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The rampant adoption of all-IP networking infrastructures and continual advances in consumer electronics have allowed media content and services to evolve in tandem. Consumer requirements are intensifying with expectations of HD video, high data speeds, and superior audio quality – and will deepen with new, rapidly growing applications such as video conferencing and unified collaboration. The IP Multimedia Subsystem (IMS) architecture has guided leading media server vendors to offer powerful and flexible hardware capable of supporting various formats and applications. For hardware vendors to compete in this increasingly competitive market, though, they must provide sufficient support and exemplary added-value in their products and solutions.
Communication service providers (CSPs) and other media providers are ditching early proprietary platforms in favor of new scalable and modular open systems to harness several economic and technological benefits. Today, most leading media server vendors, including HP, IBM and Radisys, offer server architectures capable of easily scaling out to current and future application requirements. Though performance, cost, and reliability are always top priorities to solution investments, vendors need to incorporate a variety of value-adds to influence OEMs’ selection of embedded hardware to manage media and data content.
First, OEMs must support vast application/technical formats and standards, and clearly communicate them to prospective clients. Outside of processing power and memory/storage capacity, media providers want to know about codec/format support, RAID support, available operating systems, support for industry standards, and application limits (such as maximum concurrent video feeds) without having to dive through spec sheets. Radisys goes one step further and lists “revenue generating applications” directly on product pages clearly outlining the potential capabilities of given embedded hardware. The broader the support, the greater the addressable market.
Software is a critical area that OEMs can drive further value and revenues from media server hardware, but one with extensively more competition from ISVs and other hardware vendors. Alcatel-Lucent’s Centralized Operations Manager, for instance, is an element management system that consolidates and simplifies IMS and next-generation network management functions. Alternatively, ISVs tend to stick with application-specific solutions. Though in-house software development may be outside the scope of some current vendors, partnerships should be explored to satisfy this important application criterion.
Last, but certainly not least, technical documents and training offer untold ease-of-mind to end users when evaluating media-processing solutions. IBM offers extensive training, available online and on-site, spanning their broad portfolio of media management solutions and supported applications. Training, as is the case with IBM, can be developed into a formidable revenue stream and be a tremendous opportunity to strengthen brand loyalty among customers.