With the 2013
NAB Show behind
do the new product
releases tell us about
the future of the media
facility? Many vendors
gave lip service
and vague references
to “open IT” and the cloud in their brochures
and press releases. From a nonscientific
survey, about 3–5 percent of the
1,600 vendors had breakthrough products,
meaningful advances in technology,
and bold new ideas related to IT/IP/cloud.
Admittedly, I could not visit every
booth. However, investigations were
made of the usual suspects, plus many of
the new arrivals.
There are three general types of products
at the NAB Show: traditional AV products;
traditional IT products (a minority
of exhibiting vendors); and the newer hybrid
breed having the DNA of both.
Hybrid products use combinations of
IT/IP/cloud resources to provide media-focused
solutions. This class of product/
solution ranges from minor use (i.e. file
workflows) of IT/IP/cloud resources to
products based solely on these precepts
(i.e. all ops run from a cloud). These hybrid
products are the foundational elements
for “the all-IT” media facility.
What are the technology foundations
for the all-IT media facility? Here are three
areas that make up the majority share:
AV transport over Ethernet using LAN
Layer 2 (MAC addressing) and Layer 3
(IP addressing). For both LAN and WAN
transport, IP will be the common thread
that joins all networks. Some of the features
of the AV-networked campus are:
real-time SDI-payload streaming, time
and sync-aware nodes using IEEE-1588
Precision Time Protocol or similar (IEEE-
802.1AS, for example), frame- accurate
stream switching, efficient file transfer,
WAN/internet connectivity and storage
access. There will be variations on these
themes, but pure SDI will be for special
cases and become mostly legacy over
Web apps running in browsers will be de
rigueur and installed desktop (.EXE) applications
the exception. Sure, it will take
time for installed apps to take a back seat.
These methods will be common:
Public cloud SaaS media apps (and
workflow suites) for MAM, editing, review
and approval, logging and scheduling for
starters. HTML5 will be the lingua franca
for UI presentation.
Private servers running HTML5 Web
apps. These are captive apps and executed
under facility control.
User apps are installed on servers but
accessed using virtual desktop methods
including Citrix Remote Desktop,
Microsoft VDI or other remote desktop
methods. Using VDI, apps are accessible
on “thin clients,” but executed on local
servers or remote cloud servers. This is a
good solution for legacy desktop apps not
yet ported to HTML5. Technically, it’s not
a Web app, but may be accessed from a
browser in many cases.
Data Center and Cloud Ecosystems Components
make up the third area. This includes:
• Servers, storage and networking as isolated
• Public and private IaaS compute (servers)
and storage offerings (file, block,
object). For example, Amazon’s AWS
and Google’s GCE cloud resources for
hire and the private/local offerings
from IBM, HP, NetApp, VMware, EMC,
Cisco and others.
• Cloud services such as transcoding, ingest,
video processing and distribution.
The services are accessed via APIs and/
or configuration UIs as required. Examples
are: Encoding.com, AWS Elastic
Transcoder, MediaSilo workflow APIs
and many others.
• Cloud monitoring, accounting, automation
and integration systems. Ex, Hyperic,
RightScale, Sequencia and others.
TYING IT ALL TOGETHER
Some may quarrel that there are roadblocks
to relying on the basics outlined
above. Fair enough. Today there are real
obstacles—public cloud access bandwidth,
security, real-time functionality,
reliability and available solutions to name
a few. But each of these issues is being
chipped away by vendors and industry
groups working like beavers to deliver dependable,
Fig. 1 outlines a view of the future media
facility based on IT and cloud principles.
It assumes a level of technological
maturity not available in 2013 for the majority
of systems. That said, there are many
workflows that can be implemented 100
percent using IT/cloud principles today.
The figure has four generic layers. The
lowest layer describes the compute, storage
and network resources available to
the upper layers. Layer 2 shows these resources
as a cloud formation or as individual
resources applied as needed. The
choice of private versus public cloud will
depend on a host of variables not considered
here. The private on-campus versions
will seamlessly connect to the public
versions over secure IP channels. How
resources are applied will depend on the
workflows demanded. For example, local
compute, remote archive and public SaaS
are real possibilities. Keep in mind that a
local cloud has many of the automation
and agility aspects of its public cousin, but
under tighter control and security.
Layer 3 illustrates the application, services,
functional executions and I/O. The
input/output section relates to cameras,
monitors, network links and devices of all
The top layer is where the apps (UI)
reside and workflows are defined and
orchestrated. Workflows come in three
flavors; file-based, real-time stream-based,
and hybrids. File-based is mature today
(non-cloud versions). Stream-based is just
starting to gain traction, waiting for the
standards and best practices to be solidified
before its feature set is complete.
The diagram also shows a stack of traditional
AV infrastructure coexisting with
IT. The fade to all IT will take time and
there will be sweet spots for pure AV for
many years. Realistically, many facilities
will have the integrated elements of cameras,
displays, AV consoles, lighting, mics,
speakers and more. These elements are
not strictly IT-based, but their control and
some I/O will become such.
This diagram could be partitioned
into as many domains as needed to create
superset systems that have the reach,
reliability and flexibility required. No one
expects that a major multi-channel broadcast
facility will be built as one monster
cloud-centric system for many years.
Rather, facilities and event trucks will be
founded on the principles in the figure,
but sized, divided and allocated accordingly.
In future columns, this architecture
will be investigated in more depth.
Al Kovalick is the founder of Media
Systems consulting in Silicon Valley. He
is the author of “Video Systems in an IT
Environment (2nd ed).” He is a frequent
speaker at industry events and a SMPTE
Fellow. For a complete bio and contact
information, visit www.theAVITbook.com.