To Virtualise or Not to Virtualise: That is the Question

Do broadcasters understand the implications of virtualised workflows within cloud data centre deployments? And are broadcasters dedicating sufficient resources to developing strategies that optimise the benefits of production and distribution workflows that harness both virtualised and on-premise production tools? According to Hannes Strobel, Vice President of Media Technologies at Rohde and Schwarz, the virtualisation of broadcast workflows is an issue that must be approached strategically – virtualisation is not the best solution in all circumstances.

“At Rohde and Schwarz, we are investing in virtualised architectures – but this does not signpost the end for a hardware-centric environment – far from it, it merely offers greater choice to the customer,” Strobel explains. “We continue to invest massively in the development of hardware-based tech solutions. However, we see a need for this new breed of virtualised workflow solutions. So, in the case of R+S PRISMON AV monitoring, we can offer customers a choice of on-premise or virtualised workflows.”

Rohde and Schwarz encourages broadcasters, content creators and service providers to invest time and effort in developing their virtualisation strategies. Which is best: the answer is complex. Before embarking on a voyage towards virtualisation, the user must ask themselves some fundamental questions.

“Firstly, does the user prefer flexibility in their production and distribution workflows, which is one of the key advantages of a virtualised environment. Or do they prefer operational efficiency – especially in 24/7 media processing operations,” Hannes Strobel asks. “Quite simply, if the workflow is stable and not subject to modification very often then a software-based system solution running on a bare-metal on-premise installation would be preferable. Target setting of this type is a fundamental conversation we have with our customers at the start of any virtualisation project.”

If broadcasters are migrating from a broadcast specific standards and interface landscape to a generic IT/IP environment then the migration has to be complete in order to realise the potential benefits of this new environment. However, life is never black and white – there are many shades of grey and this is where the strength of the relationship between the user and technology partner becomes so important during the transition phase.

The question is how does a broadcaster adapt to an asynchronous IT/IP world whilst enabling viewers to consume AV content in ways they are familiar and happy with? The closer broadcasters can get to the performance that a traditional hardware-based system provides the happier the customer is. It requires specialist knowledge and skillsets, but the big challenge is to customise a virtualised environment to the specific needs of that user – this is where the strength of the relationship between the customer and the technology partner is so important.

Virtualised environments will never be limited to just one vendor’s products but will be a basket of several different products from a range of companies. This requires a great deal of interactivity and interoperability within a broadcaster’s workflows. In this environment things will inevitably go wrong from time to time. It is essential that the broadcaster has a strategy in place for when this occurs so that the impact is minimised.

“In an ideal world, the user will test any new software’s ability to operate effectively within their virtualised environment, but this is not always possible,” Strobel explains. “In this situation, standards such as SMPTE 2110 become important since they help promote operational stability and interoperability within a virtualised environment. However, three different vendors came interpret a standard differently and this will affect the way they operate together (or not). This is a factor that a broadcaster needs to build into their virtualisation strategy and it is one where their technology partner should be able to provide advice.

On its booth at IBC (7.B21), Rohde and Schwarz will provide the first public showcase in Europe of its new virtualised AV monitoring and multiviewer platform, R+S The showcase will demonstrate how the new virtualised product integrates seamlessly alongside its on-premise R+S PRISMON system, thereby providing greater choice, more monitoring scope and more configuration flexibility to users when they adopt both systems in a hybrid configuration.