SeaChange offers mass storage

Video-server manufacturer SeaChange is heading to NAB with a new system designed to help broadcast and program organizations move massive tape libraries off spindles and onto servers.

Broadcast MediaLibrary will be available later this year and will give users more than 37 TB of storage in a dual-point, fault-resilient 16-node library. According to Brian Cabeceiras, SeaChange vice president, broadcast systems, the system is highly scalable, and costs, as the system grows incrementally, are fairly linear. It can reach petabyte storage by interconnecting multiple libraries.

"It's about $40,000 per terabyte, and that is with two points of failure," he says. That $40,000 price point is in contrast to the cost of a typical storage area network at $200,000 per terabyte, according to Cabeceiras.

SeaChange calls the MediaLibrary an "online server" as opposed to its MediaCluster, which is a video server. The MediaLibrary is designed to be a central repository for content files to be pushed out to servers that are more closely tied to a given application, such as video playback or editing.

For example, with SeaChange's own Broadcast MediaCluster video server tied to a MediaLibrary, a user would buy less storage for the on-air server and instead stack storage on the MediaLibrary, which the company says will cost 4 cents per MB. Cabeceiras says it can store material at 8 to 24 Mb/s; storage at 10 Mb/s means that a 16-node library would hold 8,800 hours of content, at about $150 per hour of storage. Input and output rates for each of the storage nodes is 1.2 Gb/s.

"In a 16-node library, we have an aggregate of about 19.2 Gb per second, which is a huge amount of parallel bandwidth in and out," he says. "There is no encoding or decoding or video I/O, just high-speed bandwidth in and out."

Cabeceiras says the idea was to create a server that was format-agnostic. "One of the problems facing the industry is all the different server platforms within a facility," he explains. "The nonlinear editor, paint system and play-to-air servers may all be different platforms, and facilities are using Firewire, Fibre Channel or Ethernet and running different operating systems on the servers. [MediaLibrary] allows all the media to be stored in this one high-speed device that, to the outside world, appears to be directly attached to its own local storage."

SeaChange expects the MediaLibrary to provide organizations greater flexibility in deploying the best applications for their needs. Because it uses Louth's video archive control protocol (VACP) and video disc control protocol (VDCP), it can be dropped into existing plants.

"We can work with best-of-breed point products around the periphery of the centralized storage," Cabeceiras adds. "A station doesn't have to embrace a 'Company X' roadmap. It can buy the best products for different applications knowing they'll interact with the server."

Cabeceiras says the new market the system is designed to serve is about five to 10 times the size of the video-server market, which he puts at roughly $160 million worldwide. And he expects use of the system to extend from broadcast to interactive to VOD, where he thinks it can help jump-start the market.

"One of the gating factors of getting VOD happening has been a lack of content in digital form, and people involved with the massive content libraries have been waiting for the right price/performance ratio before they consider digitizing their libraries. The past couple of years have had pretty good success for the digital tape robotic formats," he says, adding that moving content from tape into online servers can be a cumbersome task. "There's a bit of a bandwidth problem as well: You can't get all the content out to where it needs to be as quickly as possible."

In fact, Cabeceiras says his company's Holy Grail is to link the program originator with the servers already installed in the cable industry, "rather than put in new servers at cable headends with massive I/O and storage just to extend the servers that are already there with more storage and I/O."

The enabling technology behind the system's fault redundancy is SeaChange's patented RAID Squared system. Parts of a file (for example, a movie) reside on all the server nodes as well as on all the disks within each node. Also, a shadow version, instead of a second complete copy, is associated with each part of the file as backup.