SVG Europe Forecasts 2015: Steve Reynolds, CTO, Imagine Communications
The implications and practicalities of broadcasters pursuing a managed transition to IP is the focus of SVG Europe’s latest 2015 forecast, delivered by Imagine Communications CTO Steve Reynolds.
The media broadcast industry is entering an exciting period of transition. Changes we will see in 2015 and beyond will shape the future of business models and revenue opportunities like never before. Proprietary hardware and legacy systems will see an accelerated migration to IP-enabled, software-defined networks and cloud-based technologies.
A critical question about this transition, however, is: ‘How can broadcasters continue to leverage their existing investments in traditional video infrastructures and operating processes, and still effectively manage this transition to an IP future?’
There’s little doubt that platforms built on IP, software defined networks (SDN) and the cloud, provide the freedom to grow, change and adapt. Technology advances have accelerated the prospect of handling content – real-time streams as well as packaged files – over an IP network. In addition, the use of standard, commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) IT hardware for many of the functions performed in the broadcast network, representing a major breakthrough and huge cost savings.
The shift to COTS hardware and software is not new. IT organisations within broadcasters have been using software plus COTS hardware for a number of years, and they have seen the benefits of improved flexibility, interoperability and reduced costs. COTS hardware is generally less expensive initially and benefits from Moore’s Law cost reductions. Broadcasters still need specific, targeted software to complete specific functions, but dedicated, special-purpose hardware will continue to be phased out over time.
Traditional broadcast hardware and baseband connectivity will be around for a long time. But the transition to an IP-based future requires a seamless evolution where broadcasters implement a hybrid infrastructure in migrating some or all of the baseband signal transport, management, and processing to IP.
Imagine Communications, for example, is creating hybrid platforms for video infrastructure that work with both legacy technology and IP. It is true that baseband routers will remain hardware-centric by design, but the key is not to presume that legacy transport will disappear. Our approach is to enable a seamless on-ramp/off-ramp between IP and baseband transport via our SDN-based media orchestrator. This ensures that tomorrow’s IP-based workflows are managed transparently with today’s workflows.
While every broadcaster has different timetables for migration, their focus should be to maintain the flexibility to transition at their own pace to the software-centric, all-IP world instead of requiring ‘forklift upgrades’ to the network. Their operations and requirements are different, and their technical infrastructures are different, so each transition will be individually developed to suit their specific needs.
These are very exciting yet challenging developments for our industry. It is important that broadcasters find a technology partner who understands the positive potential of transitioning to IP-centric operations. They should be able to work with them to develop their own transition plan, at their own pace, and in conjunction with their current capital investments in baseband technology.