Hardware Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – January 2023

Software Connections

What happened to all the soldering irons? As we transition to increasingly connected software systems, a massive number of opportunities are becoming available.

Software is fantastic. The barrier to entry for anybody wanting to build software applications is only limited by their imagination and tenacity. With a plethora of available open-source software tools, such as the GNU C/C++ toolchain, it would appear anything is possible. Bash, Python, and C/C++ are all free to use and programming environments such as Microsoft’s Visual Studio and Eclipse IDE further empower anybody wanting to write some code and find solutions to problems. For those who want to go old-school and get a better understanding of how code really works then Emacs, VIM, GDB and objdump are all there just waiting to be downloaded and used.

Even now I find writing code on a remote server hundreds of miles away is a fantastic thrill. The code can be debugged, run in an offline environment, and then saved to a repository so that any member of the team can download it and modify accordingly. And this is where I think software infrastructures are really going to make a difference to broadcast facilities.

Monitoring and logging are critical tools for software developers working in live workflow environments. When a problem occurs, not only does it need to be fixed quickly, but we should also make sure it doesn’t happen again. Forensic analysis using logging information is key to keeping systems reliable.

For me, the greatest win of all is our ability to connect a computer to any other computer using HTTP and RESTful type connections. If we think back just ten years, then it was incredibly difficult to encourage different vendors to provide open protocols to exchange information between systems. They certainly existed, but their implementation sometimes felt like a bit of an afterthought. Fast forward to today’s software systems, and we see vendors almost falling over themselves to collaborate and provide accessible APIs.

I believe this collaboration has been driven by three distinct developments that have occurred over the past ten years: the barrier to entry for software is much lower, the internet has driven software connectivity, and broadcasters are demanding it. I’m sure most vendors would find themselves in a very precarious position if they refused to supply an API for their products or services, even when they are hardware based.

Broadcasters working at the cutting edge of technology not only need their software systems to connect to third parties, but they are demanding it to achieve the scalability, flexibility, and resilience that cloud and IP promises.

There is one caveat with all this software connectivity and that is security. Software connections are fantastic, but you really need to know what you’re connecting to, how and why. And most important of all, what level of access the recipient has to the broadcaster’s data and infrastructure.