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New Vendor Sees Future in IP Video Delivery

Hoping to capitalize on cable's move to Internet-protocol video delivery of on-demand content, Exavio Inc. has thrown its hat into the server ring.

The San Jose, Calif,-based company's ExaVault server storage system is in a lab trial with a top MSO, and the vendor plans to have a media-switch product, ExaMax, in the market early next year.

Exavio chairman and CEO Ji Zhang said the ExaVault is built on the premise of separating streaming from high-capacity storage devices. A single ExaVault storage array can house up to 3 Terabytes of data within one rack unit, Zhang said. The overall system can scale to 120 Terabytes.

"In the near future, we will see an increase in disk drive capacity and a corresponding decrease in price," Zhang said. "These capacity and cost attributes will be transferred to our ExaVault Media Storage Systems."

Exavio executives envision a market in which thousands of hours of TV content are available on-demand. As HDTV proliferates, the need for giant leaps in storage and streaming capacity will become apparent.

The company raised $14.3 million in its first funding round earlier this year. Lead investors include ComVentures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Crystal Internet Venture Funds and Enspire Capital.

Exavio's executive staff is sprinkled with Silicon Valley veterans. Zhang was the founder of V-Bits, a digital-cable bandwidth management company purchased by Cisco Systems Inc. in 1999.

John Ding is Exavio's chief architect. He was founding engineer at V-Bits and worked on a digital-cable video headend router system for Cisco. Gary Law, vice president of marketing, held a similar position at Terayon Communication Systems Inc.

Exavio is not only joining incumbents Concurrent Computer Corp., SeaChange International and nCUBE Corp. in the server market, but such new players as Kasenna Inc., Broadband Technologies and MidStream Technologies Inc. But Exavio executives remain unfazed.

"VOD service today is [movies on-demand] and [subscription video-on-demand] and limited content from basic services," Law said. "The real end-goal is everything on-demand, with network DVR, and putting more control in the network."

Law believes Exavio will appeal to operators because of its expanded disk drive storage system at lower, but unspecified, costs.

Zhang said cable's move to IP video transport fits well with Exavio's vision and technology. "You can't have packet loss, reorder or jitter," he said. "IP networks don't provide quality of service."

But Exavio's server technology can help content providers stream video over IP networks to homes and provide an acceptable picture quality, he said. The company is also targeting content producers.

Zhang cited the East Asian Indian community in Fremont, Calif., which is now supports several video stores that carry programming from that nation. Operators could serve subniches by getting content, via the Internet, and storing it on ExaVault servers for VOD delivery to the home, he said.