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Cable Operators

Broadbus Now Serving Some Major MSOs

4/03/2005 8:00 PM Eastern

The video-server space just got a little more crowded.

Broadbus Technologies, which has been pitching its B1 video-server platform to MSOs for several years, is announcing today major deployments with Comcast Corp. Time Warner Cable, Charter Communications Inc., Rogers Communications Inc. and Adelphia Communications Corp.

The company said it has deployed servers in 25 markets, totaling 150,000 video streams, with more than half being complete switch-outs from unnamed incumbent server providers.

“We have chosen to be stealth up until now, so that we could stay focused on execution and customer satisfaction,” Broadbus chairman and CEO Vin Besceglia said in a statement.

The deals thrust Broadbus into the VOD server-deployment game, which until now has been dominated by SeaChange International Inc., Concurrent Computer Corp. and C-COR Inc.’s nCUBE Corp. Broadbus was among a batch of newer VOD-server vendors trying to enter a crowded market, which already included Arroyo Video Solutions and Kasenna Inc.

The key to the wins was combination of Broadbus’ technology and the reliability of its platform, said president Jeffrey Binder. The B1 server allows Broadbus to leverage dynamic random access memory (DRAM) hard drives with carrier-class elements in the chassis, power supplies and cooling systems.

Adelphia has deployed Broadbus servers to launch VOD in three markets, including South Florida.

“We view them as one of our main suppliers right now,” said MSO senior vice president and chief technology officer Marwan Fawaz. “It’s a solid platform. We like their scalability design around storage and streaming using RAM. The launches have gone smoothly.”

Through the first several years of MSO VOD rollouts, they’ve latched onto to several things, Binder said. The first is reliability.

“We have a higher level of successful session creation,” he said.

In one system, he said, customer calls dropped 40% in the first week after the MSO switched to Broadbus.

A second issue is simplicity, Binder said.

“We are able to go into a system, rack and stack and be streaming in under 24 hours,” he said. “You don’t have hard drives to stripe, you don’t have content-propagation issues between smaller boxes.”

A third advantage is functionality, he said.

Some MSOs have a large backlog of content they can’t get onto servers, Binder said, because those servers are busy streaming product to subscribers.

That content — as many as 100 titles at a time — sits inside the catchers, waiting for transport to the server.

“The server can’t write data to the drives while it’s out there streaming,” Binder said. “They can’t support the rate of ingest.”

With Broadbus, “we can bring those titles down in a matter of minutes.”

Binder said about 60% of the current deployments were so-called forklift upgrades, in which the MSO completely switched from Broadbus to another vendor.

That conversion is done over time, to minimize service disruptions, he said.

The typical scenario, Binder said, is for both systems to be up and running in parallel for weeks to months at a time, then to switch over, service group by service group, in the wee hours of the morning.

Another 30% of the markets are new VOD launches, Binder said. The remaining 10% of the deployments have been in what Binder calls “bake-off” markets, in which an MSO stages a side-by-side comparison of different vendors’ gear.

But Binder doesn’t think that will be a long-term strategy for most MSOs, because it requires duplicate training, technical-assistance centers and debugging processes.

Complete switch-outs aren’t all that complicated or expensive, according to Binder.

“The dollar cost is very low,” he said. “The training is relatively easy. It’s a very simple system to operate.”

In one case, Binder said an MSO went from 250 to 28 hard drives, while doubling its storage and streaming capacity in a much smaller headend footprint.

He estimated that Broadbus will deploy about 5,000 hours of storage, on average — which will double in the next year — and 4,000 to 5,000 streams.

Nearly each one of the 25 deployments is different in terms of storage, streaming and other topology factors, according to Binder.

The B1 video server platform is capable of delivering 20,000 streams of MPEG-2 (Moving Picture Experts Group) video at 3.75 megabits in a single chassis, which can support H. 264 and VC-1 encoding.

The company said that more than 1 million streams can share a single storage library of more than 1 million homes in a clustered configuration.

The server includes Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre-Channel as standard interfaces, and it is compatible with back offices from Tandberg TV (N2Broadband) and nCUBE.

September