Rohde & Schwarz is helping its customers build functional workflows, drive supply chain efficiency and create IP-centric solutions, explains Hannes Strobel, Vice President of Monitoring and Headend.
What are the main priorities for customers of Rohde & Schwarz?
A core foundation of our business is providing our customers with a stable partner and valuable product offerings they can rely on despite the technological changes and industry mergers.
Our customers seek a long-term partner; it’s something we have recognised and is what forms the company ethos at Rohde & Schwarz. As companies reorient objectives and their priorities change the main request we are seeing is efficiency across the supply chain.
Throughout 2017, we have seen the move to IP-centric media solutions become a top priority. From dedicated broadcasting to IP-centric solutions there is a demand to maximise video coding efficiency and capitalise on revenue through automated set ups.
Our customers want converged solutions to monitor and manage both the monetary revenue as well as the mass of live streaming data.
From a terrestrial perspective, energy efficiency is a driving force, however no matter what the application along the value chain our customers require efficiency and value both for operational expenditure and streamlining processes.
What problems are customers of the Monitoring and Headend division looking to solve?
We have seen a lot of encoding and monitoring solutions based on pure software architectures as an emerging trend. A definite push to IP was the approval and wide acceptance of SMPTE ST-2110.
Across our industry, the environment is changing, and we recognise the technological changes occurring within the last five years and particularly accelerated in the last two to three years.
”Efficiency is a key priority along with scalability and flexibility”
The main priority for our customers is a functional workflow and the ability to bring different products together. It starts in the studio and post-production and ends with monitoring.
Five years ago, there were dedicated solutions for broadcast and IP and streaming media, however today customers expect an integrated converged set up. Also, they are more focussed on monitoring across a variety of standards and applications, and to think out of the box and to analyse the exploding amount of content.
The demand for efficiency is a key priority along with scalability and flexibility. Back in the day, equipment was distributed across different boxes, then software frameworks. Now it’s virtualised workflows; we’re taking our customers on a migration path and that has not come to an end.
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What are the main barriers to overcome in terms of IP adoption?
Today, the broadcast industry has become a multi-standard environment, and there are challenges to it, but I am sure they can be solved. In a fragmented standards landscape, it is essential to support our customers and understand their specific needs. The second challenge then is to prove interoperability.
IP is the future and incorporating legacy data to build a stronger future is key. It is crucial for any vendor to not forget about its legacy; for example, software architectures and the support of old data formats on SDI will need to bridge together to create a new world.
The migration path is the biggest barrier that needs to be addressed with any vendor and future offerings.
When are we likely to see widespread rollout of HDR?
We believe HDR is a driving force to significantly enhance the viewing experience. A lot of emphasis is put into that, but it is anticipated to be relatively slow market growth. It requires significant updating along the entire processing chain, starting in post-production workflows right through to the end user devices. The user display components will need to be updated to support extended dynamic range, mastering to handle different types of screen technology.
”HDR is a driving force to significantly enhance the viewing experience”
Coping with all these requirements is a huge challenge. There are different approaches reflecting different standards. We are not at a final decision stage, will have to adapt with different solutions. The benefit with arise for the end user and the user experience, I believe it will be worth it.
HDR a great viewing experience enhancement. If you read research articles, the findings are in line with each other, the HDR viewing enhancement is even more interesting compared to going to next level of resolution beyond UHD.
Again, there is a huge amount of work and investment to be done to support across the whole propagation path, and the diversity of standards is holding back the widespread rollout of HDR-enabled services, but I am confident we will see change soon.
To what extent is the rollout of OTT services helping to drive growth at Rohde & Schwarz?
IP-based media propagation and OTT content delivery is one of the strongest drivers of innovation. IP connects people and that connection has raised a clear expectation of global opportunities. There is the potential in the future to overcome latency and high propagation costs of live streaming to the end user.
There is an appetite for IP to deliver low to premium content anywhere. The challenge we have is how to overcome the latency and cost issues, this is a focus of the whole industry.
What are customers’ key concerns in terms of shifting operations to the cloud and how can they be addressed?
Customers are aware of the operational costs involved in migrating to the cloud and can see the clear difference in cloud processes. One of the key concerns is how to transport the huge amount of data between premises using public cloud.
As we see this challenge today, to realise high data rate connectivity with a high level of availability, we have invested in proven mechanisms to secure these data links. Relaycaster is a technical solution to significantly improve reliability of unmanaged IP link.
Cyber security is the question asked most often, and the impact on security and data protection in the migration to the cloud is a valid issue. We are very happy at Rohde & Schwarz with the new cyber security business area we have built up. It’s a concern for our customers which we have addressed with real products.
Moving from a dedicated broadcast environment to IP centric approach, to cater for cyber security is a key requirement. In addressing this you need a tangible product.
How do you envisage Rohde & Schwarz’s Monitoring and Headend offering evolving over the next few years?
We will continue our software focused journey that we started back in 2002 and keep supporting our customers with legacy installations all the way to full blown virtualised environments. Adding opex-based offerings to our classic portfolio reflects on the business needs of our customers.
What is the R&D process for Rohde & Schwarz products?
Rohde and Schwarz have a long tradition of hardware oriented products. For 80 years we have been focussed on hardware in processes throughout the entire chain, including testing and manufacturing. We have gained an extreme high standard of excellence there.
On the other hand, there is no hardware-based product today without software in it; it is not like we are doing a black and white switch from hardware to software, it is a migration. We have changed many development milestones in the past to reflect the requirement of agility and will continue to do so.
The key to a software-oriented approach is to have an agile structure, which leads to short update cycles while ensuring high quality. We are in the middle of it with technology and product offerings changing but one of the most important corner stones is setting clear targets at the beginning.
We invest heavily in market evaluation and standards in order to identify which is the right trend to follow. We are here for our customers and we rely on the feedback of our customers. Direct communication with them on a regular basis helps us select the best option.
What trends do you expect to dominate 2018? What impact will they have on Rohde & Schwarz’ range of products?
Migration to IP will continue into 2018, as will efforts to reduce latency for live streaming, all with new standards on the rise. Also, there will be increased focus on cyber aspects and the migration of complete premise and workflow solutions to the Cloud.
How do we further automate and ease the monitoring aspect for our customers? Our vision is to use AI at the starting point to support these demands. Monitoring will change and what to expect in the next hour or day, will become a predictive approach. AI (artificial intelligence) has its benefits in this area, another journey customers and vendors will have to do together to shape these new capabilities together.
There is a lot of focus on road mapping across IP, IT centric solutions, data results and cyber security concerns will evolve. The capabilities of AI will definitely sit prominently on the developers table. We will see a move from ideas status to products which are helpful to our customers. It will be an interesting year ahead.
Our product line won’t have major changes, but you should expect to see significant evolution and improvement steps. There will be a couple major upgrades to the line-up and two interesting major releases. We already have entered the IP contribution area with Relaycaster, which is a move in the right direction.
I am very excited about the momentum we currently see in terms of technology and the new ways to bring media to the consumer. As a company focussing on high quality solutions for demanding environments this is a perfect time for us and we want to empower our customers.
- Hannes Strobel is Rohde & Schwarz Vice President of Monitoring and Headend