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IP Infrastructure Is Ready For The Challenge

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In this latest article, Tom Swan of system integrator dB Broadcast considers the extent to which IP / IT infrastructure is ready for all the challenges now and in the future.

Q: UK Systems Integrators have provided best-of-breed solutions in which the most suitable products have been provided from many different vendors. IP infrastructures are expected to enable the same best-of-breed approach and more easily, is this dB's experience to date?

With media organisations changing their deployment models to make increasing use of private and public cloud based solutions, that's a very broad question! If we focus in on a typical broadcast facility and the migration away from existing, industry specific, SDI and reference distribution infrastructure, the industry still doesn't have all of the standards in place that it needs to support an open stream exchange, control and architecture that meets all of the industry requirements. The situation is improving but we're not there yet.

Early IP based implementations that have been deployed are based on vendor specific solutions and have many non-IP aspects. Most broadcasters aren't interested in the level of vendor lock-in such solutions entail. That said, based upon the standards which are in place and becoming increasingly widely implemented, it is possible to architect a facility based on open standards and architecture today. dB Broadcast is doing just that.

What do manufacturers need to do to build client confidence in IP and IT networking for post, studios and OB live productions?

The major industry manufacturers need to move beyond the start of working together. There's also a skills perspective. This is a huge paradigm shift and with that a huge mind-set and skills shift for the industry. dB broadcast has been running extensive interoperability tests based on ST 2022-6 and -7 and the results have been good. We successfully exchanged streams between all the manufacturers taking part. Stream exchange was robust and reliable. We also ran a fairly extensive range of forensic tests. Some hardware performed better than others in response to things such as jitter and packet loss, but that is being addressed. We tested through network hardware from Cisco, Arista and Juniper, and all performed just fine. Manufacturer engagement was excellent. We're continuing this work into hybrid traditional broadcast reference and ST 2059 architectures.

Are we at the stage where a future proof facility can be installed using IP / IT infrastructure: one that can cope with all file formats and resolutions such as 4K, 8K and beyond?

A whole IP/IT facility today? No; by the end of the year, yes, I think we'll have most of the pieces, albeit with some interim compromises like a bit of 'old fashioned' reference floating around for example. For those requirements we know about, you can go a very long way to designing an extremely future proof facility today. It's worth noting that we're seeing some surprising new entrants from other sectors with great products that the media industry can make good use of. There are some areas where you're reliant on what left of Moore's law to do its magic to make things possible.

HDR HFR 4K editing is a non-trivial processing task. In this case, file storage and movement is fine (we've architected multi-petabyte scale storage, capable of moving files over SMB at many 100s of megabytes/second). It's the processing that is still pretty hardcore. Providing a good editing experience with complex timelines at a reasonable cost on COTS (commercial off the shelf) hardware will take a little (but not much) longer to get there.

If you look at SDI replacement, sure, it's no big deal to put in hardware that scales to >1500 10GbE ports and can support 10, 25, 40 and 100Gbps data rates, thousands of multicast groups and has excellent resilience characteristics. This will support all current known standards and should be good for some future ones that have yet to emerge! Then there's the coding and exchange of the media streams. The stream coding standards are in flux but this isn't so bad as they are variations around essentially the same set of technologies. Vendors know this and are releasing products which can be modified. But there's a big skills and organisational shift here. We can design and deploy such facilities but broadcasters need to start skilling up to support this exciting new infrastructure.

In a future article, Tom Swan explains how dB Broadcast keeps abreast of all the changes as the market transitions...


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In this latest article, Tom Swan of system integrator dB Broadcast considers the extent to which IP / IT infrastructure is ready for all the challenge