Increasingly, infrastructures designed for SD cannot meet requirements of HD/3G broadcasting. At the same time, however, SD to HD/3G migration presents new business and revenue opportunities. New video transport infrastructures — optical fiber networks and IP networks — promise major advances in flexibility and scalability, but significant challenges are involved in actually achieving those ends. Managed video services can supply the intelligence and control required to make optical and IP networking work efficiently, while helping solve challenges of increased multiformat content transport and networking complexity. The use of ring, mesh or star architecture variations with add/drop/pass capability can provide guaranteed redundancy with full control, monitoring and management capability, while letting broadcasters move beyond point-to-point video transport.
VideoIPath managed video services for optical networks integrate sophisticated management software with Nevion's Flashlink and Sublime optical video transport components for a fully-managed video services system. The result is cost-efficient, signal distribution that encompasses video and audio signal transport, synch distribution and fully-synchronized switching, along with integrated monitoring, configuration and control. The solution acts as a distributed routing system, controlling connectivity between video and audio end-points.
This ensures complete redundancy while providing the ability to add, drop or pass signals at each end-point. The system lowers CAPEX and OPEX through reduced resource requirements and reductions in human expertise needed to perform network configuration, maintenance, troubleshooting and problem resolution, all from an intuitive console.
The platform is an integrated hardware and software system that automates key functions in the delivery of contribution video transport services. Its software components benefit from a highly-distributed architecture that enhances reliability and accessibility for third-party developers. By following the best data organization and processing practices of leading companies that provide data-intensive “cloud-based” services, VideoIPath achieves high availability and cost efficiency.
Viewed from an intuitive, browser-based interface, the system coordinates and automates capabilities in the lower layers of the managed video services stack, while hiding the complexities of many of these elements from the user. This enables operators to focus on the key elements at the Services layer. (See Figure 1.) The following components are critical to achieve this:
- A self-service interface is needed to provision new services and modify existing ones, with access to reports regarding performance and quality of delivered services.
- Integrated provisioning and scheduling of devices are used to deliver media edge and network core services. This includes connection management capabilities to find the optimal transport path from source to destination across the fiber optical network infrastructure.
- Protection mechanisms — where the same traffic must flow across independent paths — also require control of both edge and core devices. Protection at the edge offers little value if the traffic is transported across the same path through the core network infrastructure.
- Security must be handled with special care in a multi-tenant environment, as users from different organizations will be using the same system to transport video and audio streams that only they have the rights to.
- An inventory of network resources and their utilization is key for planning changes to increase capacity or remove potential bottlenecks that may affect the ability to deliver services.
- Open platforms that flexibly integrate with other systems and devices are important to deliver a fully integrated system that supports the required workflows.
The platform also auto-detects available resources and allows users to set up connections by selecting the appropriate end points and service profile.
Users can specify source and destination points, while the system identifies the optimal transport path from source to destination. It uses a shortest-path-first algorithm to provision the least-costly route from source to one or more destinations, and can perform secondary path routing to support redundancy and signal protection. The path is computed and established when video service is needed, based on current network and resources' status. Network resource availability or outages are detected through real-time notifications. In addition to protected path-switching, Nevion developed a new technology for signal protection in an IP environment as part of VideoIPath: Streaming Intelligent Protection Switching (SIPS). SIPS monitors incoming packets from redundant sources. When a packet in the currently active stream is corrupted or missing, SIPS retrieves the corresponding packet from the secondary stream. A look-ahead buffer enables SIPS to maintain a continuous high-quality stream despite dropped packets or a lost signal.
The mechanisms for path calculations are generic, and the same principles apply for IP, SDH/SONET and fiber optical transport networks. This enables the system to support hybrid network architectures where video and audio signals can be switched at the baseband, IP or Ethernet layer. This introduces a great deal of flexibility in migrating from existing fiber/coax infrastructures to video-over-IP.
The system is based completely on open source software. SQL databases and proprietary platforms are replaced by open Web technologies, providing highly reliable, stable and flexible solutions. Unlike traditional systems, this one's data-centric API can be used for limitless creative and custom applications, and is well-suited to mobile computing and integration with any third-party management or enterprise system.
As video services become more complex and increase the requirements for processing, transporting and managing more content with higher quality networks must be increasingly flexible, scalable and able to grow with changing needs. Through the integration of reliable, power-efficient transport components and highly-efficient use of network and human resources derived from sophisticated management software, VideoIPath enables broadcasters to deploy fully-redundant networks easily and cost effectively.
Comprehensive management capabilities coupled with technological innovation (including implementation of architecture with flexible add, drop or pass signal capability) and streamlined networking allows broadcasters to realize more value from their networks, reduce OPEX and CAPEX, and create future-proof infrastructures for tomorrow.
Jan Helgesen is director of product management, Nevion.