As IP begins to make serious in-roads into real-time production, a lot of industry attention is focused on the equipment and network that is required, and how to achieve the interoperability that will provide choice to broadcasters and service providers.
In fact, the most crucial aspect of the whole solution is probably the management system, as this is what enables the network to be controlled. Choosing the right orchestration and control system is vital to achieving the expected benefits of IP. Picking the wrong one could end up locking organisations into specific hardware – thereby defeating the effort put into interoperability.
IP technology creates wide-ranging requirements on management systems, including the need to manage both the IP network (including IP packets) and the broadcast workflows together.
Additionally, for the first time, there is unified technology in the facilities (LANs) and in use for long-distance transport (WANs). This convergence requires unified management of IP LANs and WANs. There is also the need to support a multi-vendor environment, which means handling both IP switches and media equipment from different vendors.
It is also important for a management system to be able to handle both service fulfilment (establishing connectivity) and service assurance (monitoring and recovery). Fulfilment capabilities should include capacity and bandwidth management, as the media flows share resources (connections, ports) and low latency needs to be maintained.
Since connections are essentially established logically in IP, an exciting new development for broadcasters and service providers is the possibility to plan these connections ahead of time. To achieve this, the management system needs to be aware of equipment availability and capacity, as well as bandwidth requirements – not just at the present time, but in the future.
As the industry moves to virtualisation, the role of the management system will evolve to handle not only connections between locations and equipment but also instances of software running on virtualisation platforms or the cloud.
The problem with most IP media network management systems is that they focus on particular issues when a holistic approach is required. This means that in most cases, multiple systems need to be integrated together – for example, a media equipment management system needs to be linked to an IP network management solution, which isn’t a sustainable approach in the long term.