Serving Something Different10/31/2004 7:00 PM Eastern
Entone Technologies Inc. might represent a new breed of hardware vendor. The company has an end-to-end product line that includes a video server, asset manager, content-ingestion system and a residential gateway that it’s pitching to operators around the world who are interested in getting into the video business.
At the same time, it’s made some headway selling its server product and encoding system to U.S.-based MSOs.
TWO MSOs TEST
The company said two of the top five cable MSOs in the U.S. are in trials with its StreamLiner video-server platform, while Comcast Corp. is testing its encoding product.
MSOs are looking to break apart their video-on-demand platforms to get the best-performing products at the lowest cost, said Entone CEO Steve McKay. “They don’t want to buy proprietary hardware anymore.”
McKay said Entone uses off-the-shelf hardware from IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Inc. for its servers, and can configure them for either random access memory or disk-based storage. But Entone differentiates itself with its streaming file systems and RAID-X software, he said.
“We get amazing performance out of the high volume hardware” at per-stream prices “way below” $100, McKay said.
He said Entone can get 90 streams per disk and can transmit 400 streams per rack unit, adding that “our streaming and storage resources can be independently scaled.”
The servers can be built for Gigabit Ethernet transport for either MPEG-2 (Moving Pictures Expert Group) or MPEG-4 delivery, with GigE or Internet-protocol interfaces.
McKay said Entone’s encoding system is built on decoders from Tandberg Television and Harmonic Inc. and provides added value to MSOs because its software can manage assets across many servers and ingestion devices.
As cable companies add more local content to VOD systems, they are adding origination points, ranging from local broadcast-TV stations to tapes to their own regional sports networks.
Entone’s encoder helps encode and manage all that content coming from various sources, McKay said.
The encoder has been deployed by Comcast Corp., UnitedGlobalCom Inc. and Hong Kong operator PCCW Ltd., he said.
“Operators want to decouple encoding from existing integrated systems.”
Entone was formed in 1999, populated by executives who had worked on Cable & Wireless plc’s VOD rollout in Hong Kong in the 1990s.
The company has raised $25 million in private equity. Investors include Menlo Ventures, Tandberg and Bank of America. It has shipped parts of its hardware and software platform to UGC Europe, PCCW, Telecom Italia and Telenet, in addition to the U.S. MSO and a handful of domestic telcos, McKay said.