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OPINION: Demystifying Video-over-IP

Don’t get fooled by glitzy trade show signage, advises Paul Turner, VP enterprise systems, Telestream

As you wander through Hall 7 at IBC this year, you might be led to believe that everyone is peddling the same wares. As vendors we all have a sign somewhere on our stand saying we specialise in IP solutions for broadcasters. While Video-over-IP is a big buzzword in our industry, it’s important to realise that Video-over-IP has different meanings depending on whom you are talking to.

So, in an effort to help you ‘kick the tires’ or ‘look under the bonnet’ as you travel from vendor to vendor, I wanted to offer some guidance in defining terms and discovering exactly what’s on offer at various vendors.

Video-over-IP can mean:

• Live video signals pushed over Ethernet as a replacement for SDI;

• Video signals pushed over the internet to the consumer as an alternative to cable or broadcast;

• File-based media being transferred and processed on network-based computers

What’s the attraction to Video-over-IP? It may seem obvious, but the fact that video can now be processed by computers means we’ve moved into a world of software-enabled solutions. Software allows engineers to use more generic IT hardware, and less proprietary hardware.

This results in lower total cost of ownership and easier maintenance. But arguably more important, software-based solutions are more agile and allow for more automation and scaling.

To be competitive in today’s video ecosystem, content owners need the automation and scale only possible with computers. Is the solution you are looking at running on proprietary custom hardware? That might not be a wise investment.

While generic IT server hardware can now handle video processing, fine-tuning server components for video workflows can add real value. High performance computing with GPU acceleration provides significant power to video workflows. As an example, Telestream’s pre-configured Lightspeed servers can be twice as fast as similar off-the-shelf servers because they’ve been tuned to maximise video processing throughput.

Another attraction of Video-over-IP is the flexibility of Ethernet and IP-based routing technology. Computers and software provide scale and automation, but there’s no way to achieve the same scale of transmission and video routing just by adding more SDI cables to the mix. Video over IP allows you to replace SDI interconnects in a way that is more flexible and more uniform with everything else going on in the facility.

When looking at the big picture, broadcasters and content owners who are ahead of the game with Video-over-IP will benefit from lower costs and greater ROI. This means more profit and more pricing flexibility, which will give them an edge over their competitors.

The good news here is that the key enabler to all this video ecosystem diversity – software – is also the solution! Software is extensible and can easily be updated to grow with an organisation.

Best of all, software supports rapid innovation. So, it is clear that the time of custom hardware solutions is coming to an end. With the right software, solving problems becomes less about new proprietary systems, and more about workflow design, hardware scaling, and management.