Pinnacle Servers at Turner Entertainment

When ground was broken in March 2000 on a 198,000 square foot facility in Atlanta, housing Turner Entertainment Networks’ new Network Operations Center, the engineering staff was given the mandate to streamline its capability to ingest and playout content for improved efficiency. By September 2003, this new facility will be home to 19 Turner Entertainment Network feeds including TNT, TBS, Cartoon Network, and Turner Classic Movies.

Turner’s server technology needs to be able to reliably perform 24 hours a day with minimal downtime.

The Entertainment Division of Turner Broadcasting had been using server-based operations using JPEG and MPEG servers since June of 1996, but had outgrown the infrastructure of the previous facility. Physical limitations of the older facility forced the creation of multiple system islands requiring multiple ingest stations. The team wanted to create a single ingest point that could ingest material once and make it available for playout on any server throughout the new building. Their choice of server would need to reliably perform 24 hours a day with minimal down time.

Their decision was to purchase 16 MediaStream 900 servers, based on Palladium networked storage, from Pinnacle Systems. Each server’s reliability is insured by RAID protected drives, dual controllers, and redundant power supplies.

Each channel is equipped with two air chains, an ‘A’ and a ‘B’. The chains are identical, with an individual switcher, server, automation, and processing chain. The systems run in parallel. Any type of failure on one of the air chains can be bypassed with a switch to the other with the simple push of a button.

A key requirement for the new network operations center was that content must be available simultaneously to all the broadcast services in the building. The system concept the engineers devised is called “BIM” for “Broadcast Inventory Management.” BIM can store and keep track of ingested material while making it available via file transfer to any server at any time. A mirror image resides on redundant disc storage, and DVD jukeboxes holding a third and fourth copy back this up. BIM was designed with the ability to copy program content to archive for later use.

By September 2003, all of the 19 network feeds sent out from the network operations center will have been standardized on Pinnacle MediaStream 900 server technology with back-up redundancy in every case.

The engineering staff is already looking toward future improvements to support the worldwide movement of audio and video as files throughout the organization. This is challenging given the many different types of MPEG-2 files produced by equipment manufacturers, mixing them in one facility could be difficult. The Pinnacle Palladium platform will assist in the effort. This architecture can support the movement of many types of files between users.

Also, the new MXF file interchange format being developed by the Pro-MPEG Forum and due for standardization by SMPTE this summer offers a universal wrapper in which to transport all of MPEG-2 files. Pinnacle’s MediaStream servers will be some of the first to store MXF files on their disks in their native format. Once equipment manufacturers adopt MXF, Turner Entertainment’s servers stand ready to be used to facilitate transporting MXF files throughout the company.

Jack Gary is director of projects and integration engineering for Turner Entertainment Networks.

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