Facility Design Part III: Infrastructure Changes

Our series on facility design—implementing the transition from SDI to IP—concludes by looking at the changes ahead for next-gen facility designs and implementations. InPart 1,we covered the basics of what broadcast and IT need to know about the transition.Part 2 outlined some of the consequential changes from traditional broadcast (SD) infrastructures to those of the IP-network environment. Such topics as PTP, RTP and the use of COTS equipment were discussed in their new context for real-time, high bit rate media flows.

In our conclusion to this series, we look at other changes that will come as we move away from copper and more toward fiber optics for the media transfer mechanisms and to software for the management and control of the systems.

ALEXANDRIA, VA.—Next-gen IP facilities will see a significant shift from copper-based cabling (coax with BNCs and structured-cabling with 8P8C connectors) to optical fiber media. Expect a near total elimination of video patch panels and a major shift in design documentation. Coaxial cable in all IP-network-based designs may be reduced by as much as 90-95%. Other copper cabling will be limited to individual transition devices (e.g., gateways to/from SDI), system management (sub-1 gigabit) and AES67 audio. Coax and STP-cables will likely stay isolated as jumpers between devices and patch panels, but those hundreds of high density BNC connectors for unidirectional signals on coax will all but be eliminated.

Fig. 1: Concept diagram depicts how multiple video, audio and ancillary data might traverse an IP network, be combined in “MOR” (middle of row) network switches, then on to “EOR” (end of row) switches where the SDN controller selects which essence flows through to an A or B selector with protected hitless switching.

Fig. 1: Concept diagram depicts how multiple video, audio and ancillary data might traverse an IP network, be combined in “MOR” (middle of row) network switches, then on to “EOR” (end of row) switches where the SDN controller selects which essence flows through to an A or B selector with protected hitless switching.

In IP, multiple signals can live on single pieces of physical (fiber optic) media—changing how we think about signal transport (Fig 1). Previous “single-source per cable” designs will evolve into a managed, dynamic manipulation of signals based upon bandwidth and priority. Flows will be managed by a network orchestration layer that interconnect human control devices to software defined network (SDN) systems.

Traditional wire run lists and AutoCAD drawings may continue for the physical fiber media or copper cable installation but defining signal paths as single source-by-source signal distribution essentially evaporates, being replaced by a sophisticated SDN-based management system (the orchestration layer) that manipulates the thousands of essences flowing throughout the network. Flows (or streams) on the network will be described and managed using software systems built using XML or JSON. All network flows will be managed dynamically to prevent network saturation or over-subscribed ports on any given switch.

Traditional broadcast SDI-router controllers are graduating to the world of IP, becoming the ‘interface’ between network signal transport and human button-pushing. Controllers will insure the actual signal transport is “transparent” to the operator and that the network is not compromised, i.e., forced to collapse due to excessive data flows.

Under the hood, the SDN management components will discover and register signal types, device names, associations to end/receiver devices, signal bandwidth, signal format and other information through either proprietary or industry adopted solutions like AMWA’s NMOS Interface Specifications, IS-04, IS-05 and IS-06.


If we failed to mention a key differential in IP—perhaps it is now obvious. We’re moving away from dedicated hardware-based equipment to an entirely software centric environment. This means broadcast engineers must now rethink the facility; IT administrators must abandon previous work-dimensions that allowed for regular network resets or software updates or routine system reboots; and owners must re-tool the financial side and the human resource side to deal with sophisticated training and growing maintenance contracts built on Service Level Agreements (SLAs).

A set of “best-practices” is expected to evolve as more implementations come online; however, in the interim, most systems may demand more attention than initially expected—especially during test and commissioning. Upgrades may be physically less complicated but will not necessarily be as easy as SDI (at least initially). Changes will require careful planning, especially when adding core networking components or implementing software-based upgrades.

Fortunately, broadcast equipment manufacturers are supporting these challenges, especially during this initial migration to IP. Everyone is learning a new trade and a new set of practices and are sharing their findings equally amongst both users and manufacturers—as evidenced by the Interoperability sessions and IP Showcases at the NAB and IBC exhibitions.

There is a lot to learn and adapt to, so encourage your IT and broadcast departments to collectively get involved with “video transport” using real-time and other associated IP technologies (e.g., RTP, SDP, multicast, SDN, etc.) A well-rounded IT staff accompanied by a proficiency in broadcast operations and technologies will ease the transition to IP and balance the overall understanding of this next generation of broadcast-video professional. Start with the basics (fundamentals as shown in Fig. 2), and gradually work up to the details.

Participation in SMPTE will further the advancement of your broadcast and IT staff, helping to understand and delineate the differences and provide common points to both sets of technologies. SMPTE offers online and in-person training in ST 2110, networking, CCNA certifications and the like.

Leverage the experience of systems integrations companies who have already built or are in the process of building ST 2110 and ST 2022 facilities. Together with their vendor-partners, integrators can help alleviate the complications and promote a successful experience.

Connecting with and participating in industry forums such as the Video Services Forum (VSF) and the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) can help further personal, organizational and industry wide agendas. AIMS and VSF promote, develop and dedicate their memberships to the principles of interoperability, the transition to IP (from SDI), and enable the creation of quality metrics while providing education foundations for media networking technology professionals. The Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) is also a worthy organization to connect with; especially in the development of Interface Specifications and vulnerability protection.

Karl Paulsen is CTO at Diversified and a SMPTE Fellow. He is a frequent contributor to TV Technology, focusing on emerging technologies and workflows for the industry. Contact Karl at kpaulsen@diversifiedus.com.

Karl Paulsen is the former CTO for Diversified and a SMPTE Life Fellow, SBE Life Member & Certified Professional Broadcast Engineer, and the author of hundreds of articles focused on industry advances in cloud, storage, workflow, and media technologies. For over 25-years he has continually featured topics in TV Tech magazine—penning the magazine’s Storage and Media Technologies and its Cloudspotter’s Journal columns.