Thought Leadership: Imagine Communications’ Mark Senecal assesses the transition to IP

Imagine Communications’ vice president of product management, network and playout, Mark Senecal

In the latest Thought Leadership feature with one of SVG Europe’s Platinum sponsors, Imagine Communications’ vice president of product management, network and playout, Mark Senecal, discusses the company’s leadership in the sphere of IP, how it is helping customers towards an all-IP world, and how that transition is going to be reflected on its stand at IBC 2017.


“Broadcasters are still in the early phase of transitioning to IP. Right now, the way we see it, a number of customers have already migrated over to IP, others are using it as a reference architecture, while others are exploring it. We have a number of customers using IP in that SMPTE 2022 space, and others are using our routers to transition over to IP. Using our gateways and Platinum IP3 router, which adds hybrid IP connectivity to the capabilities of our proven routing line to customers with even the largest system requirements, people are enabled to move to IP; they can use SDI, and gradually move over to IP.

We also introduced the Selenio Network Processor (SNP) at NAB, the industry’s first pure-IP processor. With its introduction, we have continued to forge ahead with the delivery of innovative solutions for the new broadcast reality of IT-based infrastructures. The SNP platform offers IP-to-IP processing capabilities, handling uncompressed UHD signals based on the SMPTE 2110 specification for transporting media over IP networks. This is our next generation processor for the IP world, bridging the gap into the SDI world very quickly. It has powerful processing capabilities and we are hard launching it at IBC.

Hybrid connectivity

On what extent hybrid connectivity will continue to be a common approach, and for how long, it really depends on the type of broadcaster you are, and especially in the sports world, whether you’re an OB van provider or not. OB van providers are moving over to pure IP, with edge devices that can take in SDI or other interfaces and move those into an IP network. Once you‘re in the IP world, you are able to easily manipulate sources and reconfigure resources that you’re actually physically connected to.

The way Imagine sees it, there is a transition going on and we have shifted to IP-based technology to help our customers. But we see that we need to support all of our customers; we are seeing very strong transition and interest from many customers, and interest from the rest of them. The questions they are asking are how can they get to IP, and what is the timescale. So from Imagine’s perspective, we’ve definitely broadened our portfolio to encompass all of our customers’ needs, as a reflection of the shifting patterns of connectivity.

Leadership role

The extent to which Imagine feels a responsibility to take a leadership role in this area is very strong. Imagine is one of the founding members of the AIMS Alliance, which was established to provide an IP roadmap to which all members can work towards, accelerating the transition from SDI to IP to cloud-based capabilities. This fully-IP roadmap started with SMPTE 2022 and is moving towards 2110. With 2110, we believe that’s where all manufacturers will standardise.

We’ve been a strong proponent of the IP roadmap, and it’s not just about a single manufacturer roadmap. As with SDI and its widespread use, you need to be able to do the same in the IP world. As a broadcaster you need to feel confident that you can interoperate between one manufacturer’s products and another. At our booth at IBC we will have products from several other manufacturers to demonstrate that interoperability; no one manufacturer does it all.

IBC objectives

Across the board we will be using IP on our booth at IBC through every aspect of our portfolio, from routing and playout to ingest, and the monitoring of all signals in SDI as well as 2110. Imagine will use IBC 2017 to provide real world proof points of how we are assisting several of our customers, through openness and the practical application of innovation, to move mission critical live, playout, distribution and business operations to software-based, virtualised environments based on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) equipment.

An additional IBC 2017 objective for us is to demonstrate how we are assisting broadcasters, distributors and other media companies in stretching the boundaries of their businesses and generating new monetisation opportunities through the creative integration of broadband networks into their content distribution strategies. The ability of broadcasters to complement over the air transmissions with the two-way capabilities of internet-based distribution, for example, holds the potential to redefine the competitive positioning of broadcasters in the media and entertainment ecosystem.

Imagine will also unveil additional details of its Open Zenium programme, introduced at NAB in the spring. The Open Zenium programme is designed to stimulate innovation through a commitment to collaboration and transparency by sharing source code to the Zenium microservices library with a community of Imagine customers and partners.

Zenium is Imagine’s pure microservices platform for building smarter, more efficient and futureproof media operations. Open Zenium provides media companies with the ability to customise, optimise, modify, design and deploy next generation workflows and services of efficiency, scalability and performance, as well as gain access to a vibrant software community backed by teams of developers, architects and DevOps engineers.

IBC will also mark the European debut of several product innovations from Imagine, including the SNP. SNP is designed to usher in a new era in live production, optimising both studio and mobile facilities to take full advantage of the performance, agility and efficiency benefits of IT-based infrastructures, while at the same time easing the upgrade of operations to support UHD picture quality. The most recent enhancements to Versio, the company’s integrated playout solution, will also be featured at IBC.

Imagine is accelerating the transition to a technology foundation that is built to withstand the blistering pace of change in the media and entertainment industry.”

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