ViewCast Announces High-Density Niagara 9100 Series

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ViewCast today announced the availability of its Niagara 9100 series of live encoders, which are designed to allow multiple analog or digital inputs—in the form of composite or HD-SDI, respectively—for those situations that call for dense clusters of encoders.

The 9100 series is the latest addition to ViewCast's flagship Niagara product line, which was launched almost a decade ago. Some of the Niagara products we've reviewed were underpowered or had odd connector placement, so the company worked hard to get the right mix of power and polish to complement what it sees as a performance benchmark product. From the industry feedback thus far, they seem to have hit the mark.

"We started shipping the high-density, single-rack-unit Niagara 9100 in December, ahead of schedule," said Mike Galli, ViewCast's new vice president of marketing. "We had a number of customers issue purchase orders sight unseen the month before and they were adamant about getting the analog and digital versions of the 9100 as soon as possible."

"The analog input family starts with a products called the Niagara 9100-8A—the A is for analog—that has analog composite inputs," said Galli. "It is powered via CPUs on an advanced motherboard with space for up to four processors. Currently we have two processors, of six cores each, for a total of 12 cores. We're also doing research and development testing with Intel on the eight-core processors."

Galli claims that the input density on the analog inputs is such that the Niagara 9100 8A would be attractive to the surveillance market, as the price point for a fully loaded analog version is between $15,000-20,000 list price. Since showing off a prototype at IBC, the company also has been getting interest from cable operators and Tier 1 telecoms, Galli says.

The second Niagara 9100 unit is the 2D, which is a dual HD-SDI input box that provides density similar to Cisco's Media Processor line. Galli says the 2 processor, 12 core box can generate up to 12 1080p60 outputs (or one per core) at less than 70 percent CPU utilization. The current systems 8A and 2D are capable of 12 D1 or 2 1080i outputs, respectively, and that ViewCast feels they can get to 8-12 1080p outputs per box when Intel expands to 8-core processors.

"Our SimulStream software allows us to have has lower CPU utilization—on the same platform—than a product like Flash Media Live Encoder," said Galli. "We saw about 50 percent better utilization versus FMLE on a Lenovo C2 workstation, using a single processor with four cores, so we feel the advantage is scalable with multiple processors." 

When asked about the growth in performance of the general-purpose processor (CPU) versus the graphics processor (GPU) that had figured in to the Transitions' Best Workflows tests from late 2010,  Galli says he sees CPU processor performance growing to the point—at least for live encoding—that there may be an advantage for CPU-based systems when it comes to densities and power consumption.

"We are processor agnostic," said Galli, "so if we saw a reason to do live encoding with a GPU, we would consider it. Clearly the GPU has an advantage when transcoding files, but for our market—live econding—the difference is negligible enough to bring the GPU-CPU differential into question."

Like the 8A analog unit, the 2D dual HD-SDI unit price point hasn't been publicly announced but is "far less than $20k list" according to Galli.

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