Vantrix CEO Jean Mayrand and HP VP Server Engineering Tom Bradicich, join Steve Waskul for a discussion on media transcoding and delivery using the HP Moonshot with the Intel® Xeon® processor E3.
HP’s Dr. Tom Bradicich and Vantrix CEO Jean Mayrand discuss how the collaboration between HP and Vantrix has opened the door to truly dynamic workload optimization. In this Interview from NAB Show 2015, Steve Waskul, Dr. Tom and Jean first explore how HP’s Moonshot system has allowed Vantrix to evolve via extreme efficiency and utilization. Later they discuss the new possibilities their partnership has opened in being able to transcode large amounts of data on the fly.
After a brief introduction of his guests, Steve begins the interview by asking Jean, “What was your initial inspiration for Vantrix?” A spinoff of VoiceAge, the company who owns the audio speech pattern for the GSM cell phones, Vantrix started out as their product division, Jean shares. They’ve grown along with the ever-evolving technology, Jean continues. “Now we’re in the 4K TVs.”
“Do you find,” Steve wonders, that there’s an advantage to working with a small platform that is so bandwidth dependent? In reply, Jean says that Vantrix is always on the hunt for high performance environments, so they were really excited to work with HP’s Moonshot platform.
Taking this opportunity to share more about the Moonshot platform, Dr. Tom explains that Moonshot is a converged platform, “meaning it has servers, CPU and memory converged with switches, power supply and manageability all in a single box.” The box, he continues, allows for greater density and deployment at lower power. The 45 cartridges in the box can house up to 4 servers per cartridge. Basically, he finishes, the high efficiency and utilization allows a company like Vantrix to “use all you buy, and buy only what you need.”
Addressing Jean, Steve wants to know what key things he saw in the HP Moonshot platform when first introduced to it. Jean first comments on the desirability of having the CPU and GPU together; it allows them to do 15,000 frames per second of encoding.
Amazed at this speed, Steve asks, “How do you configure for that particular box?” Jean says they “combine within the Moonshot the ability of OpenStack, the virtualization of the GPU, and the media processing.” Despite the large number of servers, Jean says they can operate them as a single unit for processing. For example, he smiles, a one hour movie will only take them 30 seconds “to do all the rates you need for AVR.” With 245 patents, Jean says they inject some of their own technology into the Intel video processing capabilities.
So which Intel processors do you use? Steve asks Jean. Vantrix uses the Intel E3 processors with HD graphic engine, 4 cores. Tom comments that the GPUs in Moonshot are actually a convergence of the GPU- “effectively an application accelerator- and the same silicon as the Intel Xeon processors.” The combination of this technology and Vantrix’s skillset has allowed Vantrix to perform multiple tasks on a single server. “This is profound,” Tom explains, because your IT department then only has to learn one server. Additionally, he beams, “looking at 100 HD streams per rack unit” is record breaking.
“Is your solution on Moonshot in production then?” Steve wonders. Right now, Jean says, they are utilizing Moonshot to multi-task while broadcasting. For example, they have the ability to easily shift the cartridges from transcoding to streaming should demand for a particular show peak.
“So in our case if we were to do broadcasting, like we are here,” Steve wonders, “we could figure out a great solution for streaming and scalability by working with the Vantrix team to design a system based on Moonshot?” In reply, Tom says that both the Vantrix software stack and the hardware are scalable. The Moonshot is doing two things, he says: the compression algorithms and transmission algorithms “for both here and a co-location that feeds into a CDN.”
Nodding, Steve agrees that from his own experience it has been relatively easy to transition cartridges from those in the studio for broadcasting to those in a data center. “I would imagine,” Steve queries, that in a bigger scenario with 100s of Moonshots the accessibility to allocate resources is still the same? Agreeing, Tom says that the ease of mean time to configure or replace is one of the 7 benefits of using Moonshot. He also says that it’s very easy to test new technologies on the Moonshot because of its modularity.
Acknowledging HP’s outstanding reputation in the field, Steve wonders how easy it was to adopt HP technology. With Moonshot, we were up and running very quickly, Jean responds. He says operating with an open stack environment is key in moving configuration from testing to production “in a snap.”
How was working with the Intel software services group? Steve asks. “When we got approached initially by Intel,” Jean shares, Intel had just launched their media SDK. Continually working with Intel allowed the Vantrix team to provide feedback for each new version Intel launched and enjoy the advancing working relationship, he explains. “ What we’re doing with that technology is on the network side of the equation.”
“How’s your anticipation with the customers been leading up to NAB show?” Steve wonders. Our customers, Jean comments, really appreciate the large content of the media they have to process, but now they can get the Moonshot and Vantrix software and be live in a few days.
Now, how long have you been working on Moonshot? Steve asks Tom. “One year, one month and two weeks,” he laughs. Taking the opportunity to share about HP’s engineering services, Tom says they provide “the white glove treatment,” greatly reducing the deployment time. Jean says the Vantrix team provides top- notch training and support for deployment as well, working in tandem with HP.
“Is the solution so fast that I could do all my transcoding on the fly?” Steve asks. Or is it better to transcode, store content, and then have Moonshot connect to the storage for distribution? Actually, Jean smiles, that’s a new capability we’re announcing at NAB. Now we can transcode on the fly for consumers using their varied mobile devices, he divulges. “On the Moonshot today you can operate today 450 1080p channels live transcoding in one box.” It has now become economically feasible to truly create a personalized delivery channel for each user, he says. Jean is also confident that the market is going to rapidly change as the fixed box model is quickly becoming obsolete.
Wrapping up the conversation, Tom says that the whole premise of the Moonshot is “workload optimized.” Their goal has been to create a solution that optimizes the application and workload at hand. This also means, he explains, that optimization can occur in a dynamic way as needs change through a live event, business or season. Certainly the positive results seen through their collaboration with Vantrix have demonstrated what a dynamically optimized workload solution looks like.