FPGA semiconductor devices have always been at the heart of Axon’s development – indeed you could call them our specialty. I’m confident that, for at least the next five years, the industry will be using them to reach the next level. Doing what we do on an FPGA is not very efficient for a CPU and I wouldn’t expect an off-the-shelve CPU based server to be capable of performing the task of a NAP. The FPGA we use in Neuron is the biggest we could find because that is what was needed to provide such impressive processing power and efficient connectivity to legacy SDI/IO. Don’t worry, we will fill it up – and once we do, it will do a lot!
A NAP is essential in the move to IP
By Peter Schut | CTO Axon
Switching to IP is undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges faced by today’s broadcast industry because it demands such revolutionary and radical changes in technology. After five years of debating this issue most people now agree that IP is a logical step forward and are willing to countenance a move towards a fully IP future. However, one burning issue remains – how will broadcasters overcome the problems that arise when trying to integrate and control increasingly complex technology layers, while still providing guaranteed bandwidth performance for new formats such as UHD?
We spent several years migrating Synapse, our existing glue equipment, into an IP infrastructure before we realized that moving to 25 Gig and 100 Gig environments needed an entirely different type of infrastructure, so we set about developing just that. The result of our R&D effort is an entirely new concept known as a Network Attached Processor, or NAP. Rather than building a broadcast infrastructure out of small, independent pieces of hardware that you would historically call ‘glue’, NAP allows you to adopt a larger, more centralized (or decentralized) processing unit that performs all the tasks undertaken by smaller ‘glue’ products and combines them into one larger and highly configurable design.
Another key reason why we developed NAP and Neuron is to assist those broadcasters who are not yet ready to commit fully to IP and want to get there via a hybrid path. It is clear that deployment of COTS switches and CPU-based hardware has failed to provide the functionality present in SDI routers such as embedding, de-embedding, up, down, cross frame synchronization and multi-viewers. Neuron seamlessly bridges that gap by providing impressive processing power with efficient connection to legacy SDI I/O. By bundling SDI technology into an IP platform, all audio and video processing tasks are managed with ultra-high bandwidth. Up to 80 SDI connectors can be added in that same 1RU, making it one of the most space-efficient, cost-effective and energy-efficient processing devices available today.
We envisage that Neuron will initially be used as a pure network processing device or as a bridging processing device, connecting the legacy SDI world to the new world. Looking to the future Axon’s next step is to add a multiviewer, audio processing in various standards such as DANTE, AES67 and MADI, compressed signals and analysis tools for the entire IP infrastructure. This gives us a grow path that allows us to meet all the processing needs of the new IP environment.
Since launching Neuron at IBC, we’ve been overwhelmed with support from clients, many of whom are pioneers in IP production. Euro Media Group (EMG), a leading provider of broadcasting and audio-visual services, announced at the show that it was adopting Neuron as part of its strategic move towards harmonized IP media production and immediately ordered 10 systems to manage IP signal processing and provide SDI to IP gateways in new OB trucks that are set for rollout in 2019. This supports EMG’s OBjective 2020 strategy: a program focused on the design and delivery of modular, scalable IP-based media production across its European group. Endorsements like this make us very confident that in Neuron we have found a solution to both ease and accelerate the move to IP – particularly in sports production where its guaranteed bandwidth performance will support the rollout of new formats including 8K.
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Peter Schut | CTO