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Images Served to Order

(November 2003) posted on Tue Nov 18, 2003

A new kind of asset manager delivers the right image at the right time

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By Jake Widman

"The reason for OPI used to be for improving network throughput," says Tom Hallinan, Strategic Partner Manager for HELIOS Software. "Now it's for providing flexibility in the use of image formats." Because of that evolution, new image servers are also coming from the OPI world.

Helios, for instance, calls the new version of its Ethershare OPI product the "Helios ImageServer." Hallinan says the change was due to the addition of new functionality to the system, so that OPI is now just a small part of what it can do. Helios system has had ICC-based color management for about six years, says Hallinan, and now does server-based conversion of image formats, color space, compression, and resolution.

Xinet has seen the same kind of transition in the use of its FullPress server product. The product always used the company's own image-processing engine to automatically generate an FPO copy of stored images for OPI purposes, says Mark Mousseau, technical sales support engineer. "But back around 1996 or 1997," Mousseau continues, "people began to ask for 'Web-enabled FPOs.'" Xinet added that capability and has since built a suite of products that "allow you to take any graphical asset on your server and order it as something else," in Mousseau's words.

Via the company's WebNative Internet-based front end to the server, a user can select an individual asset and create a new version or select several files and batch-convert them all, regardless of original format. The WebNative Venture product adds digital asset management to the mix by recording all the information about different versions in the FullPress server into appropriate fields in an SQL database.

Cooperation and integration

As Xinet's WebNative/WebNative Venture pair of products shows, there's still a role for asset-management systems in a world of image servers. In some cases, it'd make sense to save some of these automatically generated images back into the system: you get the benefits of automation and the assurance that the image has been processed correctly, even if you don't need the just-in-time delivery. It might make sense for Venus Swimwear, for instance, to keep the images for this year in the system for possible future use.

While Xinet offers its own product, the vendors of other image servers are partnering with existing DAM vendors to offer integrated solutions. Adobe's partners Documentum and Webware have expressed interest in incorporating the Graphics Server into their offerings, and you can already buy a package integrating the Server with the DAM solution from MediaBin (which is being acquired by Interwoven). Similarly, Scene7 has just released the 2.5 version of the Infinite Imaging Platform, which works in conjunction with the IBM Content Manager. Putting the Scene7 product on top of the Content Manager enables a company to publish server-generated images right back into the content management system. And Canto, makers of the Cumulus asset management products, offers Helios Companion, which automatically synchronizes Cumulus catalogs with Helios server volumes as new images are generated.

The idea that having a way to make images automatically will save our assets may seem as likely to succeed as "paperless office" technologies did in freeing us from paper. But even if the results are more and still more digital images, the speed and reliability with which an image server can create them (and use an associated DAM system to keep track of them), should prove real benefits to many of us engaged in digital communications.

Jake Widman is Contributing Editor of The Big Picture. He can be reached at


Adobe Systems --

Canto --

Equilibrium Technology --

GISTICS Research --

Helios --

Scene7 --

True Spectra --