New Joint Partnership Takes Media Virtualization Another Step Forward

SANTA CLARA & SAN JOSE, CALIF.—You’re telling me what?That the media facility of the future rests on a programmable chip? That an app is my access point into the brain of the facility? And that facility-control can be manipulated and managed through a mobile device?

That reality seems a stretch—especially for those living and working in a thriving, humming engineering backroom with racks of SDI gear stretching from floor to ceiling.


It’s not impossible to imagine a time when physical facilities built around proprietary hardware and SDI no longer look like a wise long-term investment. And the cost of constantly upgrading a facility with proprietary technology running powerful, bandwidth-demanding systems like HDR and Ultra HD may not be sustainable over the long term.

“This is [in part] driving a migration away from SDI and proprietary hardware toward IP-based technology running on commercial off-the-shelf hardware and increasingly at data centers both on and off premises, also known as the cloud,” says Deborah McAdams, executive editor of TV Technology magazine.

“The promise of this technology is a type of operation that expands and contracts on demand and has pay-as-you-go workflow functions. A type of elastic virtual media facility, if you will,” she says.

While the app-running-a-facility reality is not yet viable, the companies Intel and Cisco have joined forces specifically to court broadcasters on this idea. The goal is to offer a glimpse of what might be possible under the umbrella of virtualized technology.

“We would like to provide all the transport that SDI currently is providing to the industry—from attaching acquisition devices to backhaul, use in studios, use in media production facilities—we’d like to provide all that underlying transport,” says Cisco’s David Ward, CTO of Engineering and Chief Architect. “Then we’d also build this out as IP datacenters where it’s a combination of networking, storage and compute.”

A roadmap for broadcasters who are considering the benefits of an IP-based open solution.

The combination of Cisco and Intel computing and networking platforms will meet the strict requirements set by the media and broadcast industry when it comes to processing and delivering video, these companies say.

A Cisco/Intel platform could take advantage of benefits like server volume economics, virtualization technology and scalable cloud platforms to help broadcasters meet the growing demand for more video.


TV Technology’s McAdams asks how broadcasters might approach the new age of virtualized video infrastructure. Frankly, McAdams asks, is it necessary?

“It’s absolutely necessary to do in a cost-effective way,” Intel’s Sandra Rivera, Corporate Vice President and General Manager, Network Platforms Group, says. “Big iron [fixed-function devices] have done the job for which they were deployed quite effectively. The problem is that so much of that hardware is underutilized; not every single box in that delivery chain is used 100 percent of the time.

“The idea behind network virtualization is that you are actually instantiating a lot of those capabilities in software as virtual machines. When you do that, you’re able to then share those computing networks and storage resources across a broad variety of applications and get much better utilization of that asset,” she says.

Developing this new IP environment will also open up new opportunities for other companies looking to improve media and broadcast workflows in the future, Cisco’s Ward says.