Aiming for Interoperability in the IP Transition

Compressed video is one example of a key element of broadcast infrastructure that made the transition to IP, and was an early indicator of how the industry as a whole is now moving inexorably toward all-IP infrastructures. While there are many advantages to be gained by going all-IP, this transition is being driven largely by broadcasters’ desire for technology infrastructure that provides the agility and flexibility necessary to support future services. With greater agility comes a more competitive ability to address rapidly changing market dynamics. All-IP workflows also have the potential to enable more efficient, less-expensive media processing for everything from OTT to UHD content, making it a more attractive option than SDI for future-proof infrastructure investment.

Although the industry’s intensifying focus on enabling all-IP infrastructure ultimately will help make such infrastructure a reality, it is having the near-term effect of creating some confusion within the marketplace. The substantial payoff promised by IP infrastructure and workflow has fueled the development, refinement and implementation of standards to support IP I/O, as well as the creation of various approaches to ensuring interoperability. As a result, broadcasters and other media companies face the challenge of identifying and choosing the “right” path toward IP.

Harmonic is involved in a number of different groups and initiatives that strive to educate and support the industry in making the shift from conventional SDI facilities toward all-IP facilities. For years, SDI has been the common language of uncompressed video in broadcast facilities. It has enabled interoperability by allowing any piece of equipment to connect with any other, as long as the two both support SDI. Our goal is to help the industry — as it transitions to IP — maintain this valuable level of interoperability using a standardized interface for the transmission of video. One way we’re working toward this goal is through membership in the newly formed Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS).

Launched in December 2015, AIMS is a non-profit trade organization founded by leading media technology suppliers to further the adoption of industry standards for the broadcast and media industry as it transitions from SDI to IP. The group’s mandate is to bring IP solutions to market that offer complete interoperability, are based on open standards, and integrate seamlessly into media workflow environments to foster industry innovation and efficiency.

AIMS seeks to accomplish this goal via three key strategies. The first of these is to develop initiatives that facilitate the education and adoption of open standards in the marketplace. The second strategy is to take part in activities that accelerate the education, development and promotion of solutions that support these open standards. And finally, the group’s third strategy is to nurture the creation and acceleration of the latest standards through the various standards bodies by providing focused support, commitment and testing of the proposed standards in real-world environments.

In briefer terms, the goal of AIMS is to promote one set of common, ubiquitous protocols for IP. This is an ambitious undertaking, and the group is still in its early days. However, there are industry forums already working to achieve this same goal. The Video Services Forum (VSF) and Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) are focused on building technical recommendations and the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) and the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on standardization. AIMS is aligning itself with these forums, and it has determined that it will promote the adoption, standardization, development and refinement of open protocols for media over IP with an emphasis on VSF TR-03 and TR-04, SMPTE 2022-6 and AES67.

Harmonic_diagramThe AIMS roadmap is a progression from SMPTE 2022-6 to VSF TR-03 as the route toward an all-IP infrastructure. It is designed to meet the needs of current implementations while presenting a clear path to greater functionality in the future. Within this roadmap, SMPTE 2022-6 is effectively the baseline standard, the first milestone,  VSF TR-04 is the intermediate step, with TR-03 being the final stop on the path toward all-IP infrastructure. Addressing not only the encapsulation of existing video formats but also forward error correction (FEC) and seamless switching of IP datagrams, the roadmap is central to reliable video carriage over redundant IP networks.  SMPTE 2022 is a highly effective bridge between the worlds of SDI and IP. When implemented with stream redundancy, SMPTE 2022 goes a long way to replicating SDI capability in IP networks. To standardize video over IP without SDI encapsulation, VSF has built on SMPTE 2022 and delivered its technical recommendations TR-03 and TR-04 in an approach that comprehensively addresses contribution, production and transmission needs for video in an IP domain.

VSF  TR-03 is designed to facilitate the transport of essence stream media over IP. The TR-03 recommendation dictates that audio, video and metadata be individually packetized into separate IP streams. In the case of video, RFC 4175 is used, which means that only the packets containing active video data need be carried in the IP stream. Other null data that is carried in SDI and SMPTE 2022-6 is not carried.   As a result, TR-03 reduces the network traffic generated by uncompressed video. With TR-03, VSF also confirms use of AES67, primarily due to its flexibility and capacity beyond the limitations of embedded audio, and specifies use of SMPTE 2059, which is based on IEEE 1588 Precision Time Protocol, as a means of timing synchronizing over IP.

Given the rapid rate at which IP-based media technology is evolving, it is expected that the AIMS roadmap will be implemented in 2016, as the group predicted. The 2016 NAB Show certainly will feature a number of interoperability demos at AIMS member booths, and various other activities in coming months will also move the industry forward. The forward progress of the AIMS roadmap and other standards-based approaches is important because for media over IP to become viable industry-wide, adherence to standards is essential. The open standards roadmap approach is seen as a good way to ensure interoperability and to make sure that we gain the flexibility and security that the industry needs to address all video playout and distribution applications.

All-IP infrastructures give broadcasters and other media companies a way to improve the flexibility of their networks, to streamline workflows and to increase their agility. All of these gains mean that they are better able to compete in a rapidly evolving ecosystem. These benefits can only be realized, however, if media companies take advantage of the open standards that are vital to long-term interoperability. When IP-based facilities can depend on open standards, they have the freedom to adopt the best solutions for their operations, and to scale and upgrade existing systems more easily and cost-effectively. This is the IP future that Harmonic supports.

The shift from traditional coax-based SDI infrastructure to IP represents a significant step forward for the industry, and it’s a change that won’t happen overnight. Harmonic recognizes that the move to IP can be a daunting prospect, and we’re working to ease this transition by offering a product range future-proofed for IP-based operations and by supporting organizations and initiatives that provide a clear, thoughtful path forward.


About Andy Warman,
andy-warman-headshotDirector of Production and Playout Strategy and Market Development at Harmonic

As the Director, production and playout strategy and market development, Andy Warman provides business development and strategic direction for Harmonic’s line of playout enabled solutions including the Polaris automation suite, Spectrum media server, Electra X and XVM media processors, VOS and MediaGrid shared storage solutions. Andy joined Harmonic after 11 years at Harris Broadcast in various product management roles, most recently as senior product marketing manager for servers, editing and graphics where he drove Harris’ channel-in-a-box strategy, server platform and storage consolidation initiatives. With deep domain experience in the production and playout arena, he also has experience in automation, news production, content creation and infrastructure common to broadcast workflows. Andy holds a degree in Electronics and Management Science from the University of Kent at Canterbury.

Broadcast Beat - Production Industry Resource