Why Does Next-Gen Video Studio need Ethernet Infrastructure? Catching Pokémon in Containers with Mellanox Switches

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What does Pokémon Go and Containers have in common? Let’s find out – but first, a little introduction.

Pokémon Go is a gaming app that uses geolocation and augmented reality (AR). For those very few who don’t know about this game, the objective is to find a Pokémon and capture them in a PokéBall. When Pokémon Go was launched in July, it became the top grossing app on the U.S. app store in just 24 hours. In fact, the app now has three times more Android downloads than Tinder and nearly as many daily active users as Twitter. Users spend more time in this particular app than they do Snapchat.

Both Containers and Pokémon have been around for a while. Containerization, in effect, is an OS-level virtualization (as opposed to VMs, which run on hypervisors, each with its own OS). Containers are easily packaged, lightweight and designed to run anywhere. What is most intriguing is the striking similarity between the PokéBall and containers. Just like how a lightweight PokéBall is designed to virtually capture different Pokémon characters, a lightweight container is designed to provide virtualization to microservices.

Another interesting aspect of the game is the use of AR to capture these Pokémons. But it’s not just video games like Pokémon Go that takes us away to alternate and extended realities. Today, news, sports, music, film, social media and virtually every other form of visual entertainment content provider is dabbling with the technology. Just like enabling millions of users to access robust multi-media content, the creation of advanced virtual reality media content also requires the most advanced networking technologies, For example, BBC’s coverage of 2016 Olympics utilized augmented reality graphics that enhanced the story and breakdown the data for viewers.

The move to support these next-gen AR/VR applications and other use cases at 4K and 8K resolution is exposing cracks in current technologies. The legacy Serial Digital Interface (SDI) technology is unable to keep up with the requirement to send uncompressed video signals across the broadcast center. Furthermore SDI is simply just not flexible enough going forward. For example:

SDI can waste over 35 percent of the data bits communicated, depending upon the video resolution and frame rate.

These data bits are largely redundant and not necessary! Moreover, as a proprietary, hardware defined interface, it does not offer the flexibility and extensibility of software-based solutions on top of industry standard networking solutions. The desire for something better is causing a major technology upheaval in the industry: the migration from SDI to IP-based studio infrastructure. A Joint Task Force of Networked Media (JT-NM) announced a Reference Architecture at IBC 2015 which describes a conceptual model for interoperability that will allow end users and manufacturers to benefit from the flexibility, scalability and cost saving of this IP-based approach. [To learn more read the Blog on the Video Studio of the Future].


Fig 1

Figure 1: Traditional SDI based Media Studio

Fig 2

Figure 2: Next-Gen IP based Media Studio

While the JT-NM laid out the reference architecture, the task of creating interoperable solutions was left to initiatives such as Video Services Forum (VSF) TR03 and TR04 and Advanced Media Workflow Association (AMWA) Networked Media Incubator projects and the resulting Networked Media Open Specification (NMOS). Mellanox, a member of JT-NM, VSF and AMWA, has worked with the community to develop an innovative solution wherein we have implemented the three major components of the reference architecture as micro services on the fabrics. These three components are:

  • Registration & Discovery Services: Ensures that all devices, specifically senders (Video Camera) and receivers (Multiviewer, Mix Out) on a broadcast IP network infrastructure can find each other, and obtain appropriate information about each other and their corresponding capabilities and functionality
  • Connection Manager: Provides the ability for the user to “take” and/or “park” networked video streams to any of the receivers (i.e. Multiviewers). On demand, the Connection Manager sends the required meta-data to the receiver which, in turn, connects to the requested multicast network video stream. Finally, the receiver updates the registry to notify the network that is displaying the requested video
  • Web App: Provides 360-deg view of the broadcast IP network. It visualizes the current situation within the network displaying the requisite Nodes, Devices, Senders and Receivers. It displays each devices capabilities and functionality. It also shows the current relationship between receivers and senders allowing the user to see exactly which video stream is being displayed

Fig 3

Figure 3: JT-NM Microservices on Mellanox Spectrum Switch

In addition to providing the industry’s highest application fairness and zero packet loss for video applications, Mellanox SpectrumTM switches fully support containers like lxc and Docker thereby allowing applications and microservices to be hosted on the switches. Running these microservices on Mellanox Spectrum switch provides three major benefits:

  1. Ease-of-scale and management by replicating these microservices across several switches especially in an environment where there are hundreds of cameras,
  2. Efficient and simplistic implementation since the reference architecture demands these microservices close to the fabric and,
  3. Elimination of unnecessary server for processing in environments that do not require one.

At IBC 2016, happening in Amsterdam Sept. 9-13, Mellanox will be working with the Joint Task Force on an interoperability demo to showcase this capability at the IBCTV IP Studio area (Hall 8 – Stand 8.D10 – IBCTV IP Studio) along with 45 other technology partners. Mellanox, Arista and Cisco are the three network vendors in this demo and Mellanox is the only one to support both the transport service and the registration service on the fabrics.

Mellanox will also contribute to the “end-to-end IP” demo on the EBU stand (Hall 10 – 10.F20 – EBU), the live capture system with AMWA Incubator partners, sending live and not-so-live content from store to downstream IP distribution and personalization systems from other EBU partners.

In addition, a number of key Mellanox partners will be showing demo in their booths – namely DDN, SuitcaseTV, TAGvs, Embrionix, ATTO and GrassValley. This is why, when it’s time to choose your next networking technology provider for your media data center, you will choose Mellanox – but don’t just take my word for it, check out the demos and see for yourself!



About Ramnath Sagar

Ramnath Sai Sagar is a Marketing Manager at Mellanox Technologies, heading market development for Big Data, Enterprise AI and Web2.0. He has an extensive background in both R&D and Marketing. Prior to joining Mellanox, he had worked as a Performance & Solutions Architect at Emulex Corporation, and in some of the premier research projects in European labs including Brain Mind Institute (BMI) at EPFL, Switzerland and Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Spain. He has been published in a number of leading conferences and journals in scientific computing and holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering from Anna University, India.

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