Charter Communications finished its open standards VOD puzzle by adding Broadbus Technologies‘ B-1 video server in the MSO’s southeast division. Charter will be using Broadbus servers to offer on-demand content and services to its 1.2 million homes in the southeast division. Pragash Pillai, Charter’s vice president of engineering, said the new servers were a significant upgrade to the digital video services that Charter currently offers in the division. "From the beginning, Broadbus’ architecture was based on solid-state DRAM," Pillai said. "It’s a server with a bunch of blades that are all populated with RAM. What RAM does is give you the capability of ingesting and pushing a lot of content streaming-wise, but not a lot of storage. When you combine it with internal storage and you buffer the movies in the RAM before you play it out, you get the benefit of high-capacity streaming from the RAM." The B-1 is capable of 48,000 streams per chassis in H.264 at 1.5 mbps, or 20,000 streams at standard definition MPEG-2 at 3.75 mbps, according to Broadbus. "When you look at television on demand, the most important thing to look at is ingest rate," Pillai said. "How fast can you ingest to your server, and how fast can you play back that content? It’s very critical because you don’t want to offer television on demand that has a half-hour delay because it’s useless." With the upgrade to the Broadbus servers, Charter has VOD available to more than 80 percent of its digital video subscribers in the southeast division, with additional availability to more customers later this year. Building an open platform Charter embarked upon an open standards platform with the launch of nCube, which is now a part of C-Cor, VOD servers in Malibu, CA, in 2002. It uses C-Cor and Tandberg Television in various systems to enable the VOD backoffice systems. "We have a strategy for our open platform," Pillai said. "If you look closely at our strategy, we kind of aggregate technology solutions in each division, so the southeast is mainly focused on Broadbus, Los Angeles is mainly focused on nCube/C-Cor, Great Lakes is more focused on Kasenna, and if you look at the northeast it’s a combination of C-Cor and Arroyo solutions. The southeast is the last market that we’ve converted everything to what I call our open platform." Pillai said the open standards platform allows Charter to quickly meld technologies with business opportunities. One example would be addressable advertising for a VOD platform. "The nice thing about focusing on an open platform is that you can get innovation and products from multiple vendors at a very quick pace vs. a closed platform where you rely on one vendor for everything. Time to market is very important," Pillai said. "There is a negative to an open platform. If you have an open platform, you have a lot more components to manage, so from an operations standpoint it adds some complexities, but you can address that if you design the open platform properly."

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