The Future of IP-based Video Transport (Part 1)

Thursday, July 02, 2015

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The media landscape is evolving at pace, and by gazing into the crystal ball we can be prepared for what the future holds. Alexander Sandstrom, Strategic Product Manager at Net Insight, takes us on a journey through the evolution of IP and video transport, covering some of the challenges with the ongoing technology shift, the solutions available today and most importantly what to expect from the future.

The industry is entering a time where IP and Ethernet will be the video transport technologies of choice. There is not a new camera or production solution on the market today that does not support IP. New and modernized studios are many times completely based on IP, and file based workflows naturally use IP to move files from point A to B.

So what is driving the shift to IP? Some of the more commonly cited reasons include workflow agility, high capacity needs and operational efficiencies. With the introduction of multiscreen and personalized content there is a need for more agile and flexible workflows. This need is driving the adoption of file-based technologies, as well as flexible transport solutions. Production of 4K and 8K content require bandwidths previously unheard of and remote production further push the need for speed. Efficient operations and investments are more important than ever. One significant piece of the efficiency puzzle is using a converged network infrastructure for all services.

IP challenges and today’s solutions 

A decade ago the shift to IP took off in the telecom world in a big way. Before then IP networks were built for IT applications, where best effort traffic handling was satisfactory and outages were counted in hours, not milliseconds. The Metro Ethernet Forum (MEF) and other standardization groups were formed with the mission to make IP and Ethernet networks carrier grade. This work has helped pave the way for video transport over IP, but challenges remain that are unique to the video and media industry.

Basic video transport requirements remain as before. The most valuable traffic, live video contribution, still requires delivery of video feeds with all frames intact, video and audio in sync and with very high availability. While file transfers behave like most Internet and IT traffic, video contribution feeds are constant bitrate with no tolerance for loss or delay variation. IP and Ethernet equipment has always been optimized for applications with varying bit rates where multiple streams were multiplexed together for efficient utilization of bandwidth. To transport live video we need to avoid delay variation and reserve bandwidth for these constant bitrate feeds.

We then have our availability requirements. Upon failure, today’s IP networks typically recover in anything from a couple of 100ms to seconds. With new technology it is technically feasible to tune them to sub-50ms fail-overs. This is fast enough for most applications, however this is not the case for live video contribution, which requires hitless failure recovery.

For the foreseeable future have a mix of SDI, ASI and Ethernet client interfaces. It will not be enough to simply support SDI and Ethernet based services in the same network. To handle migration scenarios we need to support video feeds with an SDI or ASI interface in one end, and an Ethernet interface in the other.

To avoid the delay variation inherent in IP networks, reserve the bandwidth needed for each and every video feed, assure hitless faults and a mix of client interfaces we have two options. Either an infrastructure is designed from the ground up for the stringent requirements of live video transport, or a media overlay is built on top of an existing IP network. Both options are viable and proven in the field. The former provides a video-optimized and easy-to-manage network for all your services, the latter ensures maximization of the value of prior infrastructure investments.

Alexander Sandstrom is a strategic product manager at Net Insight, providing broadcasters and service providers with video transport solutions ready for the future. Sandstrom has spent most of the past decade driving the shift to IP in telecom by designing, selling and marketing IP based solutions at one of the world’s largest telecom vendors. 

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