A record 113,000 visitors journeyed to Las Vegas, Nevada to
attend NAB 2000, a show purporting to feature the future of video.
Main-line vendors promoted a vast array of digital tape and camera
formats, from standard to high definition, without certainty of
immediate sales. While analog video peripheral vendors slept in
quiet Las Vegas Convention Center booths, dot-com companies spent
millions in Venture Capital to hype TV on the Internet and Internet
on TV equipment. Clogging the narrow aisles of the Sands' Expo
Center were youthful visionaries learning to be network billionaires.
Overwhelming it all were the biggest, brightest-ever, flame-throwing
"data" projectors fully intent on being the extinction event for
Among the chaos, the islands of sanity were the hardware and
software folks dedicated to authoring DVD. All of the market leaders
were there with announcements of new and improved products, joint
ventures, acquisitions, and marketing partnerships predictably
staking DVD's claim as an industry that has finally arrived. But
a surprise discovery were those vendors who have embraced DVD
as the inexpensive, reliable, flexible, and convenient solution
for archiving, backup, and Near Video On-Demand (NVOD) storage
of program content on DVD-R and DVD-RAM jukebox arrays.
Claiming to be first to embrace DVD-RAM media, Cygnet Storage
Solutions Inc. (http://www.cygnet.com), showed its id 100 Digital
Library system that permits production facilities to backup as
many as 3.9TB on DVD-RAM discs from an array of small storage
towers that could literally fit on a shelf. The company features
the unit in a video networking system engineered by a systems
integrator and based on an Apple G4. Well-suited to Mac professionals
authoring DVDs, the starter system jukebox can be purchased for
under $10K. For the more upscale purchaser, Cygnet offers the
InfiniDISC+, which can handle up to 1,500 discs.
Most relevant in the Cygnet approach is ability to stripe data
across several DVD-RAM discs to give higher transfer rates (3MB/sec
with current 2.6GB single-sided media) for very large files. Already
accepted in other "financial, insurance, and medical markets,"
the system was generating strong interest among broadcasters because
of its convenience, and the predicted long-term availability of
a media format based on a consumer product, according to one company
"Old-time" video systems house Leitch (http://www.leitch.com)
featured a DVD-RAM jukebox (OEM'd from ASACA) in its "new technology"
display. Tightly integrated into a popular digital video server
networking solution, this approach to data backup also supported
striping, but their main focus was to promote the lower total
cost (lower than any other tape or disc option for very large
data libraries) for broadcasters.
Broadcasters seemed drawn to the Leitch unit's very small footprint
(a huge plus in the crowded engineering suites of major network
facilities), its promise of fewer full-lifecycle maintenance problems
compared to popular tape systems, its scalability to 60TB-plus,
fast data delivery speed owing to its massive cache, and its ability
to provide reliable access to news/sound bites or commercial spots.
"Long-time" jukebox manufacturer ASACA (http://www.asaca.com),
went a few steps beyond Leitch in making the point for efficient
scaling of systems based on DVD-RAM. Exposing the well-engineered
guts of its TeraCart box (through clear plastic cabinetry), the
250, 750, and 1,450-disc cabinets (utilizing 100-disc removable
cartridges) revealed their dual-disc "picker," which removes an
unnecessary disc from a drive and replaces it with another in
a rapid, yet smooth motion, and the handy disc "flipper," which
allows access to both sides of a double-sided RAM disc. The system
supports several media types and formats, including CD-ROM, CD-R/RW,
DVD-ROM, and DVD-R. Multiple towers can be chained together to
meet the capacity needs of most network and corporate video environments
yet to be built around the expanding use of compressed digital
Also supporting DVD-RAM a smaller, focused ASACA-based system
is InnovaCom (http://www.transpeg.com) developers of the DVDimpact
turnkey MPEG encoding and DVD authoring systems for NT developers.
The DVDImpact system appears to target those post production facilities,
both independent and in-house corporate, that want to get into
major DVD authoring projects. That is, rather than merely serving
as a "backup" tool for video networks, which are typically based
on a massive hard drive array for primary storage, the InnovaCom
jukebox makes DVD-RAM and DVD-R storage integral parts of program
production by using the drives to format the final video-image
files. The system seems to emphasize the features of time-efficiency,
networking, and flexibility in authoring DVD media.
A newcomer to DVD-RAM-based mass storage is DISC Inc. (http://www.discjuke.com).
Similar to the ASACA jukebox but physically much larger (housing
up to 1,054 discs), the DISC, Inc. system also targets the bigger
network facilities with support for both MO and DVD-RAM media.
Employing barcodes on the media cartridges, this unit promises
"dramatically reduced inventory time, automatic re-indexing, and
support for CD media."
Never to be overlooked, Pioneer (http://www.pioneerusa.com)
featured its 720-disc DVD-R jukebox, the DRM-7000 FlexLibrary,
which is capable of storing 3.4TB, with new lower prices for hardware
in applications that require the security and permanence of non-erasable
media ("paper trail" concerns common to banking and insurance
records management). No new announcements or demonstrations were
made by Pioneer regarding its DVD-RW rewritable media. However,
the company did demonstrate its home DVD recorder that is now
on sale in Japan.
Notable in its absence was a duplication system for rewritable
DVD media. There were VCR duplication systems on display, and
several schemes to duplicate CD-Rs and even DVD-Rs, but no turn-key
box pumping out a few dozen on-demand DVD-RAM discs. So the media's
status as a data distribution vehicle remains limited-not surprising
given the still-small installed base of RAM-compatible readers.
But given the prevalence of RAM-based library systems targeting
broadcast environments, DVD-RAM's behind-the-scenes role in digital
video delivery seems increasingly promising.