Interoperability, Virtualization Power IP

By Andrew Bowser
TVNewsCheck, January 25, 2018 (Read online here)

With industry standards now in place, IP workflow will be a major tech focus at the 2018 NAB Show in April, with new products on display not only to showcase their strengths, but also to show how well they can play with others.

“There'll certainly be a big centralized demo, but you'll also see a lot of smaller interoperability tests where people are demonstrating two, three, four pieces of [other] vendors' equipment on their own company's booths,” says Chuck Meyer, CTO production, Grass Valley.

Interoperability got a big boost in December 2017 with the publication of SMPTE ST 2110 Suite of Standards for handling professional media over managed IP networks.

When it comes to IP workflow, that standardization was "the most important achievement last year,” says Bryce Button, director of product marketing at AJA, one of the founding members of the AIMS Alliance, the consortium that advocated for an open-standards approach in the transition from SDI to IP.

The concept of moving from legacy SDI systems to a virtualized, IP-based approach “has been a major challenge and of interest to the broadcast business for quite some time,” Button says. “The difficulty was doing it in such a way that proprietary interests wouldn't derail the whole thing. As a company, there would be no purpose in bringing out an IP solution that just ultimately won't talk to somebody else's equipment.”

Now, equipment manufacturers and software developers are moving forward quickly to build ST 2110 compliant products. However, there are some loose ends to be tied up before true interoperability can be achieved. SMPTE hopes to publish some additional portions of the standards suite (such as support for compressed audio and video) in time for NAB.

“In 2018, a lot of pent-up, IP-ready software and hardware will be released, but their respective success will hinge on the widespread adoption of SMTPE 2110, which in turn depends on numerous tangential technologies to actually make the standard useful,” says Daniella Weigner, co-founder and managing director of Cinegy.

Moreover, there are a number of “security concerns lurking around the periphery of SMTPE 2110 that could stall a number of new products that are counting on it,” Weigner says. “We’ll have to wait and see, but I suspect we won’t have to wait long as the final pieces of 2110 are solidified in the next few months.”

While SMPTE’s timeline is subject to change, NAB attendees are certain to see plenty of ST 2110 products introduced at the show, and hear lots of discussions about how to migrate to IP and how best to work in hybrid environments in the meantime, according to Brian Olson, VP of product management, NewTek.

“Customers need to decide when or if to make the jump to IP right now, even if everyone agrees that the future of video is IP,” Olson says.

NewTek is supporting the evolution with conversion products that allow customers to use NDI, its software-based IP video protocol, alongside ST 2110 at any level, Olson adds.

The ratification of ST 2110 standards in early December 2017 was a “watershed moment” for the transition that increased demand for IP workflow products, according to Steve Reynolds, chief technology officer of Imagine Communications.

“When we were all in the standards development process, there were a lot of customers that were interested or that were monitoring the process, but we didn't see orders,” Reynolds says.

“Once 2110 got ratified, we started to see real orders coming in,” Reynolds continues, “and we started to see customers bringing designs to us that were built around 2110, trying to work with Imagine to understand where we would fit in their end-to-end design pattern.”

Reynolds says traditional facilities with large investments in SDI are starting to implement hybrid topologies that take advantage of new opportunities. For example, 4K is “not the simplest proposition” with SDI, and so a number of customers “have decided to build that 4K overlay using IP,” he says.

That trend will continue in 2018 as the SMPTE ST 2110 standards accelerate the deployment of IP infrastructures and adoption of IP, according to Mo Goyal, senior director, international business development, live media production at Evertz.

“With more installations of IP utilizing ST 2110, broadcasters will see the benefits of IP as being more than an interface replacement for SDI,” Goyal says. “IP opens the doors for agile and flexible workflows … [and] the key component to drive these new IP workflows will be advanced software orchestration and control solutions.”

Multiplatform distribution needs are another major driver behind customers making the transition: “They see the advantage of moving toward an IP environment, because it gives them a much more cost-effective platform for being able to do that,” says Reynolds.

Sports, particularly live sports, continues to drive developments in the industry, and there is accelerating interest in IP for both studio-based and remote sports productions, according to Wilfried Luff, head of marketing at sonoVTS.

“The move to IP is now irreversible,” Luff says. “Whether we are designing and integrating displays for OB vans, broadcast studios, or live events, we are staying very much across IP — but not forgetting baseband to ensure we deliver the most appropriate solutions.”

Vrtualization will bring broadcasters the “speed, economics and efficiencies” that help enable that move to IP, according to Ciaran Doran, EVP of sales and marketing at Pixel Power.

“We are already seeing broadcasters using Pixel Power technology to automatically create content for VOD, catch-up and OTT services based on business intelligence,” Doran says. “Automated, virtualized workflows slash the cost per channel.”

Moving forward, the transition to IP will significantly change how broadcasters think in terms of future infrastructure upgrades and equipment purchases, according to Andy Warman, director of playout solutions at Harmonic.

“Broadcasters need to think beyond the inputs and outputs being used today, and focus on what IT technologies can be leveraged and how to make the best use of IT infrastructure for monitoring and control purposes,” Warman says. “That includes provisioning the network to support the growing amount of new traffic, which includes broadcast and OTT content, to ensure everything runs seamlessly.”

Virtualization also means that core elements of a live production can reside anywhere geographically, and can be accessed on an as-needed basis, according to Deon LeCointe, senior manager, sports and IP solutions for Sony Electronics’ Professional Solutions Americas.

“With the connectivity that exists in the U.S. today, and the likely growth of that connectivity, we may be looking at a future where national or regional ‘Production Data Centers’ become the new norm for production of live events,” LeCointe says.

But virtualization will be only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to IP workflow-related discussion at the NAB show. “This year, it’s not marketing and messaging that’s driving the industry to talk about virtualized, software-based or native-IP workflows,” says Joop Janssen, Aperi’s CEO. “Instead, it’s the real-world deployments and the content creators and distributors using IP technology that are making the big changes in the broadcast industry.”

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