Servers Turn Up Volume

As cable jams even more content onto video-on-demand shelves, server vendors are working to keep pace by making their wares increasingly intelligent and efficient.

In recent weeks, several vendors have announced amped-up server horsepower: Motorola last week introduced a more-nimble “edge” VOD server platform; startups Verivue and Edgeware have pitched high-performance flash-memory servers; and Arris beefed up its portfolio to include content-management software and a very high capacity, centralized video server.

Concurrent Computer, meanwhile, is now embarking on a strategy to use its MediaHawk video-on-demand platform as the foundation for serving any video content across television, mobile phones and the Internet.

“We're beginning to see a new wave of video applications that are not just going to hit our televisions — they're going to hit our PC screens and mobile devices,” said Concurrent chief marketing officer David King.

Under its “video convergence” strategy, Concurrent plans to deliver a range of applications, including network DVR, personal content management and sharing, advanced advertising and video social networking.

First out of the chute will be broadcast TV delivered to Internet and mobile devices, with Concurrent's MediaHawk Converged Video Solution providing real-time transcoding of MPEG-2 digital video to mobile-phone video, Internet streaming and progressive-download formats.

“Our vision is, you ingest content once and we address the complexity of delivering the content to multiple platforms,” said James Brickmeier, vice president and general manager of Concurrent's Content Delivery Solutions.

Concurrent also will use its Everstream viewer-measurement technology to collect data across TV, PC and mobile platforms and correlate that information.

Motorola, for its part, is giving the large-scale B-1 VOD server a little brother, which promises to make it easier for cable operators to add video-serving capacity closer to the “edge” of their networks.

The company's B-3 Video Server (pictured, left), which uses flash-based memory for storage, can serve about 350 streams in a one-rack-unit device.

“This provides smaller stream counts for smaller systems, or it can be an edge server for larger customers that moves content from a central library,” said Motorola senior product marketing manager Jim Owens.

Motorola will sell the B-3 in clusters of 1-RU boxes — which the company is calling “blades” — targeting sites that serve between 250 and 3,000 concurrent streams. The B-1, by comparison, provides between 2,000 and 20,000 streams per 18-rack-unit chassis.

The B-3 can be configured as a standalone server with an integrated content library or as an edge server deployed alongside a B-1 that functions as a centralized library. Set to begin shipping in April, the B-3 is currently in trials with customers.

The scaled-down Motorola servers will compete with other systems based on solid-state storage, particularly Edgeware's Orbit server, which can deliver up to 5,400 standard-definition streams in a 1-RU unit.

Stockholm, Sweden-based Edgeware last week announced it has opened a U.S. office in San Jose, Calif., and said it has hired former Motorola sales executive David Appleman to lead its sales efforts in the Americas.

Edgeware, founded in 2004, provides VOD servers for cable and IPTV providers, as well as Web-delivered TV services. In the U.S., the company is working with broadband-video startup ZillionTV.

The 30-employee company recently closed an $8 million series-B round of funding led by Micron Technology, a manufacturer of flash-memory chips, with participation from previous investors Amadeus Capital Partners and Creandum.

Arris also recently announced a new on-demand slate, dubbed ConvergeMedia, which provides video management, VOD ad insertion, and related tools for guide support and personalization.

In addition, Arris unveiled two VOD servers: the XMS, designed for centralized hosting up to 96 Terabytes of storage, and the MDX, designed to provide high streams-to-storage ratio. The MDX was developed by Verivue, a startup that has received funding from Arris, Comcast and four venture-capital firms.