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17/10/2017

LAN/WAN Convergence in IP Media Networks

LAN/WAN Convergence in IP Media Networks

When it comes to IP LANs, a lot of the current thinking is very much locked into the idea of a like-for-like replacement, i.e. building an SDI-like network using IP technology. This however, is missing possibly the most important point about IP: the network technology is now consistent across local area networks (LAN) used in studios and facilities, and wider area networks (WAN) used for contribution and distributed production.  This LAN/WAN convergence has the potential to revolutionize the workflow and the economics of live production.

The current division, in terms of networks and workflows between studio, campus and contribution locations is shaped by baseband technology and, in particular, the limitations in the length of SDI cables. IP makes those divisions unnecessary: IP packets can travel pretty much anywhere, very fast. Uncompressed signals can be transported at a speed of around 200 km or 125 miles per millisecond. So with the right network connectivity, such signals can travel between studios 1600 km or 1000 miles apart in just 8 milliseconds, i.e. substantially less than one video frame.

With IP technology, campus performance can be achieved over significant distances, meaning geographically separated locations can be be considered as one for the purpose of live production. And this brings significant benefits…

Shared production facilities and shared talent

Through IP LAN/WAN convergence, a show can be produced from a control room in a completely different location. Not only does that have the potential to save costs in equipment, but it also means production talent can be shared. That’s a great improvement in production flexibility and efficiency! It also means that the top talent can be used almost regardless of where it is based.

Shared processing

IP also means that sharing signal processing capabilities becomes much easier, even across locations. The signals simply need to be routed in and out of the appropriate equipment, which could be stored in a data-center on the facilities’ premises.

At the simplest level, automated capabilities like audio embedding and de-embedding, or encoding and decoding could be pooled and shared. But over time, we are also likely that equipment used by humans, like switchers and mixers, will become split between the human interface (consoles) and the actual processing of the signals. It will then be possible to share the processing capabilities between multiple consoles.

Processing as a service

If processing capabilities can be moved to another location, then these could be hosted by a service provider that could offer them as a service to the broadcaster – in real time! In such as scenario, the broadcaster would no longer own the equipment, but would rent the capabilities on a pay-per-use basis, turning the typical CAPEX into an OPEX that is directly aligned with business requirements. The service provider could share the capabilities with multiple broadcasters, potentially enabling the service to be provided at extremely competitive prices.

Broadcasting as a service

The WAN/LAN convergence also offers the potential for broadcasters to become service providers more easily, and offer elements of their production, such as a studio, to other broadcasters, allowing the latter to produce shows remotely from their own control rooms.

This would provide new revenue sources for broadcasters: broadcasting as a service.

Convergent networks need convergent solutions

IP LAN/WAN convergence means that it is no longer possible for suppliers to think in silos. Media network equipment and control need to become convergent:

  • Equipment must be versatile, providing capabilities that apply to either LAN or WAN, or both. It must be easy to switch between one form of processing and its opposite (e.g. from encoding to decoding, from embedding to de-embedding) to meet changing production requirements.
  • Network management and service orchestration must be able to function across LANs and WANs, enabling for example signals to be routed withing and between locations.

Revolutionizing workflows

LAN/WAN convergence has the potential to revolutionize workflows – both technical and human. This revolution will help broadcasters to remain competitive as the media landscape evolves. But this cannot be realized without the right convergent equipment and control.

Read about Nevion’s convergent software-defined media node, Virtuoso here.

Find out about Nevion’s convergent network management and service orchestration, VideoIPath here.