Middle Network promises commercial Web alternative

Movies and television shows aren’t the only things being created in Hollywood North: the Vancouver film industry has also given birth to the Middle Network, which its founders MidNet Inc. hope will become a commercial alternative

to the Internet.

The idea for the Middle Network launched in 1999, through a consulting contract with a number of studios to look at what they needed to digitize their workflows.

Each day shot footage, called dailies, needs to be transmitted from Vancouver productions back to Hollywood or elsewhere. Tilo Kunz, one of the consultants and now a co-founder and COO of MidNet, said the studios told them while they liked the neutrality of the Internet and that it allowed then to talk to each other and was affordable, they felt it lacked security and couldn’t give them the on-demand reliability they needed.

Studios can have $150,000 a day tied up in production for a single show, so the process needs to work smoothly. With a single movie weighing in at several terabytes uncompressed, Kunz said the Internet just isn’t feasible, nor is a private point-to-point connection affordable.

“”If the Internet wasn’t working and they were relying on the Internet, that would cost them heavily,”” said Kunz. “”They wanted the things the Internet could do, and the things it couldn’t do but some networks should be able to do — namely deliver advanced communications services reliably, affordable and securely.””

Working with application service providers and telcos, Kunz said MidNet contracts with telocs for local loops and inter-exchange bandwidth. The firm installs equipment in the customer premises and in a neutral co-location facility it leases from a third-party provider. Minimum bandwidth starts at OC3, or 155 Mbps, and goes up from there in multiples of OC3, dictated by demand.

“”It’s our equipment inside and out, and it is bandwidth that is private to us but owned by a telco,”” said Kunz. “”We’re not the whole solution, we’re just the data transport. We work with companies that provide applications services.””

MidNet launched the network commercially in August with a contract with the Vancouver branch of Technicolor Creative Services Canada, a major post-production company, to transmit data between TCS and a Vancouver motion picture production complex.

“”The film industry is a key for us because it represents probably the world’s most demanding user of data services,”” said Kunz. “”There are very high expectations, very little tolerance for failure, and they move an awful lot of data.””

Another Vancouver post-production company, Rainmaker Limited Partnership, will also be using the Middle Network. Working on TV shows like Stargate SG-1 and Smallville, Rainmaker president Barry Chambers said the firm will use the network to transmit data between Vancouver and Los Angeles.

“”We’re always looking at new technology,”” said Chambers. “”It’s something new out there, we thought we’d give it a go and see how it works.””

Chambers said Rainmaker has used the Internet in the past, as well as private networks that require an application on each end. MidNet use of fibre means that’s not necessary on the Middle Network.

“”We were attracted to the faster speed, and the security of a protected network,”” said Chambers. “”If we’re sending hour-long dailies to Los Angeles we don’t want to loose any information, and we need high-speed.””

In addition to the film industry, Kunz said MidNet is also now working with the oil and gas sector, and expects to be working with government, focusing on the health-care field, before the end of the year. Already online in Vancouver and Los Angeles, and connected in Calgary, Houston and Denver, Kunz said Toronto, New York and London, England are also set to follow.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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