Column: The road to true IP is paved with interoperability

By David Kicks, Pebble Beach Systems

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Ever since the migration toward IP workflows began, the buzzword “interoperability” has been the ultimate broadcast pursuit. Engineering teams are driven by the promise of replacing proprietary media networking with format-agnostic workflows.

To achieve true IP workflows, interoperability is the key to unlocking the benefits of using off-the-shelf IP networking technology to route signals from any source to any number of destinations on a network.

But before we move ahead with our next broadcast lesson, it’s important to take a refresher vocabulary lesson. We need to understand the definition of interoperability and, more importantly, what it is not, not just in terms of automation playout but for many systems a broadcaster may be evaluating. Then we can understand why interoperability is so important within the context of automation.

Interoperability describes the ability of an application or device to interact meaningfully and exchange information with another separately developed application or device.

There is a difference between open protocols, proprietary protocols and closed protocols. Some companies add their own protocols, which can increase difficulty for device integration. For interoperability with multiple vendors, standards and best practices are key.

Investing in interoperable solutions enables integration with other products and third-party systems, which delivers a range of short- and long-term benefits. Interoperability allows broadcasters to take advantage of the best features of each manufacturers’ technologies, combining all into one seamless, highly customizable and adaptable workflow. Interoperability also opens the door to the highest levels of flexibility and scalability to accommodate for future growth.

Helping to accelerate IP deployments are two industry standards: SMPTE ST 2110 (the set of SMPTE standards for sending digital media over an IP network) and the Networked Media Open Specifications (NMOS) suite of protocols. Together, these two advancements further the way IP networks transport media including uncompressed video, PCM audio and ancillary data that are carried over separate routable streams, as well as device connection management on a network.

IP networking is a complex area and can seem daunting to broadcasters as they transition to a new technology. While there still are many proprietary approaches in the market, the goal has to be making interoperability simpler rather than putting barriers in the way.

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More manufacturers, Pebble included, are working to the SMPTE and NMOS protocols to simplify establishing IP native workflows. This is done by developing solutions and applications that offer broadcasters standards-based interoperability for IP facilities and workflows. These new solutions address the needs for ease of use, interoperability and reliability, while allowing expansion of IP systems to more complex COTS network architectures.

Interoperability also requires working with legacy and current systems and in this case compliance with industry protocols is a key factor. The ability to emulate legacy index-based matrices or routers means any IO or container can be connected using the SW-P-08 general router protocol for example.

Now you have seamless backwards and future compatibility, regardless of your organization’s scale and scope. It’s the perfect solution for moving forward, essentially giving you a Swiss Army Knife for your broadcast operations, enabling total interoperability across everything you have in your studio or your playout workflows.

All this work is being done with the understanding that efficiency, reliability and sustainably are vital to establishing an IP workflow with end-to-end interoperability.

For more information on the importance of interoperability in IP environments visit our website. The next article in this series will cover IP and hybrid infrastructures.

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