N2 Broadband Takes Up Position As a VOD Integrator

As the cable industry looks to diversify the vendor base of its existing video-on-demand rollouts — and to implement VOD in smaller and smaller systems — N2 Broadband is using its OpenStream initiative to position itself as an aggregator.

The pitching, catching and asset-management provider has branched out over the past six months to handle integration work across several different set-top vendors, server suppliers and billing systems.

The list includes set-top makers Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Motorola Inc.; server providers Broadbus Technologies, Concurrent Computer Corp., nCUBE Corp., SeaChange International Inc., Kasenna Inc., Midstream Technologies and VideoPropulsion Inc.; and software provider InfoValue Computing Inc.

N2 CEO Reggie Bradford said OpenStream will help MSOs who are looking to integrate different vendors into their VOD platforms more quickly and cheaply, as the company has done much of the lab testing and integration work.

The one-stop shop also will help small and midsized operators to deploy VOD sooner and less expensively.

N2 Broadband has been moving in this direction over the past year. But Bradford said there's a big difference, compared to six months ago: "We're offering the industry a package solution, and we've done a fair amount of work on the Motorola side."

N2 stands ready to manage VOD integration through its network operations center, said Bradford.

The OpenStream platform is based on standard published interfaces for various VOD products. It includes N2's business-management and asset-management products, as well as a new Global Resources Management system that allows MSOs to efficiently use bandwidth for high-speed data, broadcast TV and VOD services.

MSO may look to mix and match their roster of server vendors within a market, based on a particular supplier's expertise.

"Video servers have different price points and different strengths and weaknesses," said N2 principal architect Darryl DeFreese. "Some vendors build servers out of memory, rather than disks."

For instance, servers that contain hit movies must be more reliable than those that carry free health videos, he said.

Many major MSOs may do their own mixing and matching in their integration work. Package solutions could be used by smaller operators, or in greenfield markets where VOD has yet to launch, Bradford allowed.

The Motorola work over the past year has included building an interface with Gemstar-TV Guide International Inc. and a session-resource manager, Bradford said.

N2 executives said one unnamed cable system is testing the new product.

N2 is a major VOD technology and software provider to Time Warner Cable, which has rolled out VOD on the Scientific-Atlanta Inc. platform. Cox Communications Inc. and Comcast Corp. have also used N2 technology in their VOD deployments. Those MSOs both use S-A and Motorola platforms.

N2 executives stress that smaller cable operators are "getting pounded" by satellite and looking for cost-efficient ways to offer VOD, to combat the DBS threat.

OpenStream will help operators who want to integrate future applications into existing VOD platforms, such as advertising on demand, gaming, HD VOD or capturing live video from broadcast or cable networks for immediate storage and display, Bradford added.