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Big Blue Eyes Broadcast

It's not an established name in the television business but IBM will attempt to make some noise at NAB with a new digital media center that Big Blue believes will be attractive to broadcasters looking to lower the costs associated with deploying computer-based storage systems.

The Digital Media Center for Broadcaster (DMC) uses a combination of server and tape-based storage. Dick Anderson, IBM general manager of global media and entertainment business, says the system is priced lower because it is based on technology designed for the IT industry, an area that is much more competitive than the traditional broadcast market.

"Proprietary systems in the broadcast market have resulted in a higher cost of storage," he says. "One of the things we're trying to do is allow broadcasters to run on a traditional IT infrastructure so they can take advantage of the tremendous price performance curve."

Anderson says the system uses a combination of Unix-based servers and tape storage. The two are linked via a storage manager that manages the movement of content between the disk and tape, with the tape system used more for archiving purposes.

Broadcasters "can schedule the movement based on date, usage or other factors," says Anderson.

Because the system is standards-based, IBM believes it will make it easier for broadcasters to move into centralized types of facilities.

"It will be capable of working with a number of different types of systems including nonlinear editors, playout stations, ingest stations," says Anderson. "It will manage the workflow among all of those as well as archiving and providing a centralized storage environment."

DMC's first phase will provide a storage environment that can be shared by multiple vendor products. But due to the current lack of support for common format by most vendors, the applications will have to resort to transcoders if customers want to share content among vendors.

"We are counting on the customer, by supporting and only buying from suppliers that support open standards, to force the open-standard issue within the industry," says Edward Hanapole, IBM digital media executive.

The challenge for Big Blue is breaking into a broadcast equipment culture that tends to be very insular. When video servers first took off, companies like Digital considered attacking the broadcast market. They came to NAB, they investigated, and ultimately gave up on the market; broadcast engineers can be a demanding lot. But the encroachment of IT into the traditional broadcast market is cracking the door open for companies like IBM.

"The engineers are going to learn how to run IT systems but we think the move to IT and products like ours will happen because of the price performance," says Anderson.