Omneon Declares the Dawn of MediaGrid

It was a dark and stormy nightclub, illuminated only by the eerie blue glow of LED-laced ice cubes, when out of the din arose Richard Strauss' unmistakable triad from "Also Sprach Zarathustra." Above the stage, a strange cerulean obelisk appeared as a sonorous narrator intoned that since the dawn of humankind, man's "been looking for a place to store his content."

The obelisk was soon discovered to be the Omneon MediaGrid, a sort of building-block storage server with multiple CPUs. Gamely braving a spinning disco ball at Las Vegas' Ice night club, Omneon's always affable Vice President of Marketing Geoff Stedman described the "active storage" characteristics of MediaGrid.

Unlike the passive content servers of yore, MediaGrid is made of "multiple intelligent content servers," Stedman said. Each storage component, or "grid," contains its own processing power and bandwidth access. Consequently, these grids can be configured for storage of just a few terabytes or amassed for a system with up to a petabyte of capacity, all with correlative processing power and access speed. The range of scalability also is possible without partitioning or rebuilding.

The system is driven by something Omneon calls ContentDirectors and ContentServers. ContentDirectors distribute data throughout the system, while ContentServers do the actual storage and management. The ContentServers, also referred to as "nodes," are interconnected via redundant Gigabit Ethernet and are capable of communicating among themselves, lending some credence to the HAL 9000 nod.

Files stored in the MediaGrid system are divided into "slices" that are stored on multiple nodes, while replicas of each slice are sent to different nodes "based on an adjustable replication factor," according to Omneon. The ContentDirectors keep track of this filing system and maintain a database of where the slices are parked. Should a node failure occur, the system automatically creates copies of the backup slices on other functioning nodes.

When a file is retrieved, the processing power of each node is engaged, thus rendering the system "one order of value faster than a RAID array," Stedman said.

As is par with this growing Sunnyvale, Calif., company that could, Omneon has rounded up 10 companies - Rhozet, Tektronix, Ardendo, Pro-Bel and Apple among them - to demo automation and media management technology integrated with MediaGrid on the NAB2006 exhibit floor.

Companies that have "committed to supporting" MediaGrid include Anystream, Ardendo, Blue Order, Crispin, Florical Systems, Front Porch Digital, Ibis, Konan Digital, MassTech Group, OmniBus, Pebble Beach Systems, Pharos Communication, Pictron, Probel, Rhozet, S4M, Snell & Wilcox, Sundance Digital, Starfish, TMD, Tektronix, Telestream and Venaca.

MediaGrid is up and running at the Turner Broadcasting Systems Europe U.K. operation in London, where Steve Fish, vice president of engineering, said it "worked the first time - correctly." Fish said Turner went with MediaGrid for several reasons, including the scalability, the need to repurpose material for multiple distribution platforms, and to create a tapeless facility. Discovery Networks in the United States is in the process of testing MediaGrid, particularly for a new ambitious series entitled "Atlas," which will be acquired on 35mm film.

According to Dave Frederick, Omneon director of corporate marketing, MediaGrid will begin shipping Q2 of this year.