IBC 2017

IBC Reflections: Arista Networks’ Ed Chapman Sees Broadcast’s Transition to IP in Full Swing

Adoption is driven by 4K primarily, cost, flexibility, and use of a commodity infrastructure

Not surprisingly, Arista Networks was all about IP at IBC 2017. As the broadcast industry continues to transition from baseband to an IP infrastructure, the switch manufacturer has made the M&E industry a major priority. At the show, Arista was part of the IP Showcase, in which several vendors demonstrated live IP interoperable workflows. In addition, it partnered with several broadcast vendors to demo how its IP infrastructure can provide the base for next-gen IP workflows.

SVG sat down with Ed Chapman, VP, business development and alliances, during the show to discuss the IP demos, how an IP-based facility can help broadcasters future-proof themselves for 4K (or whatever next-gen technology comes down the pike), and how he sees the industry transition to IP ramping up in the coming years.

Arista’s Ed Chapman: “[The move to IP] will open up the entire marketplace to new possibilities.”

What is Arista highlighting at IBC 2017?
We’re very focused on the transition to IP, and we are part of the IP Showcase. We’ve also got demos here at the booth with Imagine and Lawo and have our technology at many other vendors’ booths as well. With Lawo, we’re demonstrating our Arista Media Control Services, which take our switching infrastructure and optimize it for broadcasting. Across all of our products here, we’ve got the appropriate infrastructure in terms of speeds, feeds, and support for the various IP standards — whether AIMS, ASF, SMPTE, or others.

[The broadcast market] is one of our key vertical market segments, and we’re winning a significant amount of business. This reminds me of the transition from analog voice to voice-over-IP. Think about what that did to the marketplace: allow you to get voice almost anywhere. It’s the same situation here. As long as we’re providing the high availability and the necessary hooks in terms of APIs, as well as the timing and clocking that broadcast requires, [the move to IP] will open up the entire marketplace to new possibilities while also driving down costs and giving [broadcasters] a lot more flexibility.

Are you seeing a rise in interest from sports customers specifically?
Absolutely, we are seeing a lot of growth and opportunity in sports. We have helped provide IP infrastructure for a few of the major sporting events over the past few years, and one of the largest U.S.-based sports networks is currently using us for their IP infrastructure. Anywhere people are looking to leverage IP and use it for broadcasting, we are there.

How can IP-based infrastructure help broadcasters prepare for the potential rise of 4K and other next-gen video formats?
TPC Television is already utilizing our technology in their 4K broadcast truck, along with our partners’ technology. You’re going to see more of that, and it will only grow as we get to 4K, 4K uncompressed, and, eventually, maybe 8K video. That means a very large amount of data, but we’ve got the capability to handle it with our 25 Gigabit Ethernet.

Regardless of when these technologies go mainstream, the first question people are going to ask is, How do I do this in a cost-effective manner? Today, the broadcast industry, which generally has been bespoke, can now use commodity [IP] infrastructure to drive down cost. All you have to do is put the appropriate software on top of that commodity [hardware] in order to work with their existing systems.

That transition to link IP and the broadcast industry is what we are trying to [facilitate], and you can see it here with all our partners. [At IBC], we are working with Imagine and others to think about not only 4K but also 8K and whatever is next. We have the necessary I/O and systems to prepare you for whatever comes down the road at a low cost that enables you to do this effectively.

Arista has made the M&E industry a priority of late. What do you feel the company can bring to the industry?
Unlike some of our biggest competitors, we don’t compete with many of our partners in this space. So we can provide a superior solution from an IP perspective, and yet we are also very open to partnering with the established players in the [M&E industry].

That is why we’ve got so many partners here at our booth and so many partners who have our products in their booths. You’ll see our products in Imagine, Snell, Embryonics, Lawo, and other booths because [we offer] the premiere solution for IP infrastructure for broadcast environments [and] allow our partners to build their tools on top of that. That way, we can make sure that their customers get the same experience out of the IP networking infrastructure that they used to get from [baseband] infrastructure.

How do you see the move to IP accelerating in the coming years for the broadcast industry?
I see interest continuing to grow, and we see a lot of household broadcasting names moving towards deploying IP in their environment — from news stations to large broadcast facilities. We also see the trucks starting to integrate IP into their infrastructure. And, once you start getting the truck, that’s where sports really comes in. TPC and are other [truck providers] have our switches in their trucks already.

In the next five to 10 years, I think you’ll see almost a complete transition to IP. As far as the next two to five, I think it will be more of a wait-and-see for a lot of people, but I’m seeing more and more adoption of IP for a variety of reasons: primarily 4K, cost, and the ability to run a bunch of different [resources] on top of commodity infrastructure.

I think the industry is going to transition pretty quickly once it’s proven that [IP technology] can deliver the same reliability and tools [as baseband]. But we have to be better than good to prove that. The technology has to provide the same level of service that people have been used to for many years with [baseband].