Much has been said and written about the broadcast industry’s transition to IP – but are we as whole-hearted about it as we should be?
340 undecillion, 282 decillion, 366 nonillion, 920 octillion, 938 septillion, 463 sextillion, 463 quintillion, 374 quadrillion, 607 trillion, 431 billion, 768 million, 211 thousand and 456. Or, if you prefer: 340,282,366,920,938,463,463,374,607,431,768,211,456.
Do you have any idea what that number is? I’ll tell you. It’s the number of addresses that IPv6 will support. IPv4, its predecessor, supports a mere 4.3 billion addresses – which isn’t even enough for one for everyone in the world.
You’re probably asking now: what point is he trying to make? Simply: it’s hard to overstate the importance of IP in the world today – and, perhaps more importantly, in the world tomorrow. IP is huge – and unstoppable. It is, with all those addresses available, the glue that can enable everything and everyone in the world to be connected with everything and everyone else.
Now, here, I have to make an admission. Bridge Technologies has been working with IP in the broadcast environment for over 12 years and some of us have worked over 25 years with the technology. We at Bridge Technologies like to think we were among the first to see how the future would be – and that’s what we’ve invested our time, effort and talent in. Today, there’s pretty much nothing we don’t know about packet behaviour, for example. So, yes: perhaps our perspective is a different one compared with those in the industry to whom IP is a comparatively new phenomenon.
Versatility, performance, flexibility
Think, for a moment, of everything that IP allows us to do throughout our everyday lives. Its versatility, its performance, its flexibility are astonishing. It has been one of the most transformative technologies of the past century, and has enabled innovation on a scale previously unimaginable. It’s pretty much the case that we have yet to find anything IP can’t enable us to do when it comes to making content, information and entertainment available to as many people as possible.
That’s why it’s so important that we don’t try and make IP into something different. Or, probably worse – ignore it altogether. It’s a hugely successful technology, and one that can deliver enormous benefits to our industry if we accept that it can enable us to do virtually anything we want to do today – and tomorrow.
I was surprised by a survey I saw the other day, commissioned by a major broadcast supplier, that indicated that around 13% of broadcasters don’t plan to migrate to IP till 2017 – and an astonishing 15.5% have no plans for migration to IP at all. That survey tells me that not everyone in our industry yet understands what IP is all about, or its potential. To me, that’s somewhat worrying.
Of course, it’s only human to regret the passing of something that has been central to our lives for many years, and has allowed us to do so much. I’m thinking, for example, of SDI. To try to make IP more SDI-like, though, is to miss the point somewhat: IP can do everything we need to do – but, perhaps more importantly, as it develops, it will enable us to do even more. As an industry, we need to ensure we’re positioned to take advantage of what IP is and will be – and not get deflected into trying to create some custom variant of it. Ideally, we shouldn’t be thinking “this is how it should work” – and embrace “this is how it does work”.
Opportunity to innovate
There’s no doubt that what we should be embracing, as we look to the future of our industry, is what IP brings in terms of the opportunity to innovate. IP brings the opportunity to design whatever we want, however we want to do it. We can architect systems any way we like. IP can significantly reduce complexity in the production process. IP can enable an abstract type of redundancy that is just not possible with any other technology. And look at how the IT-ification of our industry is driving commoditisation of the building blocks we rely on – delivering higher performance and lower prices on almost a weekly basis. That trend is guaranteed to continue.
The broadcast industry is fundamentally an interconnect industry. To get our content created and distributed, we need infrastructure. IP brings the performance and flexibility that enables us to connect anything with anything, from the most esoteric devices to the humble server. No single technology we’ve had before has allowed us to do that, which is why the transformation to an IP-centric world is a far greater revolution in our industry than the transition from monochrome to colour, or the transition from analog to digital. It’s the most significant thing to happen to our industry since the invention of broadcast itself.
With its ubiquity, and with the weight of investment behind it, who can say what the future will hold for IP? What’s really exciting to think about are the IP innovations we haven’t even seen yet – innovations that will open up even more possibilities, even more new ways of doing things and enable us to achieve things that, today, we can scarcely imagine.
There are myriad benefits that IP brings. But the benefits of IP aren’t just about tomorrow. They’re about today.
That’s why we must encourage our industry to migrate to a ‘pure’ IP environment as rapidly as possible. Of course, there needs to be a period of transition – but at the end of that transition period, we need to have embraced IP as it is implemented throughout the entire world if we’re to feel the full benefit of it.
Just think of all those IPv6 addresses just waiting to be used.
Published in BroadcastPRO ME
Simen K Frostad