Rotana embarks on US$10 million Linux implementation

Rotana, which produces and distributes Arabic songs and a cinema archive, is in the process of deploying a massive US$10 million Linux-based digital media solution.

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By  Maddy Reddy Published  October 2, 2004

|~||~||~|Rotana, which produces and distributes Arabic songs and a cinema archive, is in the process of deploying a massive US$10 million Linux-based digital media solution. Made up of a fault tolerant Linux cluster that comprises seven workstations, 10 broadcast servers and 14 Intel-based RedHat Linux servers; the system is currently home to more than 300 terabytes of digitally archived data. When the system is fully functional next year, it will house 1.2 petabytes of data and help Rotana store and manage its library of Arabic music, 1300 feature films and 5000 multimedia clips more effectively. In turn, this centralised repository will act as the cornerstone of Rotana’s plans to launch a global channel for the broadcast of digital Arab movies and its efforts to restore old Egyptian films and preserve them for the next generation. “The Egyptian film heritage was threatened by the deterioration of films and negatives. Many of them were broken or spoilt due to the [hot climate]. Some of the data is more than 100 years old [and] the biggest problem in preserving this Egyptian cultural heritage was finding a way of restoring them,” says Dr. Hala Farhan, regional director & manager of Rotana Egypt. “In order to [do this] and expand [our business] we have to have ready access to digital content. As such, we needed a solution which could archive, preserve, restore and broadcast our material,” she explains. Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal’s Kingdom Holdings Company’s investment of more approximately US$64 million last year provided Rotana with the funds it needed to establish a technology infrastructure of delivering on its restoration and delivery goals. Once Rotana had decided to implement a Linux based solution, it turned to IBM, its broadcast partner Ardendo and local integration partner Brain Waves. According to Amr Refaat, regional manager for emerging & competitive markets at IBM Middle East & North Africa (MENA), Linux was the ideal platform for the Rotana project due to its open standards and stability. “We chose Linux because of its open standards approach. We wanted to plug in any open standard compliant video equipment… With Linux, every app is talking to every other component and Rotana can hook in any kind of server and connect it to the platform from anywhere and access all the digital content over a local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN),” says Refaat. “Unlike standard data, video broadcasting is bandwidth intensive and needs fat pipes, which meant that the project demanded a different infrastructure. Linux allows Rotana to broadcast up to 2Gbits/s, high quality data without any delays. It’s a critical application where we cannot afford to have blank screens or delays during live broadcast.” As for the future, the 10-month project should be complete by next summer. When it is, Dr. Farhan is confident that the Linux-based system will be a key element in Rotana’s future success. “[We will be able to] will create new avenues of digital content distribution and this will help us in creating the biggest media empire in the Middle East and reach out not only in the region, but also to fellow Arabs in other parts of the world,” she says.||**||

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