-based operating system AIX, which is becoming increasingly integrated with Linux. It also includes IBM's newer xSeries servers that run on the Linux open source operating system. The platform is designed to be open, said Kevin Leahy, director of total storage emerging business markets for IBM's systems group.

"That calls for the highest availability," said Leahy, who noted that Linux is rapidly growing in use among broadcaster's IT networks. He said IBM has designed the infrastructure to be open, centralized, standards-based and with a scalable storage system that supports a wide array of production and management systems found in today's broadcast video operation environments.

He said IBM's line of "FAStT" disk storage servers also lets customers launch small Storage Area Networks at a fraction of the cost of what an enterprise storage server might cost, thanks largely to advances in bandwidth in the SAN hardware. Plus, the latest versions of AIX for the pSeries server line feature dynamic logical partitioning and capacity upgrade on demand, which are key aspects of creating storage networks on the fly.

In addition, parallel processing environments essentially help broadcast customers conduct searches for very large files in near-line storage (for files that need to be accessed fairly quickly, compared to longer-term archiving with offline storage) without cutting into other users' bandwidth needs in the storage network.

IBM said one of its first big users of the platform is the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) of South Korea, using IBM's DMC technology.

SBS said it is able to store and archive news programming on an all digital, centralized storage system without the wear and tear of traditional storage systems (videotape). That helps users search, retrieve and edit contents on a high-speed digital network and remove the "by-hand" element of porting files from editing station to editing station.

Leahy said he thinks the timing is right for more major broadcasters to look into digital video platforms that enable storage area networks to be built on the fly. "We see customers struggling with these islands of data," he said. "The war alone has shown the need to be able to call up video, and make it more available immediately."

The availability of near-line storage is also critical to broadcasters that need to temporarily store lots of video files, access them quickly, then ship them to storage.

"This saves them real money in terms of the manual costs of keeping track of (video) files, and then later finding them," he said.

IBM said its "FAStT" storage servers support a variety of operating systems that facilitate storage consolidation, and are scaleable up to 30 terabytes.

Pricing on the system ranges from around $250,000 to $500,000 for servers, storage and disk/tape sofware and can go up to between $1 million and $3 million depending on how extensive the broadcast network's needs, bandwidth requirements and number of hours of video it needs to work with.