Network & System Orchestration Tools At IBC 2023

At the heart of virtually every IP infrastructure and its inherent IT network is a software layer that acts like a conductor to make sure the system is working smoothly. Some call it the orchestration layer because it instructs each device to do what it needs to do and exactly when. Others see it as a network manager, ensuring that signals get delivered when they should.

Logically therefore network orchestration requires a number of key elements: a network controller, programmable network devices that communicate with the controller, and network services (software) that launch and confirm the desired task has been completed. This occurs once the device has been located on the network, an attribute that has been difficult to implement until recently.

Within the Broadcast industry, the primary drivers for the increasing use of orchestration technology are the implementation of IP-based broadcast workflows and the increasing complexity of media networks. Network and orchestration systems have continued to develop new functionality and are now widely deployed due to new software designs that combine device configuration, control, and monitoring into a tightly coupled, unified user experience.

“More broadcasters than ever need to manage complex media networks and orchestration tools to reduce the complexity of managing video, audio, and data signals over IP networks,” said Steve Bilow, senior product manager, Infrastructure Software Platforms, at Grass Valley.

Network Management Resilience

Grass Valley (Stand 9.A01) will show new features and functionality for its GV Orbit Orchestration layer, which serves as a single, consolidated, configuration, control and monitoring package designed for the dynamic orchestration of broadcast media networks, whether they be SDI, hybrid or pure IP.

GV’s Orbit features a 1:1 redundancy configuration where two physical servers with physical IP addresses back each other up.

GV’s Orbit features a 1:1 redundancy configuration where two physical servers with physical IP addresses back each other up.

The most essential attribute of any system that manages a complete solution is resilience,” said Bilow. “GV Orbit, for example, has a 1:1 redundancy configuration where two physical servers with physical IP addresses back each other up. External systems communicate to the pair via a virtual address, so it does not matter to the external device which of the physical servers is active. That resilient architecture is regularly being made increasingly robust.”

He said that support for industry standards is also crucial. While there are many ways for devices to communicate, the industry is coalescing around Networked Media Open Specifications (NMOS) developed by the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA). System designers want NMOS compliance and they want to know that such communication is secure.

“Our customers also want to know that, as the media moves into the cloud, COTS hardware continues to become more and more powerful, and the world relies progressively more on software, we are not giving up on our many decades of leadership in video and audio infrastructure and production hardware,” said Bilow, adding that as more users adopt virtualized, cloud-based platforms like Grass Valley’s Agile Media Processing Platform, traditional network and orchestration systems like GV Orbit will become part of that ecosystem and will work in tandem with the company’s hardware products.

In today’s complex system architectures, customers also need confidence that, as network topologies continue to grow in sophistication, and standards like PTP mature, their Orchestration solution is flexible enough to adapt.

“That’s another reason why GV Orbit will continue to adopt technologies that are used in the most forward-looking tools like AMPP, to ensure that the platform continues for years to come,” said Bilow.

Building A Unified User Experience

Among the new features of GV Orbit on display Grass Valley will launch GVO-Tally, a tool that is used to manage live production switcher tally between the company’s switchers, cameras, and multiviewers.

“Orchestration systems are increasingly integrating configuration, control, and monitoring into a tightly coupled, unified user experience,” said Bilow. “For example, GV Orbit can monitor network traffic to automatically detect and resolve problems in the same user interface where Grass Valley and NMOS-based third-party products can be dynamically re-configured to meet ever-changing workflows and production needs in live broadcast environments.

“However, there’s more to this unification,” he said. “Orchestration solutions also perform the duties of router control and even include production-assisting capabilities like tally management.”

Bilow added that network and orchestration systems provide many benefits to media facilities. They reduce costs and increase efficiency because they minimize manual data entry requirements and thus errors. They make systems more flexible because components may be dynamically added, removed, and reconfigured. They also save space and labor costs by integrating tools like GVO-Tally into an orchestration server rather than relying on external Tally management hardware with additional rack space and cabling needs.

“[Network and orchestration systems] make facilities more reliable by helping engineers identify anomalies before they become customer-viewable errors,” said Bilow. “And, they facilitate increasingly disparate remote, cloud-based, and hybrid workflows by managing traditional video and audio tools and software-based workloads in a unified environment where everything is configured, managed, and controlled in a single toolkit.”

Lawo’s VSM network management software and its new HOME control layer have been integrated to form a single overarching control system that can manage all of the HOME applications.

Lawo’s VSM network management software and its new HOME control layer have been integrated to form a single overarching control system that can manage all of the HOME applications.

Device Management Brings Workflow Advantages

Lawo (Stand 8.B90) will show its HOME and VSM control layer software platforms tightly integrated to form a single overarching control system that can also manage all of the new HOME applications.

“VSM is Lawo's broadcast control system and remains the first choice when it comes to mapping customer-specific workflows in the day-to-day operation of broadcast systems,” said Axel Kern, senior director of Cloud & Infrastructure Solutions, at Lawo. “In addition, it has a unique variety of clever system functions and logics that make it practically an all-purpose weapon for all conceivable workflow requirements.

“To further develop and modernize these functions, there are also efforts to bring HOME and VSM closer together,” he said. “This brings advantages, for example, in device management. HOME knows all devices in the system and can transmit them and their resources to VSM via a broker connection - ad hoc and dynamically.”

This, Kern said, eliminates the need to configure device connections, signal paths and signal layers in VSM, resulting in drastic time savings. Time that is then available for mapping workflows. This marks the beginning of a series of integration steps between HOME and VSM, which will be gradually developed and introduced to the market over the coming months.

“Over the past few years, the focus in our industry has shifted significantly towards Software-as-a-Service, and thus towards highly scalable production solutions which can be very dynamically adapted to individually combined and temporary applications,” said Kern. “This requires hardware-independent software solutions that can be activated and deactivated as needed and operated dynamically on host platforms - the principle of apps running on standard servers. During operation, easy and quick access to apps is important, via central UIs and without having to understand the system mechanisms in the background.”

This, he said, is where network and system orchestrators like HOME have become an indispensable part of efficiently operable, highly scalable SaaS systems - which are increasingly used in live productions today.

HOME also allows the complete control of functions of individual devices and apps via direct access to system parameters, as well as the routing of streams of all kinds between devices.

“However, the pure functionality is in the foreground and not the integration of customer-specific workflows,” said Kern. “This area was, is and will always be the [sweet spot] of VSM.”

This year the HOME platform’s capabilities have expanded to include a growing range of HOME Apps. A suite of software based processing tools, deployed as cloud-native microservices and accessible via a series of start/stop buttons. 

Among many other functionalities, HOME manages access to processing tools for different users and groups. Tools can include apps, Lawo-native and third-party edge devices, simultaneously, and provides full access to these dynamically managed resources in its registry via control interfaces connected from external sources.

Other articles in this IBC 2023 'Show Focus' series:

The Broadcast Bridge will be at the IBC Show - Stand 8.F01. Please come and see us, get a copy of our free book on 'Scalable Dynamic Software For Broadcasters' and share your thoughts on what we do and what you would like to see from us in the coming year.

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