AIMS one year on: Imagine Communications

AIMS at IBC2016
Kerry Wheeles, Imagine Communica
Opinion
November 8th 2016 at 3:41PM : By

Kerry Wheeles, networking CTO for Imagine Communications and chair of the Alliance for IP Media Solutions technical workgroup, shares his experience in the frontlines of 2016's AIMS revolution

Reflections on the Alliance for IP Media Solutions By Kerry Wheeles, Networking CTO for Imagine Communications and Chair of AIMS Technical Workgroup

From whatever perspective you care to view it, the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) has been an unparalleled success. In less than 10 months since its formation in December of 2015, AIMS, which now includes more than 50 members, has already fulfilled one of its primary missions: providing media companies with assurances of widespread technology interoperability by creating consensus around a single standards roadmap.

It’s difficult to underestimate the importance of this achievement. Prior to AIMS, the media and entertainment industry was essentially paralysed by fear of investing in next-generation solutions that might be obsolete or force media companies down a proprietary path. When it comes to technology standards, choice is not a good thing. In a pre-AIMS world, media companies were confronted by numerous options for building out their IP plants, none of which guaranteed future interoperability.

Prior to AIMS, the media and entertainment industry was essentially paralysed by fear of investing in next-generation solutions

AIMS has removed the guesswork, as well as the fear, giving broadcasters, content creators and distributors the green light to get on with the modernization of their networks. Media companies now have a precise roadmap to follow to the IP Promised Land. AIMS has also been beneficial to technology suppliers. Imagine Communications has been moving down an AIMS-oriented path for quite some time. What’s different now is that we can step off of the brakes and precede full-speed ahead. Not only have we already delivered products based on standards in the AIMS roadmap, those products are now supporting on-air operations in multiple regions around the world. 

I’ve been in the media and entertainment industry for close to 30 years and I’ve never experienced anything close to the communal spirit that the AIMS initiative has engendered. Interoperability events with more than 70 engineers from 30 companies participating including the IP Interoperability Zone that was featured at the recent IBC conference and exhibition in Amsterdam.

AIMS benefits tremendously from a membership that is a mix of technology suppliers and media companies 

Brad Gilmer, the executive director of the VSF, which has been a critical contributor to the standards being promoted by AIMS, was recently quoted as saying that he remembers the activities accompanying the solidifying of SDI as an industry standard as being roughly a tenth the size of the AIMS-driven efforts to create a standard interface for the transport of media over IP.

And those efforts are paying off. SMPTE ST 2110 consolidates the AIMS roadmap into a single SMPTE standard for IP transport, similar to what SMPTE ST 259M did for SDI. Although it is not yet completed, ratification is almost assured in a foreseeable timeframe. While understating SMPTE’s role significantly for simplicity, the fact that ST 2110 is an amalgamation of existing standards means that equipment suppliers can start delivering solutions based on the pending standard today, knowing that full compliance is only a few minor tweaks away. There are no reasons to hold off moving forward with products or deployments based on the ST 2010 draft.

More work to do 

But that’s not to suggest that the AIMS mission is over. The coming year is likely to be another meaningful one for this fast-growing industry consortium. At the top of the agenda is implementation. The organisation is already looking to tackle an assortment of use cases, guiding media companies on how to apply the standards to solve specific problems through the creation of reference architectures.

As a trade organisation, rather than a standards-making body, AIMS benefits tremendously from a membership that is a mix of technology suppliers and media companies, including some of the largest and most iconic in the industry. As an AIMS member, Imagine Communications is hoping to see a large number of media companies, of all sizes, become part of the AIMS story in 2017. The insight they bring about real-world requirements and implementation issues is invaluable. 

Being part of the AIMS experience has been one of the most rewarding of my career. The cooperation and comradery I’ve experience over the past 10 months makes me proud to be part of this tremendous community and confident that the IP-enabled era of the media and entertainment industry will be one of its most prolific.