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Moto Unveils Mini VoD Server

Motorola Inc. (NYSE: MOT) has unveiled a scaled-down alternative to its flagship video server, the B-1, that's tailored to smaller cable operators and based entirely on (surprise!) solid-state Flash technology.

While the D-RAM-based B-1 (originally developed by Broadbus) was designed to handle up to about 19,000 video streams, the new server, called the B-3 (hey, what happened to the B-2?), is equipped to handle video-on-demand (VoD) environments that require 250 to 3,000 streams. (See Motorola Scoops Up Broadbus.)

B-3

That puts the B-3, due out in the second quarter this year, in competition with Arris Group Inc. (Nasdaq: ARRS)'s "VoD In a Box," and an offering from Comcast Media Center (CMC) that targets small MSOs. (See Phonoscope Picks VOD In a Box.)

The B-3 can also be deployed as an edge cache in larger content distribution networks (CDNs), says Jim Owens, senior product manager of on-demand video at Motorola's Home & Networks Mobility division.

He says a "major MSO" has already picked the B-3 for deployment, while a smaller operator has signed on for a trial.

The new product comes along as MSOs consider how to ingest and distribute massive VoD libraries and prepare content for PCs, handheld devices, and displays other than the TV. (See TWC, Comcast to Put Cable Shows Online and Cable Web TV: Results May Vary .)

The emergence of the B-3 also indicates that Motorola is still investing in on-demand technology even after a recent layoff claimed about 80 people from the division responsible for VoD and switched digital video. (See Moto Trims Video Division .)

Motorola wants to marry the B-3 and the B-1 to a new "adaptive media management" system that, when teamed with the Motorola CPS1000 Content Propagation System, shuttles video around the service provider's CDN and closer to customers based on title popularity. The idea (which isn't all that new anymore) is to help operators optimize streaming and network resources and reduce transport costs.

B-1 remains Flash-less
Although Flash was the tech of choice for the complementary B-3, Motorola has no near-term plans to adapt it to the B-1, which has been based on more expensive solid-state D-RAM since the beginning.

Motorola has shipped about 900,000 streams on the B-1 with customers such as Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK), Charter Communications Inc. , Suddenlink Communications , Time Warner Cable Inc. (NYSE: TWC), Europe's UPC Broadband , Singapore's StarHub , and China's Nanjing Cable.

"We've looked at Flash [for the B-1]," Owens says. "For the moment, we're sticking with D-RAM. D-RAM is still the gold standard for reliability and for stream density," he insists, noting that all solid-state approaches are highly reliable and optimized for time-shifted video services and network-based DVR applications such as Time Warner Cable's "Start Over."

The Flash-based B-3 can ingest and store up to 350 live video streams concurrently, and turn those into on-demand streams in about three seconds, Owens says.

Flash has been the order of the day of late. Motorola rivals Concurrent Computer Corp. (Nasdaq: CCUR) and SeaChange International Inc. (Nasdaq: SEAC) have added Flash to their VoD portfolios, while Verivue Inc. and Edgeware AB have opted for all-Flash product strategies. (See A Flashy Approach to VOD, Concurrent Bows Flash Gear, SeaChange Flashes Server Growth , Verivue Surfaces With Comcast Backing , and Arris Pumps Up Video With Dolce's Verivue .)

Evidently, this is the time for VoD companies to announce new gear and direction. Concurrent is slated to announce a "new corporate strategic initiative" on March 23.

— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Cable Digital News

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