Bob Bishop is a man on a mission. Although professional media technology represents only 10 percent of his $1 billion computer processing hardware and software business, the chairman and chief executive officer of SGI said his engineers have been working on new ways of networking and shared storage solutions that he thinks will shake up the broadcast industry.
“I think you are going to find that [our strategy] is a pretty good idea,” Bishop said. “We’ve moved on from a company that makes PC workstations and are now focused on high power computing. That’s the thing that sets SGI apart from other PC makers. We have an expertise and a storied history of making things possible that weren’t before.”
The “big idea” is a new storage architecture that enables any application to be read on any platform though a single browser. The SGI InfiniteStorage Shared File system CXFS allows facilities to choose the best tools for the job by enabling all operating system clients to share access to content. This means a graphic artist/editor working in Apple’s Final Cut Pro can open a Windows file and begin working with it. Also, using CXFS, large amounts of data can be shared by many without the need to move it off the drives. This increases access times and improves productivity.
Among the list of current overseas and media organization users of CXFS is Atlanta, Ga.-based Crawford Communications, a TV network facility that provides satellite origination and a full range of postproduction services to dozens of cable networks. Crawford has purchased fully redundant CXFS servers and 4 TB of SGI TP9500 storage, used to hold content. SGI said Georgia Public Broadcasting is also heavily invested in SGI technology, where they operate a complete IT infrastructure that facilitates easy file sharing and complex media management.
Companies like Alias, Apple, Discreet and Quantel have all announced their support of the file system. That’s because with SGI CXFS, multiple creation seats on any operating system can now share SD, HD and 2K files within a storage area network. Simultaneous support for Mac OSX, IRIX, Windows XP, 32- and 64-bit Linux will be shown in the SGI booth (#SL4755) in Las Vegas at the NAB convention in April.
“The post industry needs open products and systems to be able to compete successfully,” said Nigel Turner, Quantel marketing director. SGI will feature the Quantel iQ as a client in its digital infrastructure demonstration at NAB 2004. “The fact that the iQ/eQ and CXFS integrate fully in a straightforward ‘plug and play’ manner to produce real gains for the users is an excellent illustration of the benefits of such an approach.”
SGI will also demonstrate the latest version of its Guaranteed Rate I/O software that enables the scheduling of dedicated bandwidth on a SAN for application that require real-time performance (such as film scanners in the creation of digital intermediates).
The InfiniteStorage Solution for Broadcast leverages the MXF format on its SGI Media Server product, to enable the search and retrieval of video and audio clips. It also includes technology from MassTech for low-resolution browse, proxy and archiving, Pinnacle Systems’ blue for collaborative MPEG-2 editing, and playout using multiple SGI Media Servers under control of Harris Automation software.
SGI said the broadcast system is based around CXFS, includes tight integration between ingest, edit, playout, distribution and archiving functions while allowing for 25x faster than real-time file sharing between workstations of different operating systems.
So, with all of this being demonstrated in Las Vegas, Bishop thinks SGI will turn a few heads at the upcoming NAB convention.
After dedicating 18 percent of his overall revenue to research & development for the past year, Bishop said he’ll reduce that this year but remains committed to making SGI a major player in the broadcast space. After years of disappointing numbers, SGI is back to profitability, he said, and well positioned to make some noise in the media storage and file transfer business.
Although he oversees other relationships, such as client NASA (which is using SGI computers to communicate with and operate the rovers on the surface of Mars), Bishop continues to value the broadcast industry. He’s set up a separate division overseas, called Silicon Graphics Broadcast Europe, where SGI has been successful in working with a number of broadcasters, such as EuroNews, Fox Sports Net Australia, BBC and Danish Broadcasting.
“Our goal is not to be the biggest company in the business,” he said. “We want to focus on our core strengths and be more strategic than the other guy. We can’t be all things to all people. Our goal is to really satisfy the people that choose us as their supplier. Real world experience, reliability and word of mouth is everything.”
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