A lot of attention in the industry is understandably focused on the equipment and the network that is required to realise the goal of a seamless IP production. However, in many ways, the most crucial aspect of the whole solution is the management layer, as this is what ultimately enables broadcasters to control their network.
Unlike baseband networks, which are typically locked down and static, IP networks are highly dynamic with individual nodes making autonomous decisions. This dynamism is one of the reasons IP networks are very flexible and cost efficient. On the other hand, it also makes IP networks non-deterministic and less secure than their baseband equivalent. Network management and service orchestration provide the means to overcome these issues, and make IP networks deterministic and secure.
Fulfilment and assurance
Management, in the context of media networks is often thought of as establishing connections, between pieces of equipment (camera to monitor) or locations (contribution from a venue to a central studio) – sometimes referred to as service fulfilment.
However, every connection also needs to be monitored, to ensure it works correctly. This is the service assurance aspect of management.
In terms of media management, solutions tend to focus on one or the other, i.e. fulfilment or assurance. This obviously adds a layer of complexity, especially considering that some service assurance measures may require fulfilment actions, e.g. re-routing around a piece of equipment that is proving to be unreliable.
So ideally, a management and orchestration solution for a media network should be able to handle both fulfilment and assurance.
Coming together of IP networks and media
A professional media network is the coming together of generic IP networks with the specific needs of broadcasting.
This distinction also applies to management and orchestration. There are plenty of network management solutions for IP networks, which can we used to control and monitor switches and IP packet flows. There are also management and orchestration solutions that have until now been used to control workflows and which have been dealing with media signals (video, audio, timing and relevant data).
Now, there is a need to manage both the IP network and the broadcast workflows together.
One approach is to integrate a generic IP network management solution (e.g. from a switch vendor) with a media management solution (e.g. from a broadcast vendor). These two systems remain separate however, and so cannot provide a universal view of the network.
A better approach therefore is to have a solution that can deal with both the IP network (i.e. routers and IP packet flows) and the media aspect (i.e. broadcast equipment and media flows).