IBC 2018 Reflections: Cisco’s Bryan Bedford, Yoav Schreiber, and Roger Sherwood on Broadcasting’s IP Revolution

It’s been more than two years since Cisco introduced its Media Blueprint, which charts a course for broadcasters to transition their operations to IP and the cloud. And with the popular sentiment at IBC that IP has officially arrived in the broadcast sector, Cisco appears to have some gained some genuine momentum in its push for IP-centric broadcast facilities. In addition to preaching the power of IP in Amsterdam, Cisco also joined Telestream and Cloudian in demoing an integrated workflow that allows media-production teams to fully virtualize and automate a large portion of their live at-home operations.

From left: Bryan Bedford, Global Industry Channel & Ecosystem Lead, Sports, Media & Retail; Yoav Schreiber, Product Marketing Manager of Service Provider and Video Solutions; and Roger Sherwood, global industry director, M&E

In Amsterdam, SVG sat down with Bryan Bedford, Global Industry Channel & Ecosystem Lead, Sports, Media & Retail; Yoav Schreiber, Product Marketing Manager of Service Provider and Video Solutions; and Roger Sherwood, global industry director, M&E to address the latest developments in the broadcast industry’s migration to IP, how IP and the cloud can enable at-home production, the company’s educational efforts, the importance of security in an IP-based world, and how they see the industry continuing to evolve – and consolidate – in the coming year.

With several broadcasters now relying on IP-based infrastructure, how are you seeing the industry’s workflows continuing to evolve?
Schreiber: Once you go to IP and move towards cloud, you start to look at how you can change the things that you’re doing. So, we’re seeing people experiment with more [at-home] production capabilities. Regardless of if you’re a broadcaster or producing sports or producing a film, the ability to remotely manage [resources], avoid having to send everyone on-site, and send content from site back to the studio at a much faster clip is really changing the operational model at its core. That’s what we’re seeing. People see that they can do things at the same quality, but much faster and more efficiently. We think we’re going to see a lot more of that in the next year.

Sherwood: When we first came out with the [Media Blueprint], people inevitably had the mindset of just taking out their baseband router and plugging this thing in and replicating the same [workflows] they already had. But people are starting to change their mindset and we’ve only just scratched the surface in terms of what we can now do with a unified IP network.

Can you provide an update on the IP-broadcast training programs you announced a few months ago at NAB?
Sherwood: Our training program is now live, which is very exciting for us. One of the main factors holding this back has just been a lack of knowledge. We understand that IP and the cloud can be scary for broadcast engineers, so we’ve now brought to market two global training courses through our standard learning team – the same people that run CCIE [Cisco Expert-level certifications]. These courses are up and running all over the world, and engineers can take the basic course or take the advanced course. Hopefully, that will help move the industry forward in terms knowledge around IP.

Bedford: We feel like IP adoption is finally [maturing] and we’re past the early adopter stage that we were in two years ago. The major broadcast vendors have now figured out their business models and their technology integrations. They are beginning to understand how they work with traditional IT vendors and how to coexist. And that’s why training programs like this have become so important. It’s a foundational step to helping scale the overall industry to IP. If we don’t do this, then we’re never going to see mass adoption, so we really feel like education is extremely important.

As more and more broadcasters make the move to IP, are security concerns and solutions playing a larger role?
Sherwood: Security was always a founding tenant of the Media Blueprint from day one. The challenge, honestly, is that we have not seen security become a top priority for broadcast yet. Frankly, I’m surprised that we’re not seeing much interest from our customers yet in terms of understanding security and coming to us to help them figure out how to protect [their facility]. The content is their crown jewel, it’s what they should  be protecting above all else. We have our Cisco Umbrella Security solutions that provide protection for your organization no matter what vertical you are in. Cisco is continuing to spend billions on acquiring and developing [security solutions], so I’m just hoping that we gradually see a rise in interest. As an industry, I just don’t think it’s a high enough priority yet. We’re here and we want to help, but we need the customers to come to us and want to engage and make it a priority.

What are the biggest remaining obstacles in reaching critical mass for the broadcast industry’s transition to IP?
Bedford: I think it’s really just time. I don’t see a big obstacle sitting out there right now since IP standards have been adopted. There’s a little bit of remaining technical integration and interoperability that has to happen at the vendor level, but most of that is really worked out at this point. It’s really just about getting in the queue for when you’re ready to do a [facility] refresh and then developing a strategy to go IP. There’s nothing that would hold anyone back at this point because almost all of the major workflows are in place. There’s not anything that would really stop it at this point in time; it’s just about time and/or budget.

As the IP transition continues, do you anticipate continued consolidation among broadcast-technology vendors?
Sherwood: I believe the number of vendors that are still in the space is going to have to decrease. In a typical workflow deployment today, there are potentially hundreds of vendors involved in an overall system – that will change with IP and the cloud. We’ve seen initial deployments where [a broadcaster] just wanted to replace this piece with this other piece. But now, we are seeing [broadcasters] actually looking at what they can get rid of. I think we will see more of that over the next 12-18 months. There is always talk of this industry consolidating and it certainly has happened over the past few years, but there are still way too many vendors to support this industry. With the move to virtualization and software, not everybody’s going be able to make that change from a business case. And so that transition has to take place and it will naturally.

How are you working to get system integrators to embrace IP and be more aware of IP-based infrastructure for broadcast facilities and venues?
Sherwood: One of the big things over the past year has been Bryan’s program, in which Cisco validates and certifies system integrators to go work with our customers directly on things like IP fabric for media and data-center [models]. We see it as a very important part of this evolution moving forward.

Bedford: We think it’s very important and we want to embrace the integrators as much as possible. It’s just a matter of making sure that we have the right procedures and training so we can support them in the way that we want to be supported. Many of them already work with us, but we want to continue to seek out those that who don’t.

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