Xiran Aims at Server 'Bottleneck'

A new company that aims to help cable operators boost their video-streaming capacity is entering the market.

Xiran, an Irvine, Calif., division of SimpleTech Corp., is offering a chip-set solution inside its DirectPath accelerator technology to help operators speed content from storage server to the end user in the home.

Xiran said its DirectPath accelerator can integrate with VOD servers, Internet servers or network storage devices. That creates a wide market that extends from companies like Cisco Systems Inc., Hewlett-Packard Inc. and Sun Microsystems Inc. to such Internet players as Real Networks Inc., broadband content providers and cable MSOs.

"There is a common bottleneck inside the server architecture," said Xiran vice president of marketing and business development Jeanclaude Toma.

Server architectural advances have not kept up with the large last-mile networks and storage facilities built by cable and telephone companies, he said.

Advances in the server field have been limited to additions of memory and blades, Toma said. Information and content must travel through a cumbersome operating system inside those servers, he said, and is sometimes relayed over the same links three or four times.

Also, the throughput from a server can range from 100 to 500 megabits per second, he said. But because that output flowing into a 1-Gigabit-per-second pipe, only 50 percent of the pipe is being used.

The DirectPath accelerator can bypass much of the process that bogs down information transfer, in Xiran's view. "We're opening up the video-pump architecture," Toma said.

Many of the data-transfer protocols are offloaded from the server to the DirectPath engine, speeding the data flow process, Toma said.

The DirectPath box costs between $15,000 and $25,000 and includes a 4-Gigabyte storage cache, used as a localized buffer.

Xiran executives said they have had discussions with cable MSOs about using the technology, including executives at AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Mystro unit, as well as with server vendors such as SeaChange International Inc.

A year ago, cable operators might have believed that technology and server speeds were sufficient to handle video-on-demand rollouts. But the introduction of free on-demand content and high-definition television may change that thinking.

FOD will likely cause a lot more on-demand traffic, compared to systems in which most content is available on a transactional basis.

As such, FOD systems may need to better utilize existing VOD pipes.