Cisco launches Digital Media System

Cisco Systems entered the digital media technology market this week with three related products designed to help businesses create, manage and deliver live and on-demand video and other media to wired or wireless devices.

"We're seeing an explosion in the consumer world of digital media ... and the next stop is for businesses using digital media to get their message out," said Thomas Wyatt, general manager of Cisco's digital media management business unit.

The new Cisco Digital Media System (DMS) was developed inside the company's emerging markets technology group, which focuses on markets beyond Cisco's traditional networking buyers, he said.

The system, which starts at US$133,000 and is available now, includes three basic parts. There are two varieties of the Cisco Digital Media Encoder for IP encoding of various media formats: a Digital Media Manager to manage and archive media, and a Video Portal appliance to support simultaneous users who search and view content.

The entry-level portal supports up to 500 simultaneous users, Cisco said. It integrates with Cisco's Digital Media Manager and supports Windows Media, RealPlayer and Flash file formats. Support for the QuickTime and MPEG4 formats will follow later this year, Wyatt said.

The Media Manager aksi integrates with existing application networking services technologies such as Cisco's Application and Content Networking System.

Wyatt said the system could be put to a number of uses, including broadcasts of CEO keynotes, training of remote workers and communications with retail customers.

Cisco is already providing content in video and audio format for free, mainly offering news about Cisco products, with more than 100 video-on-demand segments per month. "This is just the beginning for Cisco," Wyatt said. "We see it as a big market."

Early adopter Brunel University in London installed two components of the system in April -- the Digital Media Manager and Video Portal -- to provide students with access to rich media, Simon Furber, network manager at the school, said in an e-mail interview.

"It's lived up to my expectation," Furber said.

Several virtual learning courses now use the DMS, and all students in virtual learning courses will be receiving media via DMS by the end of the academic year, Furber said. Information is being migrated at a "steady rate," he said.

Furber said the system "is very easy to use" and works with Windows clients right now. But the university hopes to add QuickTime and other media types when they become available.

The system also allows the university to "deliver rich media that can scale with our requirements," he said, adding that the school hopes the system can be used eventually to support video collaboration, virtual lectures and videoconferencing.

Ira Weinstein, an analyst at Wainhouse Research, said in a statement that Cisco's entry into digital media should help "pave the way" for the adoption of digital media communications among a variety of organizations.

Cisco is striving to provide a "more complete solution" with its DMS, although VBrick Systems appears to be the current leader in digital media infrastructure products, said Mike Goodman, an analyst at Yankee Group Research in Boston. Other companies such as Polycom and Tandberg provide videoconferencing software, hardware and related products.

The market for digital media infrastructure is large. "There are a whole litany of things companies can do with digital media and video [that] works well because people are visual learners," Goodman said. "Imagine seeing a CEO presentation compared to reading an e-mail from CEO."

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