Where are we on the road to IP?

Long, desert highway
Andrew Warman, Harmonic
September 21st 2017 at 10:35AM : By

Harmonic’s Andrew Warman, director of cloud product management, says that uncompressed IP is already in wide use. The upcoming approval of SMPTE ST 2110 will confirm what is already well under way


The move to an all-IP environment for the media and entertainment industry has been a point of discussion over the past two years, driven by the industry agreeing on a common path for uncompressed IP transport. What started as a replacement for SDI using SMPTE ST 2022-6 has quickly morphed into adding greater flexibility by allowing video, audio and ancillary data to be split and resynchronised throughout a workflow. Removing the need to embed and de-embed signals enables greater creative freedom and the opportunity to simplify production, playout and distribution workflow with compliant products and solutions. The result is the upcoming release of SMPTE ST 2110, which will not only enable SDI replacement, but also this freedom and simplification.

State of SMPTE ST 2110

One of the most exciting aspects of the move to IP is how quickly the industry – vendors and customers alike – have accepted a common set of standards and specifications that make real-world solutions possible. Systems work has not been restricted to lab environments and interoperability tests, though these serve as important milestones in making sure the technology and approach is fully baked. The proliferation of SMPTE ST 2022-6, AES67 and SMPTE 2059-enabled solutions has been impressive as confidence builds, and as time goes by the number of systems in the field is growing exponentially.

For SMPTE ST 2110 the reality is even more exciting, as vendors have developed a broad and diverse range of products that are compliant ahead of the release of the standard. AIMS members, which represent a large cross section of the vendor community, already have approximately 40 SMPTE ST 2110 compliant products working and exhibited at the IBC2017 IP Showcase. This is an impressive achievement considering the road to the SMPTE ST 2110 standard started less than 18 months ago.

The bottom line is that uncompressed over IP works already. It is field proven and in use in production and playout environments

Does this mean the industry is ready for mass migration to all IP environments for every workflow aspect? The number and variety of existing solutions certainly is encouraging, solving a large number of needs already, even without SMPTE ST 2110. Not every need in every use case has been met, but the industry is tantalisingly close.

Just as SMPTE ST 2110 has been evolving quickly, so has the supporting technology that will take us beyond what SDI is able to achieve by improving connectivity, configurability and how systems are deployed and redeployed in an all IP environment.

Alternatives to all IP

Moving to all IP may not be a reality in every end user case. A hybrid SDI and IP requirement may be quite likely, even in cases where production systems are all IP. The larger ecosystem may still depend on SDI for other upstream and/or downstream processes until planning and budget cycles allow for a complete end-to-end IP replacement system. In this case, conversion equipment or hybrid SDI and IP devices become a necessity for smooth operation.

In cases where SDI over IP is sufficient, SMPTE ST 2022-6, AES67 and SMPTE ST 2059 can be applied today. For those looking to move to SMPTE ST 2110, a range of compliant products that will enable building of systems is expected toward the end of this year and into 2018. Planning can begin now as more and more products become available from the vendor community.

Ensuring flexibility

Creating agile systems can be a challenge. This is where AMWA NMOS aka IS-04 and AMWA IS-05 come into play. They are aimed at resolving the needs for more dynamic environments, and also will greatly aid those that are static or change infrequently.

While SMPTE ST 2022-6 and 2110 define the flow of video, audio and data, IS-04 enables those flows to be identified and registered on a network. As a result, end users know what is available at any point in time. The systems can be found by other compliant devices or control systems. At a system level there is an underlying mechanism to find them or remove them, preventing errors in routing and connecting with non-compliant flows. This goes hand in hand with IS-05, the connection management API that handles making connections between compliant flows.

Moving to all IP may not be a reality in every end user case

Looking at the progress made so far, the rate of change has been astonishing. The industry coalesced on the AIMS approach for the transition from SDI to IP around the time of NAB 2016. SMPTE ST 2022-6, AES67 and SMPTE ST 2059 enabled real-world solutions to be deployed at an accelerating rate. IBC2017 will see interoperability demonstrations with an astounding level of industry participation. SMPTE ST 2110 is front and center is this latest round of open interoperability demos.

The bottom line is that uncompressed over IP works already. It is field proven and in use in production and playout environments. The key benefits SMPTE ST 2110, IS-04 and IS-05 add to the current capabilities are simplicity, faster deployment and redeployment, and the opportunity to do things differently and improve upon how SDI-based systems are designed, deployed and used. Ultimately, the ability to do things differently is really exciting and unlocks the full potential of the all-IP environment.