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Editor's Blog and Industry Comments

New reference design brings performance and scalability to DVR suppliers

19 January, 2010
As OEM manufacturers of network video recorders and DVR systems battle with lower time-to-market and the changing face of video surveillance, one manufacturer is offering a single scalable reference design that may provide the answer
Over a long period of time, CCTV surveillance installations were comprised of analogue cameras connected to coaxial cables that routed video dutifully back for display on a wall of CRT monitors.

Responding to the demand for scalable installations and improved performance, suppliers have more recently been exploiting advances in consumer electronics and touting high definition video, flat screen LCD monitors, terra-bytes of digital storage, and scalable compression.

For OEMs to maintain a presence in the increasingly technologically diverse marketplace, they must adopt reference designs to reduce program risk and time to market. Among the many reference designs on the market, one solution stands out. The VRM6016 from Stretch is a hybrid, standalone DVR design that incorporates most of the newest technologies into a single scalable platform. The scalable nature of the design means that whole product portfolios of derivative products can rapidly be brought to market.

A reference design is essentially a hardware and software "template" produced by electronics manufacturers which contains all the base functionality and capabilities that an OEM manufacturer may need. The OEM can then customize the reference design and build it into a final product. In this way, the OEM uses the expertise and economies of scale of the supplier base, thus reducing time to market and keeping development costs down. An unfortunate consequence of this approach, is that a product portfolio is built that has no commonality of design approach or programming methodology within its members.

Not all reference designs are created equal, though. The VRM6016 from Stretch is so scalable in nature that it forms the heart of a diversified portfolio of products that, being based on a single reference design, share a common programming interface. The design uses the immensely powerful software configurable processors that are the hallmark of Stretch products. Mark Oliver of Stretch explains further:

"Software configurable processors achieve extremely high computing performance by creating custom instruction sets within the processor core," he told me. "With the S6000 family," he continued, "Stretch took the concept one step further by including a high-speed inter-chip bus on each processor that can be used to move data around at high speed without intervention from the processing element itself."

With this ability, arbitrarily large arrays of processors can be built to scale the computing bandwidth to whatever is required by the task at hand. Stretch realized, though, that providing the computing capability is only half the problem. For an OEM, the creation and support of the software application is a significant burden.

"To overcome this," Mark said, "Stretch then produced an abstraction layer that scales with the processor array to provide efficient access to the computing resources while shielding the programmer from the detail of the underlying architecture."

Through this approach, Stretch produced highly optimized application code that can be accessed through a simple API and scaled across multiple processing elements. In this way, a single application can be written and run on systems with different numbers of processors.

The VRC6000 Series of PCIe DVR add in cards is a good example of a reference design family that makes best use of this processor's advantages. The VRC6004 has a single Stretch S6000 processor and can capture and compress 4 channels of D1 video. The VRC6008 has two chips and eight channels and the VRC6016 has four chips and 16 channels. A single host application can access any of the VRC cards (or combinations of them) and take full advantage of their capabilities without being altered in any way.

For many OEMs, the VRC6000 Series broke new ground in time-to-market as development on one design was exploited within days to expand the portfolio with products based on cards with different channel densities.

Though the VRC6000 Series demonstrated the scalability of the underlying hardware, the series comprised several cards with different hardware interfaces depending upon the channel density desired. When designing their hybrid, standalone DVR platform, Stretch strove to create a "one size fits all" design that could be scaled to meet the requirements of the end product while retaining the same hardware architecture and software interface.

"With the VRM6016," continued Mark, "Stretch has demonstrated the incredible potential of software configurable processing technology. With this new design, we've created a single versatile development platform that can form the heart of a highly differentiated product portfolio. The common software interface and hardware architecture ensures that products can rapidly be brought to market and will share the same application code. This not only speeds time to revenue, but also reduces cost of ownership by exploiting the advantages of software development across the entire product portfolio."

It seems clear that unprecedented price performance can be demonstrated by products within a portfolio that retain a single, common programming model and share application compatibility. Not only will time to market and program risk be reduced, but cost of ownership of the entire portfolio will be reduced as development and support costs are slashed.

As technology in the surveillance market continues to advance, and with end users expecting low time-to-market and correspondingly low costs, reference designs that enable this to be achieved across product families will bring the advantages that OEM companies are looking for. With the VRM6016, Stretch is demonstrating leadership in the market by delivering a single scalable reference design that can be used to rapidly gain market penetration with new technologies while retaining low cost of ownership across a portfolio. Stretch has clearly understood what it takes to succeed in the market place.
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