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NFL and IBM Huddle on 'Warehouse'

The National Football League has signed a three-year contract with IBM for a Digital Content Engine, a digital-asset "warehouse" that will make it easier for NFL media partners to access video, audio, statistics and text related to the league.

"We want to create the aggregation and distribution mechanism that will bring content from our network partners, clubs, NFL Films and even radio together," says Brickman. "Then we can parse it out to clubs and partners in an efficient way and even possibly do consumer-based applications."

Highlights for broadcast, VOD and even streaming are all potential applications, he adds. And clubs can access game films without having to ship tapes. IBM will consult with the NFL for about six months to figure out what content will be included and where it resides. The goal is to have the warehouse up and running for the 2004 season.

According to IBM Digital Media Manager Art Weiss, the facility will have IBM's DB2 Content Manager and Universal Database software driving IBM xSeries and pSeries servers. Ancept's Media Server software will be used for cataloguing, and Tivoli's Storage Manager will work with an IBM LTO (linear tape open) storage system for deeper tape-based archives.

The choice of server series, Weiss says, depends on how much content the NFL decides to place on the system. "The pSeries is a heavy-duty, mission-critical server that is Unix-based and can meet broadcaster's criteria for reliability. The xSeries is an Intel-based server."

The LTO system will also play an important part, allowing large amounts of data to be accessed quickly. Weiss says open access allows the system to be very modular in scale, with cassette capacities of 100, 200 and 400 GB. The Tivoli system coordinates server databases to figure out which content to push to the tape-based system.

Brickman says the cost of storage has fallen to the point where it won't be a hurdle. "For broadcasters, I think we can look forward to a highlight-package system where everyone shares the same assets and resources."