Router cable hugging around a blue globe.

The difference a year can make.

Around this time last year, much of the industry was debating the suitability of IP and IT technologies for hosting broadcasting operations and workflows. Heading into NAB 2015, the point of contention concerning a transition to IP is no longer if, but when.

We have the Numbers

Based on a survey Imagine Communications conducted at the end 2015, 37% of broadcast professional identified transitioning to IP as a top technology objective for this year. Additional sources also point to an inevitability, if not an urgency, around the shift from baseband and proprietary hardware to IP and COTS equipment.

So, if the eventual migration of the media industry to IP is a fait accompli in the making, and the major undecided issue is timing, a pre-NAB examination of the pros and cons of moving to IP sooner rather than later seems like a constructive exercise.

The Great Debate

Just like in high school, every serious debate starts with a resolution, a simple declarative sentence that is either affirmed or refuted by supporting evidence:

Be it resolved that now is a good time to initiate your migration toward an all-IP operation.

The Pros

As time goes by, the price/performance advantages of IT-based technologies compared to SDI-based equipment only increases. It won’t be long before 40Gb and 100Gb Ethernet is as affordable and commonplace as 10Gb Ethernet links, providing media companies with bandwidth capacities that SDI may never match.

Other indicators that IP is ready for broadcast primetime include the following:

  • Standards that govern the transmission of baseband over IT, such as the SMPTE 2022 series, are now well established and ensure the reliability and performance of IP video streams.
  • The move to higher resolutions, such as 4K/UHD and, eventually, 8K, are severely challenging the data-carrying capacity of coax and SDI.
  • As all types of content, linear, VoD and OTT, are increasingly distributed over IP-based channels, moving more of the production process to the IP realm only makes sense.
  • A move to IP enables media companies to leverage the cost and flexibility advantages of software-defined networks and cloud computing.

The Cons

The argument that migration toward all-IP operations is not feasible and would be ill advised at this time boils down to two main points:

Video signals encased in IP packets suffer from latency and quality issues, making the technology unsuitable for live broadcasts and other applications where latency is a factor.
Media companies have made significant investments in baseband equipment and the existing workforce is unfamiliar with IP-based technologies.
It’s impossible to dismiss either of these points out of hand. No broadcaster can afford to compromise quality and few, if any, can afford to strand existing investments in baseband equipment and training.

Case closed? Debate over? Not quite.

Rebuttal Time

If video quality and concerns about disrupting existing operations and stranding assets are the only things keeping your business from enjoying the agility and efficiency benefits of IP, Imagine Communications has you covered. The company’s recently introduced Selenio™ MCP Uncompressed-Over-IP (UCIP) Gateway Card and the Magellan™ SDN Orchestrator form the backbone of a fool-proof IP migration strategy that enables media companies to gradually move their operations from baseband to IP, without compromising quality, firing up a forklift or retraining the workforce.

From a quality standpoint, the UCIP card converts SDI feeds into uncompressed baseband over IP signals. Production facilities are able to edit these high-bitrate and high-quality signals without signal degradation, making the UCIP gateway especially well-suited for live events and other low-latency applications, such as studio-to-studio distribution.

The UCIP-equipped Selenio MCP functions as an IP on/off ramp, converting video signals from IP-to-baseband or baseband-to-IP, as needed. An especially attractive feature of the new UCIP gateway is its compatibility with industry standard Ethernet equipment from a variety of vendors, enabling media companies to save money and reduce integration complexity by, in many cases, plugging into equipment that is already part of their business’ infrastructure.

Be Wary of Proprietary

Imagine Communications’ IP migration strategy contrasts with competitive approaches advocating the adoption of proprietary IP routing and switching equipment. In addition to forcing media companies to integrate new and incompatible network elements into their infrastructures, a proprietary direction leads to vendor lock-in, robbing media companies of the cost advantages of an open and competitive marketplace.

By creating unique, IP-based devices that imitate a baseband router, competitors are attempting to shield media companies and broadcast professionals from the complexity of IP. That’s a noble objective, and one that Imagine Communications fully endorses. It’s the execution we disagree with.

Common Management

Doesn’t is make better sense to provide broadcast professionals with the ability to control and monitor infrastructures with a mix of IP and baseband equipment with the same management tools they’ve been using for years? This scenario allows media companies to add standard, off-the-shelf IT gear into their networks without disrupting current operations or stranding existing assets.

That’s the logic behind Imagine Communications’ Magellan™ SDN Orchestrator, which decouples management and services from the underlying transport infrastructure and provides a common command and control interface for both IP and baseband functions.

Selenio UCIP and Magellan SDN Orchestrator form the heart of Imagine Communications’ baseband-to-IP migration strategy. These key enablers of a next-generation Software Defined Networking (SDN) framework assist media companies in seamlessly transitioning operations to an IP-based environment at a measured pace, without disruption to existing command, control and monitoring procedures and by leveraging standards-based, off-the-shelf IP switching infrastructure.

And the Winner is…

Now that all of the arguments have been presented and debated, let’s revisit our original proclamation:

Be it resolved that now is a good time to initiate your migration toward an all-IP operation.

From the perspective of Imagine Communications, which is now delivering the innovation and technologies to enable media companies to initiate their IP journeys without risk or disruption, we couldn’t agree more.

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portatif of Steve Reynolds


Steve Reynolds

Steve Reynolds is President of Imagine Communications, a global leader in multiscreen video and ad management solutions that broadcasters, networks, video service providers and enterprises around the world rely on to support their mission-critical operations.

Steve brings 25 years of technology leadership in the video industry to Imagine Communications. He has served as the CTO at Imagine Communications and Harris Broadcast, Senior Vice President of Premises Technology at Comcast, Senior Vice President of Technology at OpenTV, and CTO at Intellocity USA.

Steve earned a MS in Computer Engineering from Widener University and BS in Computer Science from West Chester University. As the Chairman of the AIMS Alliance and a member of SMPTE and SCTE, he has participated in numerous standards-making bodies in the cable and digital video industries. Steve also holds over 40 patents relating to digital video, content security, interactive television and digital devices.