New Harmonic Twice as Fun for Those on the Storage Hunt

Checking out Harmonic’s booth at NAB this year could cause some double vision. The company will have two booths: one at SU4909 with the distribution and delivery products, the other at SL2005 with the former Omneon server line. The good news is that the Omneon exhibit will maintain the former blue look and, more important, feature plenty of new products that combine Harmonic codec technologies with Omneon’s R&D.

“We still feel good about the rationale for combining companies and the opportunities as the market evolves,” says Geoff Stedman, VP for corporate marketing at Harmonic. “We now span the whole range of workflows.”

Often, a merger like the one that brought Omneon and Harmonic together can create integration challenges, but the two companies have formed a single sales organization and also moved the Omneon staff into the Harmonic facility in San Jose, CA. Offices in London and Hong Kong have also been combined.

R&D, however, has remained fairly autonomous. Both the Harmonic and the Omneon teams have remained intact and have product roadmaps and customer commitments to meet.

“If we don’t keep those teams doing what they are doing, we will fall behind,” adds Stedman. “Both companies were independently strong so, when you buy a growing business, the last thing you want is to disrupt the momentum.

With respect to new products at the show, those on the hunt for improvements and additions will have plenty to see.

Omneon Spectrum MediaCenter: Targeted at facilities with a moderate number of channels and looking for improved price/performance, the MediaCenter system offers up to 16 TB (more than 600 hours at 50 Mbps) of integrated SATA storage and supports 600 Mbps of real-time channel bandwidth — enough for 12 channels of multiformat record and play for material at 50 Mbps.

“It has a new 2RU chassis, so it looks like our Media Deck, and the move to SATA drives gives us a lower cost and larger sizes of up to 2 TB,” says Stedman. “And there is enough bandwidth to transfer material off to central storage while recordings are happening and without having to trade off bits.”

Omneon Spectrum MediaPort 7000 Series: Playing a key role within the MediaCenter, the MediaPorts have a new generation of real-time encoding/decoding modules that handle I/O for the MediaCenter.

“We felt we needed a new platform for format support of new bitrates and what will eventually be a need for 1080p,” says Stedman. “So these modules work with a 3-Gbps infrastructure, which is important as 3D becomes more prevalent and there is a need for full-resolution 3D and 1080p.”

What were previously options, like up/downconversion and simultaneous SD and HD output, are now embedded into the basic operation of the ports.

Each MediaPort module has two channels and can handle DV and MPEG-2 material and has optional support for AVC-Intra so that clips in all three formats can be played out back to back. Also new is an LCD front panel that provides basic info on every channel and even status alarms.

One big change in the lineup is that the codecs are on embedded FPGA instead of Intel technology. That decision was made for three reasons: density, heat, and power.

“You can get two channels DV and MPEG-2 decoded in a low-cost FPGA with only 10-15 watts of power as opposed to an Intel CPU that consumes 300 watts of power,” says Stedman. “It also means a 20%-25% reduction in price vs. previous generations.”

What’s next for MediaPort? Later this year, look for MPEG-2 recording and real-time H.264 proxy generation. Both high-res and low-res proxies will be available as material is ingested.

ProStream 4000 Multi-screen Transcoder: The new ProStream 4000 is a live transcoding product that can get up to 48 inputs to the Internet and mobile formats simultaneously by taking advantage of H.264 and then pumping out compliant streams for adaptive-streaming formats from companies like Microsoft, Adobe, and more. Embedded encryption protects content. Also included is the Harmonic NMX set of tools for monitoring and managing compressed digital-video and -audio services as well as the systems through which these services flow.

ProStream 4000 is also one of the first products to demonstrate how the Harmonic/Omneon R&D teams can work together: the codec IP from Omneon has been moved over to Harmonic’s team.

“We have been working on improving the quality of the H.264 codec as we want to ultimately provide the highest-quality signal at the lowest bitrate,” says Stedman.

Look for more news from Harmonic next week.