VBrick launches EtherneTV

FRAMINGHAM (11/14/2003) - VBrick Systems Inc. this week released a suite of products designed to deliver both live and on-demand MPEG video to desktops and set-top devices in a corporate network.

The EtherneTV suite features three hardware products: the Media Control Server, the NGX video-on-demand server, and the EtherneTV STB, a set-top box that can decode MPEG-1, -2 or -4 and display the video on a standard television. EtherneTV also features a new StreamOne interface for finding and watching programs that provides the same look and feel on both the desktop and set-top box. All the components work around the company's existing line of appliances that capture, encode and decode video into the three MPEG formats.

"We were missing the glue to pull all the pieces (of a video delivery system) together," says Rich Mavrogeanes, founder and president of VBrick, explaining the reasoning behind the EtherneTV rollout.

At the heart of the EtherneTV system is the Media Control Server, which catalogs, stores and helps distribute video programs as well as the necessary software components to play the video locally. For system administrators, the just-in-time software delivery means there's no need to install and manage clients on every PC in the company.

VBrick ships the MCS on standard Dell Inc. server running Windows 2003. Users can buy the software separately, though the company tries to sell the entire package. "If we sell the hardware, we know what it's going to do," Mavrogeanes says.

The NGX video-on-demand server is actually Kassena hardware resold by VBrick with some custom controls written for it. For those with multiple offices, NGXs can be placed in each location to help keep content closer to the end user and limit bandwidth-hogging video traffic on WAN connections. MCS manages the content stored and delivered from the NGX.

Programming can be captured from a camera, DVD, VCR, cable or satellite feed and converted to MPEG using one of the VBrick appliances and either stored for later viewing or delivered live using IP Multicast technology. The set-top boxes also have a record capability, with the recorded content being stored centrally on the MCS for the rest of the company to view. Currently, there's no way to limit who can see what content in the system, Mavrogeanes says.

Why is VBrick sticking with the MPEG standard and not moving to Real or Windows Media Format, which tends to offer better compression ratios? Mavrogeanes says for his company's customers, the quality of video still matters. EtherneTV is designed to deliver full-screen video at TV or better quality, making it less suitable for Internet-based streaming applications.

An average EtherneTV implementation runs from US$15,000 to $50,000.

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