IBC '19: Deploy IP or Be Left Behind, Says Cisco

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The transition to IP is happening now, but a skills gaps within broadcasters continues to impede transition.

That was the message according to Cisco and a panel of executives with experience at the coalface of the shift from SDI to IP.

"With adoption of SMPTE 2110, IP has critical mass," said Sunil Gudurvalmiki, senior product manager, data center networking at Cisco. "There are still some moving pieces, but you have to deploy now otherwise you will be left behind."

The fundamental requirement is "reliability and predictability" whether in editing, storage, or distribution. "PTP (precision time protocol) needs to be extremely accurate and scalable," he said.

Red Bee Media, a services provider with its feet firmly in linear playout, seconded this.

"The only place money is going is content, and we found ourselves in the middle getting squeezed," said David Travis, chief product and technology officer. "We were spending nearly half of our time and effort on deployment—that's people building and integrating all of this technology. It was imperative to turn the tanker around and get service deployment down to minutes."

The BBC embarked on a transition to IP across all its regional UK facilities in 2016—before even ST 2110 was ratified.

"It was a brave decision which some saw as crazy," said BBC lead architect for major project infrastructure, Mark Patrick. 

Cardiff, the first BBC facility to have been made all IP, goes fully live using Cisco switchers in Q1 2020. "We've not managed to reduce the cost of deployment as much as we'd hoped, but this was a learning process," said Patrick. "We've built a cookie cutter template for the next set of BBC deployments built on standard toolsets."

The common thread is the human factor of the transition in which IP software engineers who have never worked in a broadcast environment and broadcast engineers for whom ST 2110 is unfamiliar need to collaborate.

"The biggest hurdle is fear of the unknown," said Gudurvalmiki. "Broadcasters are not familiar with IP. My advice for those ready to embark is to talk to partners, vendors, and colleagues who have gone through this transition."

The BBC's advice was to "find your network wizard and keep them. Nurture the staff you need to see the project through and beyond, and give them time to fail. The standards are largely supportive but there are different profiles and pitfalls. ST 2110 is a big standard and vendors can diverge in their interpretation of it. They aren't breaking any rules, but it can lead to angst." 

Travis reserved his ire for Microsoft. "My ultimate frustration is that a lot of the vendors here at IBC are so reliant on Microsoft. There's a reason why it's the number one IT vendor in the world—because they know how to charge you for it. You will find that any efficiency gains will be quickly eroded by cost."

His advice; "Make sure your software model is based on truly flexibly commodity IT rather than monolithic stacks called Microsoft."

Among Cisco news at IBC is its ongoing partnership with broadcast-centric vendors Grass Valley, Lawo, Sony, Nevion, and Imagine to integrating its IP Fabric for Media for management and switching of uncompressed sources.

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