Hey, Cable: Silicon Graphics is Back


Silicon Graphics Inc. is getting into the domestic cable video-on-demand service business. And no, you're not reading a story from 1993.

The company that became synonymous with Time Warner Cable's Orlando, Fla., Full Service Network is re-entering cable's VOD space with a new Origin 300 server that can deliver 600 video streams for $255 per stream, the company said.

"Video-on-demand has woken up in cable in the U.S.," said SGI director of marketing and media industries Jason Danielson, as the price of streaming technology and the embedded base of VOD-enabled set-tops had made the market more attractive.

For the past few years, SGI has focused on telco, cable and even satellite server and storage systems. "We were into the telco space, and the money was overseas," said Danielson.

Now that U.S. cable operators are serious about VOD, SGI has turned some of its attention back stateside.

SGI's Origin 300 server can hold two to four MIPS (millions of instructions per second) 64-bit processors, up to four gigabits of memory and two disk drives in 3.5 inches of rack space. A four-rack unit can distribute 240 streams and is less than eight inches high. "We designed the Origin 300 with cable headend space in mind," Danielson said.

Alongside the Origin 300 server sits SGI's Total Performance 900 storage system, which gives users the ability to deploy VOD over asynchronous transfer mode (ATM), digital video broadcast (DVB) and gigabit Ethernet technologies.

SGI's $255 price also makes it competitive with other server vendors, he said.

"It's cost-competitive and it's going to get better," said Danielson.

SGI began shipping the Origin 300 nine months ago, primarily to Chunghwa Telecom in China, for its VOD rollout. Chunghwa is deploying VOD to 20,000 homes using technology from ThirdSpace.

The 33 servers and 84 storage systems SGI will ship can deliver 5,565 streams across those 20,000 households.

Unlike nCUBE Corp., Concurrent Computer Corp. and SeaChange International Inc., SGI relies on open-video systems from Kasenna Inc. and ThirdSpace to supply video pumps for its server systems.

"We're not vertically stacked," Danielson said. "We've got work to do in cable."

But "a lot of software runs on our platform," he added.

A key issue will be SGI's ability to integrate with an operator's current hardware and software configurations. Kasenna and ThirdSpace typically handle software integration, he said. (Both SGI and Sun Microsystems Inc. own a piece of Kasenna.)

Without naming Scientific-Atlanta Inc. and Motorola Inc. by name, Danielson said SGI is handling hardware integration. The company is now in several lab trials, he said.