Articles and whitepapers
NAS Media Servers - The Entertainment Hub of the
Digital Home (19/4/2006)
Daniel Putterman, Mediabolic
MP3 players, digital cameras, camcorders,
and digital video recorders represent the fastest growing segments
in consumer electronics (CE). As their adoption continues to accelerate,
consumers are discovering two infallible truths: using these products
generates a ton of data, and it all has to be stored someplace.
According to a recent report from Silicon Valley-based analyst firm
Coughlin Associates, the amount of personal and commercial content
generated per household is expected to grow to nearly 5 terabytes
of data in 2010.
Digital media explosion: over the next four years we will have on
average nearly five terabytes of personal and commercial content
stored in the home, in the form of digital photographs, ripped CDs,
home movies and downloaded video and music files. Note: does not
include backups or replicated data on portable devices. Source:
Digital photography is a prime example of
this growth. With film-based cameras, people developed all of their
photos and they could be selective about which pictures they would
keep. These days, it's tough to find a film camera, as many traditional
manufacturers are concentrating on digital imaging. But as we all
know, digital cameras let us snap away and simply accumulate all
of our photos on our PCs. Most of us never throw away the unwanted
Our digital photo collections, music libraries,
and personal and downloaded video content have transformed our PCs
into digital lockboxes, where our media is stored but rarely shared
with friends or family. As newer CE products are launched and the
demand for higher-quality media increases, the average size of every
file saved grows exponentially. Today's PCs typically have hard
drives of about 160GB or so. This creates the need for new, affordable
storage solutions with increased capacity and the ability to facilitate
multi-user sharing on a variety of device types.
Adding more storage
Adding an external hard drive solves the
capacity problem for a single PC user, but it doesn't address file
sharing for homes with more than one PC.
The next step up is a network-attached hard
drive. Consumers get the benefit of additional storage space and
can save their digital media content away from the PC. In homes
with more than one PC, a network-attached hard drive can function
as a file server. It also typically provides data protection, back-up
utilities, print server functionality, and supplementary expansion
options - all nice to have.
With a network-attached hard drive, PCs are the only point of access.
However, even though a network-attached hard
drive allows you to share content, you still need a PC to access
it. Have you ever huddled a group of people around a laptop or a
17-inch computer monitor to look at vacation photos or home movies?
Frankly, the home office isn't the most ideal place to relax or
The concept of digital entertainment in the
home is nothing new. The playing back of personal media - photos,
music, and video files - is transitioning away from the PC in the
den to the home theatre or entertainment centre in the living room.
But while many believe that the PC is central to the delivery of
media over a home network, there is a smarter alternative that reduces
the role of the PC in the digital home entertainment equation.
NAS media servers
Enter the network-attached storage (NAS)
media server. This new breed of device is shifting the network-attached
hard drive, once regarded only as a computer peripheral, into a
fully-fledged entertainment product. It offers all of the capabilities
and benefits of a networked drive with the added bonus of making
your music, photo, and video files available over the network to
any number of PCs and player devices located throughout your home.
With a NAS media server and a networked TV or network media player
in your living room, you can browse and play back all of your rich
content on demand from the comfort of your couch using a remote
control - not your PC.
NAS media servers extend the reach of multimedia content beyond
the PC to television and entertainment centres throughout the home.
Initially, you do need a PC to move your
files onto the NAS media server, but once that's done, you can power
down your desktop or laptop computer. With a NAS media server, your
content doesn't need to be stored physically near the television;
it can be located in another room or in a closet along with the
router. A NAS media server is a quiet, low-power-consumption, always-on
storage solution that makes your content more accessible than ever
Centralised media distribution
The best NAS media servers on the market
today provide centralised media distribution, with content management,
aggregation, and delivery. They also support multiple devices simultaneously.
With a NAS media server, one family member could listen to music
in a bedroom while another watches a movie in the living room and
a third enjoys a slide show of vacation photos - choreographed to
Miles Davis - on a network TV in the kitchen while preparing dinner.
NAS media servers and PCs can communicate simultaneously with multiple
player devices to stream smoothly and play back rich content and
applications over a whole-home entertainment network.
My company, Mediabolic, develops the entertainment
networking software that converts a standard network-attached hard
drive into a NAS media server. Our software enables consumer electronics
devices and computers to share content with each other, and our
media server technologies are used by a range of well-known OEMs.
The Mediabolic Linux-based embedded media server is certified by
the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), an organization that
publishes stringent standards for digital home device interoperability
in an effort to simplify set-up and use for consumers. A 'DLNA CERTIFIED'
media server will work with any other product designed to the organization's
Examples of NAS media servers.
Consumers are realising that their computer
hard drives are filling up with photos, MP3s, videos, and more.
Because of this, they are becoming savvier about how and where they
can store and access their personal media. In the not-too-distant
future, they will want their media libraries available to them no
matter where they are in the home. They will want low-power, always-on
media storage. They will want solutions that support high-definition
video. And they will discover that a NAS can function as more than
just a centralised back-up location for their data.
The digital home industry has come a long
way to make NAS media servers a simplified solution for the average
consumer. NAS media servers are evolving into the heart of the digital
home, taking the media experience beyond the PC and allowing consumers
to enjoy their personal media any time, in any room of the house
- all without having to fire up their PCs.
Daniel Putterman is president and CEO of Mediabolic,
Inc., provider of entertainment networking software that enables
manufacturers to create cutting-edge digital home products.