On one hand very interesting;
But I must say that I could read these sorts of technical but rather generally worded articles like this and others a hundred times over heralding and/or congratulating such technological breakthroughs in broadcast automation this way and still have trouble fully comprehending exactly what in this case is "OmniBus iTX" software (I assume? ) running on file servers (HP ProLiant in this case) actually does.
I wonder is it just me or is it difficult to really grasp the true significance of all this unless you are an engineer or technician familiar with this system who actually works there within DirecTV's L.A. broadcast facility?
Yay! Finally a post l I can answer. Omnibus is a company that creates automation hardware (and now, software - iTX). Automation is basically what makes TV shows, commercials, graphics (like bugs and promos) come out of a facility in the correct order. What a TV network does is create a schedule. This is the basic running order of the day or what show plays at what time, what graphics will appear on screen at what time, what commercial breaks to play, what subtitles or captions to put into the signal for certain viewers, when to go to local broadcasters, etc. In the very near past, this required a lot of software and hardware to ensure that it goes on correctly.
What Omnibus has done is create a piece of software, called iTX, which runs on a computer server, usually an HP DL365, using the video card Xena 2K. The way this server runs, is it basically takes this schedule (called a playlist) and puts it into a database. Then it takes all of the video and audio media, usually as MPEG2 or MPEG4, along with all of the graphics - Targa sequence, JPGs, and plays them out of the PCI card as HD-SDI.
The software is very very expensive, and is almost always custom tailored to each network's specific needs. Some networks own a facility where they play everything themselves, and send that signal either to a satellite, or via fiber optic to a cable or satellite operator. Some US networks that may not be able to afford their own facility or for some other reason can't support it (space requirements, personnel, etc.) will go to a playout location, such as the one DirecTV is running (or even in Europe or Asia for disaster-recovery). DirecTV employs hundreds of people, and has built all of the infrastructure and equipment to play out channels, insert commercials, graphics, etc.. In addition, they also field technical phone calls from cable operators all over the US in case of any issues or questions.) DirecTV has opted to use a new product, iTX to do this. The article says they have 80 (or 120) fully redundant servers. This means that they actually have 160 (or 240) of these servers. Each server has an exact duplicate, that plays out the same thing as it's twin at the same time. The setup at DirecTV will ensure that if theres ever a hiccup or server crash on a channel, the backup unit will automatically go "online" and be on the air while the problem unit is repaired (usually by itself without human intervention).
Due to the fact that it's software based for many of the components, it's actually cheaper to buy a separate server for each channel, as it will afford many many backup units to sit in place in case there's a problem, so the TV you watch at home sees minimal interruption.
Yes, I've used iTX and I think it's very well written, though it's only at version 1.2 or so at this point...