Sun: 160,000 channels, should be somethin' on

Sun enters entertainment arena with Sun Streaming

Sun Microsystems is introducing a new platform for streaming on-demand video over IP networks, to put movies into the hands of customers more efficiently than cable, DVDs-by-mail or the corner video store.

"We do believe the most natural way for people to enjoy video is to download it from a server," said Andy Bechtolsheim, co-founder of Sun and designer of the Sun Streaming System.

The Sun Streaming system uses four Sun Fire x4100 servers, one x4500 storage/server and a new product, the Sun Fire x4950 streaming server, all based on server technology developed by Kealia, which Sun acquired in 2004. Bechtolsheim also founded Kealia after leaving Sun. The acquisition brought him back to the company.

Sun Streaming, with a suite of Sun software to manage the system, delivers 160,000 video streams, or 40,000 high-definition TV streams, simultaneously at 2M bps (bits per second), said Bechtolsheim.

Fifteen of these systems, at about 5,000 titles per system, theoretically could stream the entire library, all at once, of 75,000 DVD titles from Netflix, which distributes DVD rentals by mail.

The Sun Streaming System, unveiled Wednesday at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City, addresses the consumer lament as sung by Bruce Springsteen in his hit, "57 Channels (and Nothin' On)."

"There's really no reason that middle class Americans when they watch three or four hours of TV a day shouldn't be able to watch whatever they want when they want to watch it," said Sandeep Agrawal, group marketing manager for the Sun Systems Group.

The Sun system delivers second generation video on demand at a capital cost of US$50 per stream, about half the cost of first generation video servers, said Eve Griliches, telecom program manager at the research firm IDC.

First generation video servers are offered by companies such as SeaChange International, C-COR, Kasenna and Arroyo Video Solutions, which was acquired by Cisco Systems Inc. in 2006. But they are proprietary systems whose vendor lock-in makes it difficult for network operators to upgrade with other equipment, Griliches said. Sun's second generation system uses open standards.

IDC forecasts the video server market to grow to US$2 billion by 2011, from just US$350 million in 2006, she said.

Initially, Sun will sell its system to networking companies that will be able to serve telephone companies offering IPTV service to their customers. Sun announced partnerships with Nortel Networks and Electronic Data Systems to use the Sun platform.

Sun will initially target phone companies because there is still an ample supply of network capacity built up from the dot-com era. Cable networks, by contrast, are not as equipped to deliver this much content, said Bechtolsheim.

"Quite frankly, they don't have enough bandwidth," he said. The aggregate bandwidth on a cable is limited to the capacity of coaxial cable and a lot of the channels on a cable system are designated for broadcast channels.

"It would require an order of magnitude upgrade to cable networks to provide the same on-demand capacity as this system offers," Bechtolsheim said.

But IPTV also has limitations, said IDC's Griliches; routers that are not easily scalable, as well as Ethernet switches and other network servers, could slow traffic between the Sun platform and the TV set.

Those technology problems will eventually be addressed, however, and Griliches sees video on-demand competition from cable companies, Internet companies such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc., as well as TV networks that are expected to allow more of their programming to be streamed from their Web sites.

Join the newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.
Rocket to Success - Your 10 Tips for Smarter ERP System Selection
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Robert Mullins

IDG News Service
Show Comments


James Cook University - Master of Data Science Online Course

Learn more >


Victorinox Werks Professional Executive 17 Laptop Case

Learn more >



Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles


PCW Evaluation Team

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Ben Ramsden

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

Brainstorming, innovation, problem solving, and negotiation have all become much more productive and valuable if people can easily collaborate in real time with minimal friction.

Sarah Ieroianni

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

The print quality also does not disappoint, it’s clear, bold, doesn’t smudge and the text is perfectly sized.

Ratchada Dunn

Sharp PN-40TC1 Huddle Board

The Huddle Board’s built in program; Sharp Touch Viewing software allows us to easily manipulate and edit our documents (jpegs and PDFs) all at the same time on the dashboard.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?