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Xilinx Introduces Real-Time Server Appliances for Top Quality at Low Cost

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The sudden and dramatic increase in video consumption we've seen during the COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized what we in the industry have known for a long time: Video providers need to increase video quality and keep costs down, using every tool at their disposal. And while software- and cloud-based encoding and transcoding has moved into the forefront in the last decade, sooner or later it comes back to hardware.

The video transcoding toolbox has just gotten a bit bigger, thanks to two new hardware appliances from Xilinx, the High Channel Density Video Appliance and the Ultra-Low Bitrate Video Appliance. Both appliances are based on Xilinx's Real-Time Video Server reference architecture and integrate the company's Alveo data center accelerator cards.

"The demand for live video streaming services has never been greater and the current global pandemic is driving even broader adoption," says Aaron Behman, director of video product marketing, Data Center Group, at Xilinx. "Xilinx is meeting this demand with turnkey video transcoding solutions, powered by our Alveo accelerator cards, that address the needs for both the highest video quality and lowest cost per channel, and while delivering significant savings in power, footprint and total cost compared to software and GPU-based implementations—and with our adaptable FPGA architecture, service providers can continue to optimize video quality and performance even after deployment, unlike fixed architectures."

Aimed at delivering the lowest cost per channel, the High Channel Density Video Appliance can include up to eight Alveo U30 cards, which are powered by the Zynq UltraScale+ MPSoC, a power-optimized all-programmable system-on-chip with integrated video codec and graphics engines. It supports H.264 and H.265 and can stream up to 16 1080p30 channels per card.

For live video transcoding, the Ultra-Low Bitrate Optimized Video Appliance can contain up to 8 Alveo U50 accelerators, which include 8GB HBM2, 100GbE networking and a PCI Express 4.0 interconnect. This appliance can stream up to 7 1080p60 channels and eight full ABR encoding ladders at x265 medium preset.

Both turnkey appliances are built on the FFmpeg framework, allowing software partners to build applications to run above the standard FFmpeg layer. Value-added resellers (VARs) are integrating the Wowza Streaming Engine into the appliances, letting users manage live video with a web-based GUI application. Integration should be complete by the third quarter of 2020. 

The RT Server reference architectures are available in a 1RU rackmount form factor, and they support complete Docker and Kubernetes management capability for easy scale-out deployments, according to Xilinx.

The RT Video Appliances are available now via VARs or server OEM. Hypertec is one of the first VARs to offer an appliance optimized on the RT Server reference architecture. A company spokesperson says Hypertec has collaborated closely with Xilinx on the release of our upcoming 2U CIARA Appliance designed with a single-socket AMD processor that supports up to seven new Alveo U30 accelerator cards.

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