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Ask the Expert: What’s the significance of the recent publication of the first standards within the SMPTE ST 2110 specifications?

SMPTE ST 2110

John MaihotOn December 8, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE) publicly announced the publication of the primary standards within SMPTE ST 2110, the highly anticipated standards suite that specifies the carriage and synchronization of video, audio and ancillary data over IP networks. Imagine CTO for Networking, John Mailhot, a SMPTE Fellow serving as Drafting Group Editor for ST 2110, explains why the milestone is significant, what’s left to be done, and why media companies can move ahead confidently to integrate ST 2110-based solutions into their infrastructures.

What’s the importance of the final publication of the -10, -20, -30 and -21 portions of the SMPTE ST 2110 suite?
These standards cover the most essential parts of the television infrastructure — video, audio and timing — and specify core capabilities for moving separate essence streams across IP networks. Their publication as SMPTE standards is the culmination of an industry-wide effort to promulgate a single, agreed-upon approach to IP signal flow within facilities that can carry us all into the future. This is further evidence of the momentum behind industry-wide interoperability through standardized approaches to transporting and synchronizing video, audio and data over IP networks. The same technology vendors that were part of massive and recent interop events, including the IP Showcases at NAB and IBC, have also been actively involved in the drafting and approval processes of these standards. For me, this final approval and publication of ST 2110 is a milestone because it serves as a sort of collective declaration by the television community that it is fully committed to ST 2110.

But there are still standards within the suite that have yet to be ratified?
That’s correct. We are still completing the part of the standards that concern the transport of metadata (ST 2110-40). That part is nearing the homestretch and progressing well. While we don’t like to quote dates, everybody involved is working together to get it done rapidly. There is also a part of the suite that allows for transparent carriage of AES3 payloads, including non-PCM audio signals, that is working its way through the ballot and comments processes.

For me, this final approval and publication of ST 2110 is a milestone because it serves as a sort of collective declaration by the television community that it is fully committed to ST 2110.

Is there any reason why media companies should delay planning or investment in ST 2110-based solutions until the entire standard suite is completed?
Not anymore. SMPTE 2110 largely builds on earlier phases of the Alliance for IP Media Solutions (AIMS) roadmap, which are based on recognized standards and approaches for media-over-IP operations. ST 2110 builds on concepts established in Video Services Forum (VSF) TR-03, and also builds on IEEE’s 1588v2 timing system. Every vendor of consequence within the industry (and many customers) has participated in the drafting and development process for SMPTE ST 2110, and these vendors are ready to offer products that fully comply. In addition to the public interop showcases at NAB and IBC, there have been multiple non-public engineering interop events, where vendors get their hands dirty and dig into the nuances of the technologies involved. There has been more cross-vendor interop testing of this technology than any past technology I’ve been a part of. Media companies can invest today with confidence that their vendors are working from a stable foundation of published standards.

Another major component of the AIMS roadmap is support for automated device registration and connection management based on the Network Media Open Specifications (NMOS) developed by the Advance Media Workflow Association (AMWA). Do these standards work together?
AMWA, SMPTE, VSF, and the European Broadcast Union (EBU)  formed the Joint Taskforce on Networked Media (JT-NM) several years ago to organize the groundwork and architectural framework for the transition to IP. The AMWA NMOS specifications are open, published documents that flow from the JT-NM architecture. They have followed a substantive multivendor development and testing process before being elevated to the AMWA designation of Interface Specification (IS). The process is typical of other software Application Programming Interface (API) documents from trade associations, and represents a state of stability and finalization suitable for building and deploying systems. The AMWA is representative of the broader development community of ST 2110, and most of the same vendors and customers have been involved in the development of NMOS alongside the development of SMPTE 2110. The two sets of documents are designed and expected to work together, and AMWA NMOS has been part of the IP showcase events alongside SMPTE ST 2110.

With standards for media over IP pretty much a done deal, what would you say is the biggest issue still confronting media companies in their transition to IP?
Probably the biggest remaining hurdle is the need for media companies’ engineering teams to get their minds and hands around the new technology. Television engineers need to hone (or acquire) the background and skills to specify and design systems based on these new technologies. Practical knowledge of configuration and control systems design is also important, but television engineers have been building and managing IP networks for storage areas and automation systems for many years. These new networks have bigger pipes, but many of the same concepts apply. AIMS will play an important role in developing some design patterns (reference architectural guidelines).  And there are several organizations, including SMPTE, developing training courses on various aspects of the technology.