Mike Cronk Discusses Grass Valley Core Technology Initiative

Deal could mean greater responsiveness for customers
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Grass Valley last week announced a major R&D initiative intended to leverage its engineering resources more effectively.

For the company, the upside is intended to be greater efficiency and greater responsiveness. For broadcasters, production companies and other end users, the benefit is shorter product development cycles to bring innovation more quickly to market.

Michael Cronk, vice president of Core Technology

Michael Cronk, vice president of Core Technology

Michael Cronk, vice president of Core Technology at Grass Valley, is heading up the implementation of the initiative, which is called "GV Core Technology." I had a chance to conduct a telephone interview with him about the initiative as he readying to leave for IBC 2018 in Amsterdam.

TV Technology: In the press release announcing GV Core Technology, Grass Valley talks about the initiative leveraging a lean engineering philosophy. Could you elaborate on that philosophy?

Michael Cronk: What it really involves is being very efficient from an R&D perspective. Let me give you an example. If when an engineer writes code and they commit the code, or compile the code, they run tests on that code.

A good metric is cycle time –the time between when I commit the code to when I have verified that it works.

With traditional software in big systems, you might have a lot of testing going on. That cycle time can be weeks, for example.

Whereas if you automate the testing and the entire pipeline is automated, then you can do that in a matter of hours, or depending on the code, in a matter of minutes.

That allows us to be a lot more responsive, to add things. If something is broken, we get feedback quickly. We are able to respond much faster to customer requests. It is lean in the sense you have taken out a lot of the waste associated with the process.

TVT: Have there been any underlying technologies that make it easier to build once and deploy many?

MC: Not so much the underlying technology. I think it’s more about organizing within the company to take advantage of the length and breadth of the strength we have.

If you take a look at technologies like SMPTE ST 2110 IP interface or processing, those are Grass Valley delivers on across various applications –with the production switchers, modular gear, cameras, replay, news systems. Those signals are common across all of them.

So, it’s really about organizing and instead of multiple groups building something that’s the same, have it built once, very well, and leverage it across the company.

That takes a process and a way to communicate and to share information.

I guess the technologies that enable it now is the conferencing and the standardization tools that allow us to work closer together and collaborate.

TVT: How will customers notice Core Technology in the products they purchase?

MC: I think what they will see and are already beginning to see is a faster time to market and a faster response. Those are the real benefits.

As an example, we have a technology in the Core Technology called GV Engine. That is the heart of the playout engine for iTX. We recently released it into the Stratus system, our new system called GVIO. That’s the same core code integrated in multiple places.

And we are able to bring new functionality to virtualize our news systems much quicker than if the group started out doing the work themselves.

TVT: You are heading the team implementing this. What are your short-term goals for Core Technology and your longer-range goals as well?

MC: I have been in the broadcast industry for about 25 years. It’s one of the most fantastic experiences I have ever had. There are a lot of talented people. We have two CTOs and other Ph. Ds who aren’t CTOs but equally contribute.

I get to work with a tremendous team of people who are excited and innovating quite a bit.

In terms of the future, there’s really two paths. There’s taking the GVEngine and rolling that out into more and more products.

Then you have some forward-looking initiatives that I can’t elaborate on at the moment but are some of the most exciting things we are doing.