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IC Labs Opens to Provide Answers for the “How” Phase of Your SDI-to-IP Transition

Imagine Communications Labs

One of the biggest challenges facing today’s broadcasters and other media companies is seamless and disruption-free adoption of the next-generation architectures that will be required to meet the challenges of the not-too-distant future. Nearly all media organizations now recognize that the migration of operations to agile and instantly scalable IP-based common computing platforms is no longer a point of debate — but a competitive imperative. What they still lack, though, is a clear vision and strategy for how they can get to the media facility of the future from where they are now.

Providing this business-critical “how-to-get-there-from-here” knowledge was one of the primary reason we introduced Imagine Communications Labs (IC Labs), an advanced service offering designed to help customers and partners quickly and efficiently test new configurations and validate complex workflow integrations, including interoperability. Today’s production, playout and distribution operations are the result of years of careful planning and fine-tuning. They are precision instruments with millions in investment money behind them. Introducing new technologies, architectures and procedures into an existing facility, regardless of their potential boosts in productivity and cost efficiency, is almost always highly disruptive.

Unappetizing Options

Forklift upgrades, for example, are not feasible from an operational or financial standpoint. And few, if any, media companies can afford to run a second infrastructure in parallel, testing and breaking in a new network while the existing infrastructure continues to crank out current content commitments. The bottom line is that at a minimum most engineers and operators will require a good deal of time to gain familiarity with the new technology, work out the kinks and test drive a few different configurations before committing to a major renovation. It’s a bit of a Catch-22 scenario: media companies need to try out new solutions before moving them into production networks, but lack the resources to gain the familiarity they require.

IC Labs, headquartered in Toronto but accessible from other locations, was conceived to provide media companies with affordable access to this all-important hands-on familiarity with next-gen technology and architectures. It was designed as a place to test out use cases — both common and not-so-common — prior to ripping up current production networks. The facility is also set up to provide end-to-end solution demonstrations, handle third-party integrations, demonstrate multivendor interoperability and fine-tune next-gen playout and delivery workflows.

One of the reasons I joined Imagine a few months ago was this recognition that the move to IP was about much more than technology. As the leader of IC Labs, I will be on the frontline of the company’s efforts to make the journey from where you are today to the media facility of the future as painless as possible. My chief responsibilities include implementing best practices and managing the various innovation engagements we are conducting with customers all over the word.

We use the term innovation engagement to distinguish these customer encounters from proof of concept (POC) exercises or customer trials. All of the products and solutions involved in these engagements are field-proven and in most cases already supporting next-generation workflows in commercial networks. The major purpose of these engagements is to give our customers the opportunity to understand how to seamlessly integrate these solutions into their networks and how they can help them achieve their specific business goals. Current innovation engagements span the entire technology spectrum and include UHD, HDR, social media integration, virtual reality, ATSC 3.0 and private, public and hybrid cloud deployments.

"IC Labs represents Imagine’s latest commitment to helping our customers reach the IP Promised Land with as little disruption as possible."

Multifaceted Approach

IC Labs represents Imagine’s latest commitment to helping our customers reach the IP Promised Land with as little disruption as possible. It is part of a multifaceted strategy to smooth the transition process for our customers by lessening the risks related to the various decisions they will need to make throughout their network modernization journeys.

We understand that transitioning to the next generation of technology, which will deliver the agility and flexibility required to support shifting consumption patterns and speed the delivery of new service offerings, requires more than just innovation and technical excellence. That’s why we’ve invested heavily over the past couple of years on industry-wide initiatives designed to clear cultural and other non-technology obstacles in the way of a smooth transition to hybrid or pure IP-based facilities.

Ensuring that IP-based interfaces offer the same plug-and-play compatibility as SDI equipment, for example, was the major motivation behind the Alliance for IP Media Solution (AIMS), an industry consortium dedicated to the promotion of existing IP standards and solutions based on those standards that has attracted more than 60 members in a little more than a year in operation. The prospect of simple and widespread interoperability that AIMS promises, and that IC Labs validates, is crucial to convincing customers that the technology they purchase today will not become obsolete or lead them down proprietary dead ends.

Imagine has also been at the forefront of smoothing out the overlap between the broadcast and IT domains. By working closely with leaders in the IT and cloud industries, including Arista, Cisco, HPE, IBM, Microsoft and others, Imagine has made it a primary mission to fortify IT environments with the precision, performance and reliability that broadcasters expect from traditional facilities, as well as lessening some of the cultural impact of the transition.

In many ways, IC Labs forms the nexus of Imagine’s multipronged transition strategy. It’s where innovation, interoperability and the fusion of broadcast and IT all come together. IC Labs is here to help you tackle your biggest technology and business challenges. As you move along the “How” portion of your next-generation journeys, don’t hesitate to reach out to me to help make sure the path to your future media facility is well lit and as easy to navigate as possible.


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