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How Software-Defined Networking (SDN) Aims to Replace ‘Big Iron’ in Broadcast

December 27th, 2018   ||    by Todd Wasserman

While the media industry has been on the front lines of digital transformation, the technology behind broadcast has remained the same. That’s changing as the industry embraces software-defined networking (SDN), which uses standard IP infrastructure to replace such “big iron” master control facilities.

SDN aims to update the proprietary technology that the industry has relied on with off-the-shelf systems that transmit broadcast content via IP delivery.

What Is Software-Defined Networking?

Virtualization is the practice of emulating a hardware in a software environment. For instance, a MacBook can virtualize a Windows environment. Software-defined networking virtualizes traditional networking.

Traditional networking requires a hardware-software solution in which traffic runs through a network of routers and switches that limits functionality. A traditional network consisted of many small boxes with different functions that were individually programmed and formed a network.

In contrast, software-defined networking involves a smaller amount of large boxes that follow the directions from one box of software. It gives engineers more latitude to make the network do what they want. Network World provides a more detailed explanation on SDN technology.

How Software-Defined Networking Relates to the TV Industry

Bringing SDN to broadcast means broadcast content can be a “glass to glass” seamless IP path from camera to the TV set. On a practical level, this networking means broadcasters can use off-the-shelf IT equipment instead of the proprietary hardware they have always used.

Imagine Communications is one of the biggest drivers of SDN adoption in the broadcast industry. Disney/ABC Television Group moved its broadcast playout into the cloud using Imagine’s VersioCloud, according to TV Technology. VersioCloud is IP-enabled and cloud-based. One benefit is that Disney/ABC personnel will be able to do their jobs using computers instead of their traditional master control facilities, the technical hubs for broadcast.

The replacement of big iron with commercial off-the-shelf data equipment is a major draw for switching over to SDN. Imagine has partnered with Cisco and HP to help achieve this vision. If the systems work as well as advertised, then broadcasters will save a lot of money that was formerly spent on big iron and join broadcasters like Netflix and Amazon in embracing an IP-based solution.

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