Hardware Infrastructure Global Viewpoint – November 2016

Making IP Networks Work For Video

Video engineers and managers understand broadcast signals and their correct operating parameters. Yet when it comes to moving those signals over IP, technical answers are not easy to find. The result is that many video engineers are looking for help in configuring these new media networks. I suggest it is time to build some common ground between the video and IT camps to develop some "best practices" we can all follow.

The traditional broadcast vendors may rightly claim their products work great over IT networks. They even provide supportive data like up-time statistics. Yet, a chasm has developed between IT and video, much of it focuses on new and undefined terms.

Two of the latest new terms are Hitless and Non-Blocking. As a video person I ask, what do they mean? Is there no vertical interval in IP, or at least not a real one? Is synchronous switching now hitless and what exactly does non-blocking mean?

We get it, IP works

The media industry is close to agreeing on IP stream standards. Supporting this work was an impressive demonstration at the Austin InterOp event and again at IBC at the Interoperability Pavilion. However, even with all this discussion on IP formats, I have yet to discover what signal formats the IP streams will contain and whether these streams need a separate network. Alternatively, will the media just be carried along with spreadsheet data and promo copy by the enterprise network?

Broadcast and media engineers and technical managers accept that IP networks work. But what changes may be needed to make them work with video? Click to enlarge.

Broadcast and media engineers and technical managers accept that IP networks work. But what changes may be needed to make them work with video? Click to enlarge.

We need some common language, terms and specifications. It may be time to put some work into actually creating suggested performance settings and configurations for media IP networks. These settings need to be in terms that broadcast engineers can understand, support and implement.

One thing discovered at the Austin event was that as the different vendors were together testing interoperability, the IT network engineers were making changes to the network. The result was that the IT people disrupted the InterOp testing by not telling anyone what they were doing.

Do we need a task force?

I believe what we really need is a joint task force. Let us combine the expertise of both IT and video experts into one place. Their goal should be to develop terms, preferred settings and configurations for an IP media network.

Equipment manufactures have been the primary driving force to media over IP. What about users' opinions? Image: Freepick.com

Equipment manufactures have been the primary driving force to media over IP. What about users' opinions? Image: Freepick.com

Instead of bending COTS configurations to service media or producing highly proprietary network products, how about bringing together some IT and broadcast experts to really figure out what the network architecture and configurations need to be? There are many new as well as old network parameters that, when combined, force engineers to go through a series of trial and error adventures when configuring a robust media network.

The results need to be more than just saying the words distributed networking or “top of rack” aka edge devices. One manufacturer claims to have removed the enterprise overhead for their broadcast network switch. Some vendors claim to be building IP switches with control panels that will simulate an SDI router operation. Now why would anyone do that because it defeats one of the main reasons for using IP?

It’s time to get smart IT network folks to sit down with smart broadcast engineers and define what a media network should look and behave like. This requires more than describing VLAN’s, subnets, multicast and Unicast. This is about describing a distributed architecture, mesh and fabric network complete with intrusion and threat protection—that handles media.

Give video engineers a vote

When one first examines the typical enterprise network, it is easy to believe it could store, move and manage media. However, when you overlay the unique demands of media and media workflow, the potential for problems become visible.

Media engineers need a place to express their thoughts on the industry's next technology platform.

Media engineers need a place to express their thoughts on the industry's next technology platform.

By combining the strengths of IT engineers with video experts, along with some experimenting and testing, these professionals should be able to define general optimal settings that will address concerns of media engineers.

The industry is begging for this.

It is time to stop the conversation that the IT guys don’t get it and the broadcast guys don’t want it. Instead, let’s put down our differences and work together. It’s time to reach across the aisle, share knowledge and expertise and develop some solutions. The result should be a solution that merges the cost and operational efficiency of IT with video to create reliable and high-quality video networks.

What do you think? Respond to me in the box below.

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