Mellanox has a long heritage in high bandwidth use-cases for high performance computing and enterprise applications, but one little-known development is with real-time video transports. Traditionally within the broadcast industry, they’ve used a proprietary interface called SDI (Serial Digital Interface) to move uncompressed video signals around a broadcast plant. SDI is a family of digital video interfaces first standardized by the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) in 1989 for broadcast-grade video. The speed of SDI technology, however, has not kept up with the accelerating network speeds and bandwidth of Internet Protocol technology (IP for short).
Now in 2015, the days of SDI may be numbered. Ethernet-based IP networks are now commanding attention across the entire broadcast television ecosystem. As bitrates increase and equipment prices drop, IP-based communication technologies – both fixed and wireless alike – are pushing more and more specialized communication systems such as SDI into retirement.
The sheer amount of connectors currently found on professional video cameras make some of the advantages obvious that an IP-based solution brings. The number of UHD/HD video channels that you can squeeze into a 10/25GigE or even 100GigE line is a convincing argument for migration to IP. Finally, the need to manage an increasing amount and types of content continues to grow in the broadcast world (i.e., multiple formats, Video-on-Demand, Over-the-Top, etc.) and the market is continually jockeying to identify the ever changing way to accommodate viewer tastes.
One thing is clear; higher quality content (HD, UHD, 4K and beyond) requires more horsepower and bandwidth to distribute throughout and between broadcast plants. To remain efficient and satisfy demand, broadcasters will need to choose the technology that has already demonstrated its ability to support the bandwidth that broadcasters require. In the long term, SDI simply does not provide an affordable and sustainable solution.
Well, why can’t you just swap out SDI for IP? Challenging but worth it…
Moving from SDI to IP is a challenge for a variety of reasons. A great deal of thought is going into addressing this specific challenge.
Mellanox is a member of the Joint Task Force on Networked Media (JT-NM). JT-NM is sponsored jointly by the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), the SMPTE and the Video Services Forum (VSF). Its charter is to help to drive development of a packet-based network infrastructure for the professional media industry by bringing together manufacturers, broadcasters and industry organizations (standards bodies and trade associations) with the objective to create, store, transfer and stream professional media.
At IBC Conference (Sep 2015), JT-NM released the Reference Architecture (RA) v1.0 document; a collection of models, best practices, and frameworks intended to facilitate interoperability in networked media systems.
Also at IBC, the Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) announced the start of a Networked Media Incubator (NMI) Project to extend the work JT-NM has done and to work with a range of media companies and their suppliers to deliver practical interoperability across IP-based infrastructures.
The output of these type of collaborations is hopefully a new practical IP-based world that frees broadcasters from the constraints of SDI. It will allow them to become more innovative and to develop more interactive content offerings that provide the consumer a more immersive experience. Thomas Edwards, VP for Engineering & Operations at Fox Networks recently wrote: “I believe that this [IP] transition is going to be very transformative for the industry. In a few years, it will be typical to have an all-IP video plant.” (http://www.tvtechnology.com/expertise/0003/ip-for-broadcast-a-conversation-with-thomas-edwards-of-fox/276295). Through initiatives like these, broadcasters are taking full advantage of the flexibility of Ethernet and IP rather than just replacing legacy SDI.
Through all of these initiatives and activities, one thing is growing – the demand for efficient networking bandwidth. As the leading provider of efficient, high-bandwidth, low-latency, advanced networking solutions, Mellanox is perfectly aligned with this development – supporting unmatched video content creation, distribution, and processing. Our ConnectX-4 and Spectrum family of 25/50/100Gb/s Ethernet adapters and switching solutions deliver unmatched price/performance that are enabling multi-stream UHD video at economic price-points.
The recent testing of 100GbE at the BBC R&D Labs is a great example of BBC’s leadership in advancing video networking technology within their on-going IP Studio development project. Mellanox will continue to work with broadcasters, content distribution network providers, and Media & Entertainment equipment manufacturers alike to bring an interoperable and open approach to broadcast-grade video transport. Stay tuned for more exciting developments in this space!