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NAB 2007

Jun 1, 2007 12:00 PM, By D. W. Leitner, Jan Ozer, Dan Ochiva, and Jeff Sauer

Impressive new offerings at reasonable prices.

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By Dan Ochiva

While some have muttered that NAB 2007 didn't reveal many breakthroughs, such opinions disregard a mood of practicality found in the booths of manufacturers large and small.

Quantum, for example, introduced its MXF-aware SDLT 600A data tape drive technology at last year's show, making it the first tape archive device that could be accessed like any file-based hard drive. At this year's show, the company introduced a version that employs the highly popular LTO (linear tape open) tape drive platform, which offers higher performance and larger removable network storage archiving compared to the initial DLT tape versions.

Maximum Throughput, meanwhile, traditionally offered products (in its Sledgehammer network storage family) that could be found only in facilities running the highest-end rigs from Autodesk or controlling 2K coming off a Thomson Spirit DataCine. At the show, the company displayed a more ecumenical side, introducing an entry-level Sledgehammer NAS, which prices less than $20,000 — compared to the $125,000 tab of a similar system of three years ago. The company even bundles its Maxmedia and Xstoner software apps.

Ciprico presented an engineering demo of an entire new class of DAS (direct attached storage) devices that deliver high throughput but should be cheap to implement. Planned for release later this year, the system employs Ciprico's established RAIDCore software RAID and the new PCI external cabling standard, which will work in computers with an updated BIOS.

By installing a Ciprico SATA 2 or SAS storage I/O card into a standard 20Gbps PCI Express 8X (or “by eight,” as it's spoken) slot, users can attach a simple storage case, with cable runs of more than 7m allowed. In the demo at the booth, the cable ran to a 3RU, 16-drive chassis stocked with 16 of Hitachi's new 1TB SATA 2 drives, all running under Adobe Premiere Pro as the NLE supported multiple streams of HD.

The once-sci-fi concept of holographic storage made a practical landing with the final release of InPhase's Tapestry 300r, an archival write-once, read-many (WORM) product that offers file-based data access using 300GB Maxell holographic media. InPhase demonstrated a holographic optical jukebox system from DSM that could archive more than 6,000 hours of SD or 1,560 hours of HD video in one library cabinet. With a claimed 50-year media life, the standalone drive and cartridge will be shipping later this year.

Maxell also unveiled what it described as the first iVDR standard hard disk drive capable of recording copyright-protected HD content without taking a hit on quality. Like other iVDR-based storage, such as that of Iomega, Maxell's Removable Hard Disk Drive iV is small, fitting in the palm of your hand, and features a maximum capacity of 160GB and a speedy data transfer rate of 540Mbps.

With its line of plug-in cards, Atto Technology offers good deals on storage connectivity. At the show, the company announced that its ExpressSAS RAID adapters will be integrated into the Sonnet Fusion RAID product line. Sonnet has gained a rep for its cards and storage arrays for Macs running Final Cut Pro and (soon) Premiere Pro.

Atto's ExpressSAS RAID Adapter family provides SAS/SATA II connectivity with claimed transfer rates of up to 3Gbps. Unlike most offerings on the market, the low-profile line of adapters is customizable, offering user-selectable port configuration options.

Practicality is on tap at G-Technology. The G-RAID2 1500 features a triple interface — FireWire 400, FireWire 800, and USB 2.0 — so connecting up the array is straightforward. Sizes range up to 1.5TB using 7200rpm SATA II disk drives, each sporting 16MB caches to speed disk access. Compatible with both Mac OS X and Windows XP, the G-Tech drive supports multistream DV, HDV, DVCPRO HD, and uncompressed SD video editing workflows.

At the show, Microsoft presented two interesting products. Microsoft Interactive Media Manager looks to be useful for integrating media production and business chores. A second, Silverlight, will probably turn up on your desktop soon, delivering a new program type: RIAs (rich interactive applications).

Microsoft Interactive Media Manager offers digital content management on a larger scale, running on a network server and combining digital workflows and media application integration, all of which is accessed via a collaborative front-end web environment.

Microsoft positions this package around its new Office SharePoint Server 2007. Relying on separate, fragmented software products and systems is not ideal, so this integrated suite of server capabilities aims to provide content management and enterprise-wide searching. It could be a beginning method to improve the sharing of information throughout your company.

You're more likely to hear about Silverlight, however. Part of a new trend towards RIAs, the plug-in works with all popular browsers, whether on PC, Mac, or even Linux devices. Silverlight supports playback of Windows Media files on both platforms, with many options for interactivity during playback. There's support for fullscreen 720p video. With adequate network bandwidth, many videos can play simultaneously without stuttering or dropping frames.

This rich media software is aimed directly at Adobe's ubiquitous Flash, while its high-definition video delivery and cross-platform DRM take on Apple QuickTime. Microsoft also touted deals it has signed with Internet video broadcasters such as Netflix, Brightcove, and Major League Baseball.

Silverlight's managers include Forest Key, a director of product management at Microsoft's server and tools division. Key, who worked on Flash while at Macromedia, also gained recognition for his postproduction work on Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) projects such as Star Wars. He touts Microsoft's new Expression RIA content creation software as “cheaper, faster, and better” than Adobe's offerings.

Adobe, meanwhile, is taking on Microsoft directly with the announcement of Apollo, its code name for a cross-operating-system app that allows developers to leverage their existing web development skills (Flash, Adobe Flex, HTML, JavaScript, Ajax) to build and deploy rich Internet applications to the desktop.

With Apollo, developers can create software that combines the benefits of Web apps — network and user connectivity, rich media content, ease of development, and broad reach — with the best aspects of desktop software, such as interactions between applications, access to local resources, personal settings, wide functionality, and rich interactive experiences.

Expect to hear more about RIAs over the coming year, as rich media apps proliferate on a website near you.

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