Optivision helps DISA communicate with video

Optivision Inc., a Palo Alto, Calif.-based developer of professional network video communications products, recently provided the Defense Information Systems Agency with a suite of equipment that is changing the way the agency shares and accesses information.

"One of the things [the Defense Department] has always had a problem with is getting information out to people at their convenience," said Bruce Bennett, an electronics engineer with DISA. Optivision's network video communications products are letting the agency solve that problem.

DISA purchased Optivision's VSTOR 150 MPEG video recorder/player along with the company's mpegStudio Pro remote control and management software.

"We record things onto the VSTOR directly or input it via magnetic tape and then send it out over the [Defense Information Systems Network]," Bennett said. DISA is using VSTOR's network video distribution capabilities to provide its employees with training and general administrative information.

It is even providing technicians stationed at remote locations with telemaintenance support.

For example, in one instance DISA was able to avoid incurring the cost of sending technicians to southwestern Asia to fix a piece of equipment by instead sending a video demonstrating the maintenance procedures for local technicians to follow. Making use of VSTOR's capabilities in this way could save the agency thousands of dollars, Bennett said.

The DISA effort is a subset of DOD's Global Fiber Initiative, which is an advanced technology demonstration sponsored by the U.S. Atlantic Command and the Central Command to test how the high-bandwidth capacity 155 megabits/sec of fiber cable can support deployed forces. The first GFI test was conducted in January and successfully demonstrated data, voice and TV-quality video transmissions.

The VSTOR 150, using mpegStudio Pro, takes a video feed, compresses it and distributes it over a network in real time. The product "is really optimized for store-and-forward operations," said Jeff Neidermayer, product line manager for Optivision's television, broadcast and cable products.

Video Spooling

Unlike other video compression systems, the VSTOR 150 and mpegStudio Pro software make maximum use of the available network by trickling the video feed out over the network as bandwidth becomes available— a process called video spooling. Users can work on and submit new video jobs while the system is processing other files. It is also capable of supporting a range of broadcast-quality resolutions, Neidermayer said.

DISA chose the Optivision solution because of its flexibility and ease of integration into the agency's network of Microsoft Corp. Windows NT and Sun Microsystems Inc. Unix clients, Bennett said.

Optivision recommends a standard 100 MHz Intel Corp. Pentium-based desktop with 32M of memory, Windows NT, 1G of hard drive space and a 10/100Base-T network adapter to run the remote-control software from a client. Networking support includes Ethernet, Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol and Windows Networking as well as Asynchronous Transfer Mode, T-1 and Integrated Services Digital Network data rates.

Optivision's product line appears to be strong, said Tim McElgunn, an analyst specializing in remote access at Dataquest, a Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm.

"One of the key points of their solution is in their management software," McElgunn said. In particular, Optivision's video spooling technology is "extremely strong," he said.

"There's already so much video content out there that this stuff is definitely on the verge of becoming more of a mass market," McElgunn said.

The Optivision products have been well-received by DISA users, Bennett said. However, the main challenge for DISA in the coming months will be storage capacity. Ten minutes of video takes up 400M of hard drive space, and DISA has a 60G hard drive to work with, Bennett said. The agency plans to invest in more storage devices to accommodate the increased use of video, he said.

"As we put more and more [video content] online people are finding more and more uses for it," Bennett said.

Pricing ranges from $20,000 to $50,000, depending on the customer's requirements.

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