Industry leaders hailed the “huge progress” made by vendors and standards bodies working towards the ratification and adoption of interoperable IP equipment in a discussion that focused on the need for a sound business case.

Mike Cronk, Chairman of the Board, AIMS Alliance for IP Media Solutions, said: “Two years ago at IBC there was a lot of talk about IP, but if I was going to use a single word to sum it up that would be ‘confusion’.

“There were multiple proprietary standards under discussion, but in terms of the real-time aspect – in terms of replacing SDI and using IP in production and for that to be an onramp to increased scalability, elasticity, people were holding fire because there wasn’t a clear path forward.

“Now, next door [in the IP Showcase] we have 52 vendors all demonstrating interoperability with the new IP standard SMPTE 2110, which is just about to be ratified that’s huge progress for the industry.


IP Showcase at IBC2017

“But let’s be clear, this isn’t about just replacing your cables, there has to be business case there.”

In a session chaired by IABM CTO Stan Moote, titled Efficient and Profitable Operations from the IT/IP Revolution, the recurring focus on cost implications came as little surprise, but the broader lens remained firmly on the business case.

Tom Griffiths, Director of Broadcast and Distribution Technology, ITV, was enthusiastic about the benefits of IP: “There are huge benefits of being able to scale up and scale down – some aspects we’ve been using in our supply chain for example, we literally turn off and on for business hours, switch them off at night for maximum cost saving.

“You simply can’t do this in a traditional, fixed environment where you have to build for peak, then use 25-30% of it most of the time, rest of the time it’s there burning money and not achieving anything for you.

“Some do take a ‘lift and shift’ approach to migrating their infrastructure from SDI, but if you do that you do risk missing the golden opportunity to leverage the new capabilities of that both IP as a transport mechanism, but also the broader capabilities of IT platforms, like cloud and micro services.”

Growing consensus on interoperability standards may have galvanised the IP revolution, but Griffiths was keen to point out that IP holds considerable complexities, especially in cloud IP environments.

“ITV has deliberately chosen to go with just one of the large providers, rather than splitting our requirements between several players, but each of the big players are developing their own niche areas where they are probably the market leader.

“On one hand you can treat them as just somewhere to host your software, but they also bring to the table inherent capabilities themselves that you can use.

“I think it’s a bit unexplored at the moment. You can just wrap your software and port it onto any cloud vendor, but the reality is that you need specific skills for each cloud vendor, and there’s quite a learning curve to get the best out of these individual platforms.”

Steve Fish, VP Media & Technology Architecture, Turner Broadcasting also sounded a note of caution: “You need to spend a little bit more time at the design stage to understand what interoperability you need and what they look like. It’s essential to start with the workflow first.”

Security concerns

In an IBC2017 debate on IP adoption in a broadcast environment that was dominated by cost implications and security concerns, an expert pointed out that often the best security actually comes relatively cheap.

Denis Onuoha, Chief Information Security Officer, Arqiva said: “The best security costs you nothing! The best security follows a common sense approach. Basic hygiene is the most important security step, and one of the cheapest – things like are your ports locked down, etc.”

Onuoha continued: “The real thing is having management commitment to security, and really understanding what your business does. From a workflow security perspective, the cloud needs to mature further so it’s an abstract layer, so people can focus on the workflow.

This can really help with resilience, business continuity and disaster recovery considerations, and also is vital for cost management. You need to be able to exploit Amazon spot pricing, for example, where it’s much cheaper to process something in Asia outside core business hours.”