Kicking Off The SRT Blog Series

Dear Readers,

I’m Brian Ring, I’m a video & TV tech expert, and here’s how thrilled I am to be writing this post: 😁

Why? Because it kicks-off a special SRT blog series that will be a great warm-up to IBC 2019. We’ll cover a ton of ground, and quickly. So, put on your thinking caps and get ready for a storm of stories about a (truly!) transformative open source software project — and community — that is enabling countless video use cases and driving real economic growth to the top and bottom line of broadcast and streaming organizations globally.

Let’s start at first base, and dial up Sylvio Jelovcich, VP of SRT/Global Alliances at Haivision. Sylvio’s been instrumental in fostering the vibrant partner ecosystem of over 250+ pioneering innovators in the video tech business that has embraced SRT.

Brian Ring (BR): Hello? Sylvio?

Sylvio Jelovcich (SJ): Hey! Yes, now I can hear you. Sorry, I’m trying to tie things down before heading to Microsoft’s Inspire event next week. Have you heard of it? 18,000 of Microsoft’s best partners. I’m speaking!  

BR: Ah! Fantastic. And editorially, that’s a great place to start. Microsoft joined the SRT Alliance as a member at IBC last year, right? How important was that?

SJ: Incredibly. We were so humbled. It’s such a huge validation. They got involved with promoting the effort, they embraced the idea of the open ecosystem, the open approach, and it just helped to solidify all the great momentum we’ve already got. We also won the TVBEurope Best in Show award, it was a great IBC, and Microsoft Azure has played a huge role. At this year’s NAB Show, Microsoft helped with the hugely successful SRT panels. We obviously have more planned for IBC.

BR: So good. Ok, so, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s back up a second. SRT, let’s talk about it. Some folks know the story, others don’t. But, I’ll bottom-line it and get your take. You’ve had this protocol for a long time. In development in 2012. Integrated into your products by 2013. At the time, there were just a few options the market, all proprietary, being licensed and bundled in a bunch of ways. And I’m including Haivision there. Haivision is selling products with SRT built-in and, it’s just another nifty and proprietary flavor of UDP with security and error correction and listening and receiving modes, etc.

SJ: Right. Exactly. But, understand, this is a crown jewel! It is a very important and powerful technology. I’m relatively new to the company, and I can tell you this protocol was a huge differentiator for a range of products. But, also, it was equally clear, you have these hyper-scale clouds coming to play, you have this whole trend toward remote contribution into production studios, you have this expensive satellite stuff limiting the market, you have RTMP which is just from a totally insufficient era in terms of efficiency, security, reliability, format support, etc. 

So, it was also clear, by the time 2017 rolls around, that there is another opportunity, maybe even much bigger than the proprietary model, to do something really bold by shifting all of this valuable intellectual property we had into “platform thinking”, an ecosystem model that seems to be the hallmark of some of the great technology companies of the past decade.

So, it was a big decision. It was clear that it could have a negative impact on us unless it actually succeeded in lifting all boats. It’s like, a rising tide lifts all boats, that’s the goal here.

But, back then, it was a big question. If we jumped, who would follow? And you know, it’s really also key to the ethos of SRT.

BR: Yes, and I love that. I have this picture, here’s this video tidal wave coming at us, and we can sorta run inland a bit and grab some of the dissipated, remaining energy, or, if we can all of us build a boat together, we can run towards it, paddle out to sea, and surf a pretty awesome wave!

Ok, so you open source it, Version 1.2, you put it out on GitHub in cooperation with Wowza Media Systems as a co-founder of the SRT Alliance. You give the entire thing away. What happens next?

SJ: It’s overwhelming. The ecosystem, the partners, the friends. I know, even from your short time following the SRT Alliance, that you’ve seen how much positive energy is being unleashed here. It’s just an amazing community of folks doing super interesting things that we’d never even thought of.

BR: Cool, so let’s dive into specifics there. What are some of those pain-points that really hooked companies on SRT?

SJ: Oh gosh, many things. First, of course, you have broadcast. And by that, there are many use cases, but one that I love is the growth and importance of news, where you have reporters and video journalists in the field bringing interviews, real-time and live into the feed, in a conversation with someone in the studio, or maybe even two people in separate studios. And to do that, you need this truly ultra low latency production link which used to be really expensive. It is just so impressive where we are with this when you stop to think about it. 

The viewers watching at home, they have no idea, they typically see these interviews from reporters halfway across the world where, with our technology at least, there is literally no perceivable latency. It’s actually super hard to do! And it turns out, everyone is looking at this now, and it’s part of a larger trend toward that multi-site anywhere production. You and I have talked about what that’s called, remote contribution, at-home production, it’s just a testament to the variety and diversity of the use cases. And there are many ways to do it. And, now everyone has a free open source way! So, that’s big.

BR: To me, this is the biggest: SRT dramatically increases the feasibility of a massive range of remote, at-home, and cloud-based production models.

And by the way, on the streaming side, this is critical for feeding the content beast. Cloud production models leveraging SRT will dramatically reduce the cost and increase the quality of live events, sports and news. It will be very healthy for the OTT ecosystem.

SJ: Yes. And you mention streaming, so, there’s also the RTMP replacement aspect. I alluded to this above. RTMP isn’t secure. It’s not reliable. It’s proprietary. It can’t handle today’s metadata needs, format needs, I could go on. And Adobe has EOL’d it.

BR: Yes yes. If you’re building on RTMP, please, reach out. We may need a CFO intervention.

SJ: Ha! And yes also to that CFO, I’ve got a couple of things there too. First off, did we mention, SRT is free? But also, here, you’re going to love this one. You know why it’s called SRT, right?

BR: OK, I’ll play: No Sylvio, what does SRT stand for?

SJ: Well, it’s officially called Secure, Reliable Transport. But why not Satellite Replacement Technology!?

BR: Right right! Immediately what comes to mind for me is that NAB Show panel with Glenn Scanlon of ESPN, where he describes saving $8 – 9M by using SRT to get 2,200 collegiate sporting events out the door using an internet link instead.

SJ: Yup, you got it. And I would say, what it’s really about, it’s sorta two-fold – it’s cloud media routing, and it’s security. All this media movement and migration to the cloud, and for the broadcast engineering community in particular, this is really important stuff. Cloud media routing is really a very big use case as everyone can already see, and back to the start of our chat, it’s what makes the Microsoft Azure bit just so critical. Microsoft has 160+ data centers in 54 availability zones with this best-in-class global network. Cloud providers need the connectivity that SRT provides.

And so, in that context, the protocol takes security very seriously. We do a ton of work with the U.S. Military and so, we have some serious AES experts in-house and now in fact we have expanded that knowledge into a community of people that are figuring out all kinds of ways to flex deployments for various security needs. So when you marry these different cloud media routing use cases with the security element, it’s again really powerful as a comfort factor for broadcast engineers.

BR: So awesome. Well, you made my job easy! And I’m jazzed already. What else? What other messages should we send out to the community?

SJ: I think it’s just critical to understand the community and open source elements here. I’d encourage folks to hop onto Slack for example. Or reach out to me for more information about Haivision’s activities in the space with respect to Haivision’s SRT innovations. Most of all, join us at IBC at the SRT Open Source Technical Panel on September 15th in Amsterdam. It should be a lot of fun.

BR: I’m looking forward to it already!

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