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IT revolution: beware the talking dog

By Simen K. Frostad, Chairman

Published in In Broadcast, July 2014



Revolutions - even the most benign ones - are almost always followed by a period of over-reaction to the régime that preceded them. It would be an exaggeration to say that in broadcasting the transition from dedicated black-box equipment to IT was a revolution: a paradigm shift would be a better description, but it has brought a pendulum swing in its wake just the same. There is now a tendency to think that everything IT is good, and to neglect the value of dedicated hardware.

This tendency has led to over-zealous attempts to create server-based solutions for every conceivable application in broadcasting and media delivery, and some of these attempts fly in the face of logic and good sense. In theory, a server is a generalist platform that can do anything if the right software is running on it. But in reality there’s a bit of the ‘talking dog’ syndrome here – people get excited not so much by how well the dog talks, but by the fact that it can talk at all.

Standard IT servers and software are simply not the best way to do everything. IT platforms, cloud computing solutions and virtualisation are brilliant tools for some tasks, and give the media industry a way to get out of the narrow restrictions inherent in a black-box hardware model, and to link seamlessly into a data-rich world.

Nothing can beat the potential for heavyweight data processing, formatting and presentation offered by a huge server farm. But this potential is intoxicating and it has led to some spectacularly ill-conceived initiatives in the media industry: for example, the championing of IT and file-based IP as a complete replacement for SDI, which overlooked broadcasters’ quite justifiable affection for frame-accuracy as a foundation of what they do.

Seeing past the dogma demanding that everything old should be abandoned in favour of the latest new thing, some manufacturers have been far more canny about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Let data centers and IT do what they do best, these manufacturers say, and use clever, super-efficient compact dedicated hardware to complement the cloud-computing power. The key to unlocking the full potential of IT and cloud computing is to combine it with smart, energy-efficient, robust edge devices which do their job far better than any server/software solution ever could.

In monitoring, lightweight, small-footprint hardware probes at strategic points in the distribution network are a set-and-forget way to gather accurate data and analytics which is then collated and processed in vast bulk by server systems and data centers. It’s not good sense or good economy to build this processing power into the hardware probe, and it’s not good sense to deploy a server where a lean, purpose-built probe can perform far better.

Read the article online, In broadcast


 


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