Blog Post

Blackwave Puts Hard Disks to Work for Video

After quite a long time in development (we last wrote about the company in 2007) Blackwave today announced its first production system, the Blackwave R6, an appliance that uses hard disks optimized for video storage and delivery. It also said its first customer deployment would be with the content delivery network CDNetworks.

Acton, Mass.-based Blackwave, which has raised $20 million and brought in some new technology executives over the last year, broadened its strategy with this release, said CTO Mike Kilian, who joined in November. Where in the past Blackwave viewed its product as an isolated appliance and focused only on progressive download, now it’s approaching more of a “CDN in a box.” The new release supports Windows Media and Flash as well as HTTP delivery.

Kilian said the company is especially looking to serve wireless providers as they build out video infrastructure. It has seen particular interest for its product in Asia, especially Japan.

By optimizing conventional disk drives for video, Blackwave can offer a viable and cheaper alternative to solid-state drives. It brings the price for delivering a 3.5 Mbps stream to under $20, said Kilian. Some of its special sauce is in the real-time scheduling of data as well as avoiding overprovisioning of disk space. Those tweaks improve on addressing some common strains induced by video — for instance, big bursts of concurrent watchers, or on the other hand, UGC that’s only seen by a few people.

While hard disks are generally slower than solid-state drives, Blackwave says its video-specific software can improve the rate at which data is read from a disk by 5 to 10 times. But as it gets into wireless, the variety of formats that a video file needs to be available in increases dramatically, so real-time transcoding might make more sense than storing all those versions of a piece of content. Kilian pointed out that you can address most of a mobile market by being compatible with its most popular handsets. And over time, one can only hope mobile video will get less complicated.