Sun Wants Its IPTV

Hoping to leverage its relationship with telecoms and start new ones with cable and online video producers and distributors, Sun is offering a hardware/software package for the video-on-demand market.

Sun Microsystems is preparing to move into the video-on-demand market with a package of hardware and software aimed at creating infrastructure for cable and telecom companies looking to offer customers IPTV.

On April 25, the Santa Clara, Calif., company will unveil its Sun Streaming System, a combination of hardware in a three-rack, 42U (73.5-inch) configuration that includes the vendors X4100 "Galaxy" servers that use Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors, its Sun Fire X4500 storage systems—better known as "Thumper"—and a new switch called the X4950, which will support 160,000 simultaneous, unique video streams at a rate of 2M bps.

The "Thumper" storage server, a NAS (network-attached storage) product package that includes more "Galaxy" servers powered by Opterons and StorageTek backup, was announced last July and is causing most of the buzz in the companys slow-developing storage business. One 19-inch-wide, 7.5-inch-deep (4U) Thumper server contains 48 hot-swappable disk drives totaling as much as 24TB of storage.

The system of switches, servers and storage—designed by Suns co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim—is aimed at the three main providers of video-on-demand content: Telecom companies, large cable television providers and smaller cable companies, which provide services to 1 million or less subscribers and make up the bulk of the industry, according to Sun executives.

Suns Streaming System is also a chance for the company to ingrain itself with these companies at a time when personalized video-on-demand features have only begun to catch on with the larger public and companies are looking for away to have infrastructure in place when this nascent market hits its stride.

/zimages/1/28571.gifSun and Fujitsu have co-developed a new server line. Click here to read more about that agreement.

The system is also a prime example of Sun trying to find potentially lucrative areas where it can combine its four core business strategies—software, storage, servers and services—into a single offering.

"This is designed expressly for the streaming video market, which we expect to take off hugely in the next five years. Sun has a lot at stake in this market and we intend to take advantage of all the IP we have in it," Bechtolsheim told eWEEK.

This year, the video-on-demand market is worth about $300 million, but its expected to grow to more than $2 billion by the year 2011, said Eve Griliches, an analyst at IDC who follows this market. She added that the pressure on companies to deliver video-on-demand will only increase as customers look to download movies not only to their television but also to PCs and handheld devices.

"The market is looking for companies that have the capability to deliver storage as well as the knowledge of the server side and what the demands are there," Griliches said of cable and telecom companies looking to build their infrastructure as they see the demand for video-on-demand and IPTV growing.

"Looking ahead, the biggest customers of this type of technology are going to be looking for equipment that is reliable and can function in the telecom environment or within large data centers," Griliches added.

Next Page: Supporting the streams.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...