LANshare cuts cost of sharing

Avid Technology Inc. this week is launching its LANshare 1.0 product, a new Ethernet-based system designed to bring the company's vision of shared storage to a $35,000 price point.

When Avid introduced Unity MediaNet system at NAB three years ago, post-production and broadcast professionals loved the concept: The benefits of installing a Fibre Channel-based system that allows up to 24 editing seats to be networked with a server system offering 7.3 TB of storage were easy to see. For many facilities, however, the $70,000 price point left them asking for a lower-priced, entry-level version.

"We found that, with MediaNet, we weren't hitting a segment of the market that we wanted to hit," says Product Marketing Specialist Becki Hannula. "Even for broadcast news, we found that the smaller stations can't afford a MediaNet system."

In addition, even those facilities that did make the investment often wanted to network more than 24 seats. "We started extending it to the Ethernet world because 24 seats is not enough for a lot of places, especially broadcast news stations," says Hannula.

Development of LANshare came out of the company's creation of Port Server Pro, a server for MediaNet 2.1 designed to allow up to 50 real-time clients. Avid then added software to the server to create the LANshare. According to Hannula, the software helps ensure that each client connecting via Ethernet has access to dedicated bandwidth.

"On basic Ethernet, everyone is fighting for the same bandwidth," she explains. "Here, we've managed to isolate the chunks of bandwidth for each client."

The product is a port server that acts as a gateway into the MediaNet system, she adds. The server has nine internal 80-GB drives, with one used for system operation and the other eight designated for storage. The 640 GB of storage doesn't measure up to the 7.3 TB of storage on Unity MediaNet, but Hannula expects the system to provide more than 1.2 TB of storage early next year. At the DV25 resolution used in most facilities, the system currently has 45 hours of storage.

The $35,000 price includes a two-rack-unit server chassis with dual Intel Pentium III 933-MHz processors, the nine 80-GB Seagate IDE drives, 1-GB ECC (error-correcting code) SDRAM, dual 300-W power supplies, and a Windows SP2 server. The price covers 10 client licenses. "The only additional thing would be insurance and the Unity Raid Option, which has the same software protection it does for MediaNet," says Hannula.

The new system could prove attractive to those facilities that don't need real-time access to shared files, particularly graphics or animation.

"In the past, people had to connect directly via Fibre Channel, and they don't get any of the benefit from the bandwidth associated with it," she says. "So this is a good solution for those facilities that want to push files back and forth."

The additional benefit for those facilities that need non–real-time access is that they can connect as many clients as they want to the system.

The Gigabit uplink Ethernet switch has 16 100-Mb/s twisted-pair RJ-45 ports, one of which can be used to hook into a corporate LAN. "Then anyone on that LAN can have access to the drives," Hannula points out.

Avid's Media Composer and Film Composer 1.0, Xpress 4.6, Symphony 3.6, and Media Station XL 1.0 are currently supported on the system. Hannula says support for NewsCutter XP and Xpress DV will be available early next year.