There’s been a fair bit of hype surrounding the latest SpaceX upright rocket landing. Simple as it seems, the excitement, at least for me, stems from how the feat has brought us one step closer to fulfilling our sci-fi fantasies – etched into our minds by the many blockbuster flicks Hollywood has produced.
If you can recall one of the opening scenes of The Martian, we witnessed the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV) lifting off, attempting to escape an ensuing dust storm. While most of the focus was on the misfortune of Mark Watney – played by Matt Damon, left behind after being struck by debris, you could say we took for granted how easily the MAV ascended into space. Combine the thought of how the MAV got there in the first place, and you have yourself a similar parallel to the SpaceX launch and landing.
So what am I getting at? Science fiction only remains science fiction until technology catches up with our imagination. This applies not just to space travel, but every other area of technological advancement.
Breakthroughs in the Living Room
Whether we realize it or not, spectacular scientific breakthroughs can be found in the very heart of our homes. Let’s take TVs for example. Ask your grandparents whether they’d have thought color TV was ever possible in the age of black & white screens. In retrospect, many may not have expressed such optimism.
Then there were the early 2000s when industry pioneers sold us the idea of being able to spot every blade of grass on the football pitch as the advent of high definition TV dawned upon us. Industry naysayers expressed serious doubt as such a transition would have required a major overhaul to equipment and broadcast standards.
From Concept to Ubiquity to Competitiveness
Well, tell that today to any one of Thailand’s seven high definition (HD) digital television channels. Yes, not one but seven. One of which is Amarin TV. It operates a satellite television broadcasting channel, produces television content for free TV channels, and broadcasts edu-tainment content through its Amarin Activ TV channel; all in HD.
There are two common issues that plague the delivery of HD content: space and speed. Have you ever tried transferring gigabytes of information from your computer into an external hard drive? If you have, you’ll understand “the wait”. Now imagine, HD content requires a broadcast station to deliver gigabytes of content every few seconds just so you get that impeccable quality on your TV screen.
Amarin TV needed a storage solution that would improve the speed of its post-production content editing, deliver reliability, and scale rapidly without causing interruptions to service operations. After implanting an EMC Isilon scale-out network-attached storage (NAS) platform, Amarin improved operational efficiency by up to 10 times and reduced its production costs.
“To be competitive, Amarin TV needs high-performance technology. With the EMC Isilon X410, our writing and reading speeds are 400 and 900 megabytes, respectively, per stream. This is incredibly fast compared to current industry standards, and this helps set us apart from our competitors,” says Cheewapat Nathalang, Chief Technical Officer at Amarin TV.
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Zero Second Tolerance for Slip-ups
When was the last time you saw a blank screen on TV? Many of us take for granted the fluidity of TV programming. Thanks to broadcast specialist providers like Encompass Digital Media, it’s safe to say we are allowed the audacity to continue doing so. Operating out of Singapore, Encompass manages mission-critical content for more than 100 broadcast television channels in the Asia-Pacific region.
“Play-to-air is a complex and demanding process. We don’t have the luxury of recalling a file in one or two seconds. It is a real-time process. We need to keep up a continuous flow of data so there are no interruptions in the broadcast. We therefore need a very high-bandwidth continuous data stream. Otherwise we will end up with black holes in our broadcast, which is, of course, unacceptable,” explains Aaron Shaw, Senior Vice President, Operations and Engineering at Encompass.
On average, Encompass requires 25 gigabytes of data storage for each program content. That’s the equivalent of close to 20 1080p HD movies. As another adopter of EMC Isilon scale-out NAS, it uses the EMC Isilon OneFS operating system to aggregate all resources into a single pool in order to provide cost-efficient, flexible and reliable broadcast services.
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Bringing Fantasy and Reality
Food for thought: the gap between fantasy and reality can at times be bridged by the simplest of prerequisites. In this case, it’s storage and its efficient use. Imagination, vision and belief. Never lose sight of these catalysts of progress. For with them, we’ll always find a way forward.
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