12 August 2014
Paul Divall, Managing
Director: Intelligent Technologies
solutions providers are shifting to use of commercial off-the-shelf hardware.
This trend is driven by the commoditisation of hardware solutions. It is
delivering more cost effective solutions to buyers and offering resellers more
room for margin. However, users should be aware that not all servers and
certainly not all storage platforms are created equal. The ideal software and
hardware partnership should be tailored to the application.
of tying users to one-off hardware solutions that are expensive to upgrade,
software providers are leveraging advances in hardware to create flexible and
scalable solutions. A number of vendors at NAB 2014 discussed the benefits of
the latest off-the-shelf solutions. They also discussed how the ability to
combine and match processor (CPUs, GPUs) and programmable chip (FPGAs or field-programmable gate arrays) strengths to deliver on the
requirements of the application (e.g., station in a box solution), is opening
doors. This allows vendors and users to step away from proprietary hardware,
create more flexible and cost effective solutions, and extend the value of
hardware investments. As these hardware and software solutions also often offer
upgradable paths, they are able to ‘work harder for longer’.
trends highlighted at NAB relating to this topic include the shift of video and
audio processing from hardware to software as new software architectures emerge
that offer new ways of building and operating systems. Hardware virtualisation
offers new ways of deploying and maintaining systems. Add an overarching
software control layer to link disparate systems and real operational and
technical benefits begin to emerge.
importance of the trend toward use of commercial off-the-shelf hardware is up
there with the focus on developing solutions to support higher resolutions
(Ultra HD or 4K); cloud solutions to support remote collaboration; asset
sharing and operational efficiencies; and the shift toward all-IP infrastructure.
Compression and playout solution providers that have in the past made use of
dedicated broadcast equipment and interfaces will be particularly challenged by
the use of off-the-shelf hardware. The likely outcome will be the introduction
of products with standard IP switching and routing capabilities that leverage Network
Attached Storage (NAS).
strong injunction is, however, to ensure the hardware solution matches the
application. While vendors are careful to test and specify the hardware options
they prefer used with their products, users are keen to leverage existing
investments in hardware and explore their options.
commoditisation also brings other value-adds for users. Hardware vendors are bundling more services
and offer better support options with hardware to differentiate their
offerings. But while Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) is an important
consideration, so too is the assurance an integrator can provide. Integrators
take responsibility for the solution working “as advertised”. Their skill and
experience is vital to ensure solution is put together correctly, tested and
supported after installation to ensure adequate performance.
the shift to off-the-shelf hardware is a trend that is likely to stay, it would
be wise to take into account the advice of vendors and integrators, and assess
TCO when making decisions.