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Harmonic takes transitional step to virtual world with new Electra family

Harmonic Electra X2

Harmonic Electra X2

Video technology provider Harmonic has launched the latest generation of its Electra product line, the Electra X family of media processors for broadcast and multiscreen content delivery. 

The Harmonic Electra X provides graphics, branding, and playout functionalities, as well as delivering full-frame Ultra HD live encoding, according to the company.

Powered by the Harmonic PURE compression engine, Electra X is an appliance-based media processor that supports formats and codecs including MPEG-2, AVC, and HEVC Main 10 profile over constant, variable, and adaptive bit-rate encoding schemes.

The launch of the latest generation of encoders in an appliance format follows Harmonic’s launch of its VOS software-based processing architecture at NAB next year, heralding its embrace of the new era of virtualized encoding and processing.

Explaining the decision to launch a new hardware device family, Harmonic’s chief marketing officer Peter Alexander told DTVE: “Most customers buy into the vision but many in the short term don’t have virtualisation capabilities in their teams and aren’t ready to move to a whole new architecture. We saw the need to create some migration steps.” 

Alexander said that broadcasters and operators were not yet ready to migrate to a fully virtualised architecture.

“It is about when they are ready to move. Operations and broadcast teams are not tightly integrated and there is limited virtualisation expertise. Senior executives see it as the direction to go,” he said. “The price and performance [of this platform] is the same [as with a virtualised platform]. Intel is now our hardware department and instead of rushing out to develop a new ASIC these are Haswell [Intel’s latest generation of chipset] based.”

Alexander said broadcasters and operators were looking for maximum flexibility and the ability to deliver multiple formats. “These days HD and SD are needed and everyone is looking forward to UHD,” he said, adding that customers are also increasingly looking to HEVC and that it is therefore important to have maximum flexibility in supporting codecs as well as constant and adaptive bit-rate.

“If customers want a box we deliver a box. However it is an Intel platform that leverages VOS capabilities. Customers can option buy a software agreement to move to virtualization when they are ready,” said Alexander.

The new platform comprises Electra X2 and X3. The X3 can deliver UHD at 60 frames per second with single-slice encoding. The X2 goes up to HD and can generate both CBR and ABR versions of content.

The X2 is on general release and has been bought and installed by a number of customers, said Alexander. The X3 is on trial. “There are only a few live UHD trials out today,” he said.

Harmonic’s Spectrum channel creation capabilities can be ported to the platform.

Tags: Harmonic, US