Supporting the Streams
In addition to providing the hardware, Sun is also providing software that will support some 20 different video streaming features, such as standard- and high-definition streaming, encrypted and clear content streaming, personal video recorder capabilities and open-standard software such as CORBA and XML. By providing open-standards plus the ability to support 160,000 streams, Griliches said that the Sun system will not only be able to deliver video content, but will also have the I/O capability for users to request and find movies from various content providers.An example of the system within three racks includes a pair of Sun Fire X4950 switches, 16 x4500 4U (7.5-inch) storage servers and 20 X4100 1U (1.75-inch) systems. In addition to the 160,000 streams, the system will also provide 200,000 hours of video content. In order to deliver 160,000 streams, the Sun Fire switch comes with 32 10-Gigabit Ethernet ports, which allows for high-density switches and routing, as well as a blazing 320G bps of streaming density and 2TB of memory. "With the Sunfire X4950 streaming switch, a 320G bps non-blocking crossbar switch on 10-Gigabit Ethernet optical networking built into itthis is a very robust system," said Paula Patel, a storage marketing director for Sun. "It has the power redundancy, redundant optical cards, redundant fans and a total of 2TB of memory. You can store a bunch of movies in their entirely just inside the memory, and stream from the memory. That makes it very fast." For storage, the Thumper servers each offer 24TB of storage for keeping up to 9,400 hours of 2M bps video content (high-definition video is 8M bps). Sun executives said that the pricing for video-on-demand will be less than $50 per stream. Patel also said that the company is looking into offering video-on-demand as a hosted service, but official word on that wont come until later this year. The new Sun system has been in the hands of a few companies for beta testing. One such company, Acetrax, which has designed and created a movie aggregation and distribution platform for broadband ISPs, and has been testing the system for about 18 months. Frank Hoffmann, Acetraxs chief technical officer, said his company is now working to combine the Sun system with its own backroom software that handles billing, content management and networking. Click here to read more about Suns plans for 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Acetrax, which is based in Zurich, Switzerland, is also looking to use the system to develop features such as pause and play options for its users, as well as ways to create and send advertisements along with the actual video content. "The other challenge that we have is that once we cross networks with a stream, how can we sustain that movie for an hour and a half and offer our users the premium experience," Hoffmann said. To show the systems ability to stream video, Sun will offer a demonstration of its new hardware combo at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, which kicked off on April 25. "This is the perfect package for video-on-demand because we have the industrial strength storage, streaming software and switching all in one," Bechtolsheim said. "This is the future of IPTV, right here." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.
She added that the 160,000 streams is about what other providers offer but she expects the number of streams to climb to between 600,000 and 700,000 in just a few years.