Glenn LeBrun Issue: EMEA 2015
Article no.: 5
Topic: Hype buster: The top seven business-transforming benefits
of transitioning to IP
Author: Glenn LeBrun
Title: VP
Organisation: Imagine Communications
PDF size: 261KB

About author

Glenn LeBrun, Vice President of Product Marketing, Imagine Communications

As Vice President of Product Marketing at Imagine Communications, Glenn LeBrun is responsible for product, strategic, and technical marketing. He has been in this role since 2013.

Prior to this, Glenn led product and strategic marketing at GENBAND for a decade, and prior to that spent over a decade in product management and marketing at Bell System.

Article abstract

In Europe we are seeing some of the biggest names in the industry – and some smaller, forward-looking players – testing the waters through proof of concept exercises to ensure that all sides truly understand the challenges, benefits and practicalities of IP production and playout. 

Full Article

The promotion of IT equipment and IP software as the future destination of media operations is gaining momentum. Broadcasters, content providers, distributors, analysts and a few solution vendors have been trumpeting the merits of IP for the past year or more.
By now, just about everyone is aware of the higher-layer benefits of moving more and more of their video operations to IP:
• The data-carrying capacity of Ethernet is expanding at a much faster rate than SDI, reducing the cost and complexity of transporting higher-resolution signals.
• The IT ecosystem dwarfs the baseband infrastructure market by several magnitudes, creating economies of scale that will enable media companies to dramatically reduce capital and operational costs as they supplant baseband gear with IP.
But is there more to be gained from moving to IP — a migratory process laden with cultural and procedural challenges — than economies of scale and potential operational efficiencies?
Breaking through the hype
The answer to that question is an unambiguous “yes.” The bandwidth efficiency and price/performance benefits of IT technologies are substantial. But that’s not all there is to IP. Buried beneath the growing hype are real and tangible business benefits from moving to IP. Media companies across Europe can work toward substantial improvements in security, reliability, agility and their ability to compete in an evolving ecosystem by making a thoughtful and calculated transition from SDI to IP.
What follows are seven of the most critical business-improving benefits of IP:
1. Accelerate technology transitions. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the flexibility and efficiency benefits of moving processing and distribution workflows to a software-only environment. Transitioning functionality away from discrete hardware to virtual environments is a foolproof formula for future-proofing your business.
Remaining competitive requires undertaking nearly continuous technology refreshes. Instead of a forklift with every codec, resolution, protocol or format, a software-based approach delivers cutting edge operations without a major hardware overhaul.
In Europe we are seeing some of the biggest names in the industry – and some smaller, forward-looking players – testing the waters through proof of concept exercises to ensure that all sides truly understand the challenges, benefits and practicalities of IP production and playout.
2. Business unification. Chances are that at least a portion of your video operations, such as asset management, has already moved onto IT equipment. It’s even more likely that your business has an IP-based infrastructure in place for hosting traditional business processes. Moving video operations to IP unifies all of your business’ processes into a single network controlled by a single management system, potentially cutting operational costs dramatically.
But it’s not just cost savings that are driving this convergence. Workflows across the business are becoming tightly integrated. The process that started a few years ago of combining discrete video production, processing and distribution functions into integrated workflows is expanding to include additional business processes. It makes sense to integrate analytics, billing and other software-based functions into traditional video production and distribution workflows. A converged network makes that transformation possible.
That in itself creates new challenges for broadcasters around the world, as they have to consider new skills and organizational practices to allow them to adapt to new technologies, alongside maintaining legacy infrastructures. It is key to understand how the human factors have to develop, too.
3. Routing efficiency. IP pipes are not just bigger than baseband pipes — they are significantly more efficient. In an IP-based facility, not only can multiple streams of video and audio be sent over the same connection, IP pipes can carry command and control data, such as automation and system telemetry.
IP signal streams can also be of infinite length. The ability to send IP packets worldwide opens up new economic models, providing a low-cost alternative to satellite distribution. The ubiquity of IP connectivity also allows content creators and distributors to centralize production capabilities, such as master control. Media companies no longer require engineering and operations talent to be tied to specific physical locations.
4. Scale & portability. A virtualized IP environment is, by nature, portable. Media companies can move all or portions of their operations to cloud environments — private and, eventually, public — at their own pace and as they outgrow premises-based facilities. A virtualized environment is also easily scaled or reconfigured to support peak loads. The elastic nature of a virtualized environment enables media companies to expand and reduce resources as needed and in alignment with current demand.
A related benefit is the ability to reconfigure commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) resources for multiple functions, essentially on the fly. No longer will you need to purchase processing power that sits idle for long stretches at a time. Systems dedicated to news during primetime could be used for media ingest at other times.
5. Unprecedented agility. With functionality tied to dedicated hardware assets, expanding a service or increasing productivity requires the commissioning and configuration of function-specific hardware, a process that could take months and cost millions. In a virtualized environment, allocating the resources for a new channel can be done almost as easily as pushing a button.
Media companies now have the freedom to unleash their creativity and can afford to push out content to new geographies or introduce event-based channels, which can be spun up or torn down as needed. No longer are monetization opportunities shaped by the limitations of technology.
6. Built-in redundancy. IP and virtualization create new ways of tackling redundancy. An IP video stream allows error correction at the packet level, enabling the switching of good packets for bad on the fly. IP also makes possible an N+1 redundancy scheme, where any suitable system can be the backup system for other systems.
High availability is another byproduct of IP virtualization. System maintenance can be done without disrupting operations. Engineers simply move operations from primary systems to backups until repairs or upgrades are completed. Geo-diversity, another characteristic of IP-based operations, enables media companies to utilize backup facilities as disaster recovery sites, ensuring business continuity in the event of an operational disruption.
7. Bulked-up security. Baseband and traditional broadcast facilities are no safe havens from security threats. In contrast, video encased in IP packets can be protected through encryption and access to IP network switches can be carefully controlled.
IP-based private and public cloud datacenters are gaining credibility as reliable safeguards of digital assets. Public data storage and computing providers are investing billions to protect information against state-sponsored attacks and cyber threats. Many security experts estimate that information stored in third-party datacenters may now be less vulnerable to attack than information stored in private networks.
Pain points
Regardless of all the benefits of transitioning to IP, not all media companies have an urgency to upgrade operations. Many are putting off the process for as long as possible to avoid potential disruptions.
The path to the IP Promised Land is not without its share of potholes: Slow-moving or competing standards, a general mistrust of IT-based technologies by media professionals and other cultural issues, ever-present budget restrictions. Any or all of these roadblocks could prompt businesses to apply the brakes or even abandon migration plans altogether.
It must also be acknowledged that every business, every region across EMEA and every competitive market will have different approaches. Each will develop its own pace of change, migrating from traditional to IP architectures as it best suits them, and as best they can maintain their current capital investments.
The best protection against making a misstep is to partner with a supplier that understands your business today and where it needs to be tomorrow. Only a partner with a baseband legacy and IP mindset can provide a measured and transparent transition to a virtualized IP environment. Moving to IP is a multifaceted operation. Work with a partner that helps transition your operations step-by-step, starting with the portions that best exploits the cost and agility benefits of IP to propel your business forward.
Building bridges
Few if any media companies will move to IP overnight. Support for a hybrid environment of SDI and IP equipment that leverages the latest IP innovations, such as Software Defined Networking (SDN), is imperative. Media companies will need to support a mix of baseband and IP workflows for the foreseeable future. An SDN-based control system shields the complexity of IT from media professionals, enabling engineers and operators to manage their businesses with familiar tools and control surfaces. It also allows media companies to build out IP plants with industry standard IP equipment, rather than proprietary gear.
In this best-of-both-worlds scenario, media companies are able to leverage their SDI investments and move to IP incrementally, enjoying the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the baseband equipment you purchase today brings with it the IP capabilities you’ll need in the future.
Box out –

[[headline]] Beyond Bandwidth
[[subhead]] Despite all the attention focused on the bandwidth and cost advantages of leveraging IT technologies for media operations, media companies can realize multiple business-transforming benefits by moving to IP.
1. Accelerate technology transitions
2. Business unification
3. Routing efficiency
4. Scale & portability
5. Unprecedented agility
6. Built-in reliability
7. Bulked-up Security