By Dyke Hendrickson associate editor
Network Engines Inc. recently turned up the volume on its initiative to increase its corporate visibility by helping to produce a Net-based Aerosmith concert.
Network Engines, an 8-year-old company based in Randolph, supplied the videostreaming technology to send Aerosmith concert footage to Internet users.
All Aerosmith band members were outfitted with wireless microwave cameras which sent images from their locations on the stage. There were also tiny cameras focused on the band members, so viewers saw more than navel-eye views of the audience.
The Network Engines videostreaming technology provided numerous views simultaneously, allowing the cybercast viewers to select what to watch at a given time.
"I understand that about 125,000 fans were watching (on the Net) during the event," said Larry Genovesi, president and CEO of Network Engines.
"A lot of viewers were in distant areas where they probably couldn't travel to see the band. If you're in Boise, you're not going to go to Jersey to take in a concert."
Singer Steven Tyler's perspective of the 20,000-capacity crowd was captured by a camera attached to his scarf-covered microphone stand. A cam was mounted on a chain around guitarist Joe Perry's neck, and another cam was set inside the crown of bassist Tom Hamilton's hat. Drummer Joey Kramer's perspective was transmitted from a camera mounted across his chest.
Another feed gave a more traditional, real-time perspective of the show.
Executives and engineers of Network Engines are not groupies hoping to score free tickets and backstage passes to hip rock events. They are a collection of entrepreneurs and technicians that participated in the concert to extend their promising videostreaming technology.
The company was founded eight years ago as Powerstation Technologies. It provided primarily consulting services.
In recent years executives wanted to leverage the potential of the Internet, and in April, 1997, they secured $4 million from Pioneer Capital Corp. The company changed its name to Network Engines Inc., and began to create Net-based applications.
Today Network Engines manufactures and markets high-performance Internet Protocol Transaction Processing applications, such as Web hosting, thin-client server computing and videostreaming technology.
Corporate clients include the New York Stock Exchange and General Motors Acceptance Corp. In October, it introduced WebEngine, which officials say is the industry's first plug and play, enterprise-class web server appliance. Officials say WebEngine takes up little room and can scale to 256 WebEngines in a single cluster.
WebEngine was designed to support large Web-hosting centers, websites and electronic commerce sites.
The company also markets a P6000 Server, which offers the industry's highest-density architecture, and can run as many as 10 network engines in a single chassis and up to 60 processors in as little as 5 square feet. The P6000 can be used for IPTP applications, such as Web, e-commerce, thin client and video servers. P6000 systems run from $10,000 to $50,000.
It is the video-server capability that the company provided at the recent Aerosmith event, though they weren't alone in producing the entertainment.
Event partners included Music Boulevard, Microsoft Netshow, Rolling Stone Network, Columbia Records and Yahoo Net Events. Company officials say representatives of LiveOnLine, a Net-based music producer, was the firm that approached Network Engines for its hardware.
In recent months Network Engines has been adding staff and now has 30 employees, including Doug Bryant, chief financial officer; Bill Elliott, vice president of marketing; Tim Dalton, vice president of manufacturing; Len Julius, vice president of sales, and George Flate, vice president of OEM sales.
More growth is planned, though not necessarily more concerts.
"Streaming video is still in its infancy," said Genovesi, "and a lot of its future success depends on bandwidth.
"Although we never considered rock 'n' roll as one of our key markets, the clustering capability of our videostreaming server technology, coupled with the industry's ... dual Pentium II architecture, made this a perfect ... application for us."