Listen to Hear:
- The strategy behind the SRT streaming protocol
- Why it was made open source
- The workflows it enables
Our Guests This Episode
Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Strategic Relationships
Peter brings more than 26 years of proven experience in international business development, sales, marketing, and strategic partner development. Previously, Peter served as Vice President at Hyperchip (telecommunications sector), Discreet Logic/Autodesk (multimedia/broadcast sector), and Matrox (computer graphics sector), developing top-level strategic alliances and channel/OEM partnerships.
Peter received his MBA from McGill University and his Bachelor of Engineering Science (Mechanical Engineering) degree from the University of Western Ontario in Canada.
The old saying goes, you can’t unsee what you’ve seen. And the efficiencies that people are getting [with SRT]—and the cost-savings and the flexibility of adopting these remote workflows—they're here to stay.
Peter Maag, CMO, Haivision
Mentioned in This Episode
MediaCentral | Stream
Find out more about IP stream contribution into Avid production environments
Craig Wilson: Hi! Welcome to the Making the Media podcast. Craig Wilson here. Thank you so much for joining me. This time on the podcast we're focusing all our attention on streaming. Specifically, the technology SRT.
SRT stands for Secure, Reliable Transport, and it's an open-source video transport protocol that enables the delivery of high quality and secure low latency video across the public internet. But so what? Lots of people do streaming. Well, more than 500 organizations are already part of the SRT Alliance, and the technology is now embedded in a huge range of applications which are changing the way that, for example, news teams get video back from the field.
SRT was invented by the Montreal based company, Haivision. So, who better to talk about it and the wider SRT alliance than Peter Maag, Haivision's Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President of Strategic Partnerships. And I began by asking him to outline the background to the technology.
Peter Maag: SRT is a low latency transport protocol. It stands for Secure, Reliable Transport, and we actually invented SRT to overcome some fundamental challenges that people have had in the broadcast industry, in particular. And we invented it because the IP-based transport protocols didn't deliver what the broadcast market really required for low latency video transport.
It really came to us at IBC, I believe, in 2012, when many broadcasters came up to us and said, you know, “We need to transport video over the public internet, but satellite is just too cumbersome. It's too costly. It takes too long to provision. It's not flexible and scalable.” So, we actually invented this SRT (Secure, Reliable Transport protocol) and many people have joked over the years that potentially it should stand for “Satellite replacement technology” instead of secure, reliable transport. That's kind of the inspiration of where SRT came from.
CW: From a very specific challenge that people were looking to do, you mentioned there about satellites, and you mentioned about provisioning satellites and things like that. Was it driven by a desire to drive costs down? Was it driven by a desire to just enhance the technology that already exists and give it a twist? What did you see that there was a unique opportunity that SRT would have?
PM: Well, it’s definitely all about cost, right? And flexibility. And when people don't want to be handcuffed with heavy-duty satellite provisioning and the costs associated with it for the for the simple purpose of backhauling video.
Satellite is great for distribution, right? But for point-to-point contribution, it's just very, very costly. So that was the opportunity where news and sports organizations wanted to simply get the video, bring the video home without having to schedule and pay for costly satellite links. Or on a more permanent basis, provision very costly private networks. MPLS networks.
So, whether it's the temporal use of satellites or the permanent use of MPLS, people really just wanted to drive the cost down and take advantage of everyday IP networks.
CW: And so, when you began to look at it, what were the kind of workflows that you were really looking to support? Was it about news? Was it about sports? Was there anything specific you were looking at in those kinds of days?
PM: No, I don't think so. And when the concept came to us, it was really, you know… I want to get video from here to there. And in our mind, at the beginning, it was simply about “Ok. We've got high-performance encoders and high-performance decoders. Let's just draw a line between the two over any network and get the video as quickly and as cleanly from one place to the other.
So, it was really that raw point-to-point challenge that we were trying to solve. But as you hear the story unfold and with the move towards cloud computing and everything in the cloud, it really blossomed well beyond that simple point-to-point challenge.
CW: And… I don't know if it was a decision made at that point, but SRT is an open-source technology. So why make the decision to make it open source?
PM: I mean, that's certainly something that I could almost write a book about. The market at the time had satellite and the market had MPLS and there were a number of proprietary protocols that were emerging and gaining all sorts of traction. And people were charging a lot of money for those protocols. And we kind of saw the trend that… I mean, this isn't technology that's going to be proprietary forever. Somebody is going to make the move, whether it's a small company or a big company—a Google or Microsoft or something like that. Adobe, or whatever—somebody is going to make this freely available, so we kind of just had the foresight to lead the market rather than have a proprietary technology that overtime will become less and less topical.
So, in 2017 at NAB, and we kept this very very secret, actually, and it was kind of fun because we had to do a lot of work to package up the technology and document it and prepare it for the open-source venue called GitHub where we placed the technology. And so, we did a lot of work for months and months and months for getting the licenses correct, and stuff like that. And then we dropped it on the Monday of that NAB. And we announced that we were making it open source.
CW: And what was the response of the market at that point?
PM: It was kind of interesting because we had packaged the technology on our own products for a number of years—for about two or three years—and exercise the technology. So SRT had already gained traction and people knew kind of what it was… but that Monday morning at NAB, their response was phenomenal, and we really didn't anticipate how phenomenal it was.
We even had… there was this one decoder vendor who… we announced its availability at 9:00 AM on the Monday and by noon they had already packaged it up and had a data build for an implementation on their decoder. So, the market response was absolutely fabulous. And there was immediate attention, and we started to kind of to support the marketing side of the open-source initiative, we started the SRT Alliance. So, we had many, many companies right away join the SRT alliance to promote the adoption of the open-source stack. It was quite phenomenal actually.
CW: Yeah, I was going to ask about the SRT alliance because obviously now there's a lot of companies that are involved in it and it's grown over time.
So, what are the kind of workflows that that is really enabling? And again, what benefits do you see there being in the fact that SRT has this alliance around it?
PM: Yeah, let me get into the story without getting specific into news or sports, but how the technology kind of blossomed from that point-to-point challenge to a lot of different challenges in the industry.
So, point-to-point in satellite replacement—ok, that's a given. But there are two things that I didn't really anticipate with the technology, and one of them was the kind of raw cloud contribution. And the protocol, as you know, that dominates the kind of streaming contribution is RTMP.
And I didn’t really anticipate that the RTMP crowd—all of the streamers—would embrace SRT so readily and so quickly, so it was really … the next thing after point to point was RTMP contribution. So, I call all the companies involved on that side of the market the streamers. So, we had a lot of support from Wowza and companies like that, and so the streamers really embraced SRT.
But what really surprised me was the cloud guys. Let me just call them the cloud guys and a fundamental challenge in video in the cloud is getting video into the cloud and transporting it within the cloud. So, a number of broadcast companies that were very vested in transitioning their infrastructures to the cloud computing environment started to support and endorse SRT very readily, and companies like Harmonic—and I was very surprised at the following NAB where I saw Mediacoin had all of their cloud-based workflows kind of strung together with SRT as a fundamental protocol.
So those are really kind of the three fundamental challenges and workflows point-to-point streaming, RTMP contribution, and cloud-to-cloud transport that SRT is solving. So, you had three groups of people or types of companies that we’re endorsing SRT through the SRT alliance.
CW: This may seem a strange question, Peter, but how does it feel to be behind a technology that, to an extent, you envision solving one problem and then seeing it then blossom and dissolving other things—that must be an amazing experience?
PM: Oh, it's… to see how and who has endorsed the technology is absolutely thrilling. You know. And certainly, Avid was a key supporter from very early on. But to see the behemoths in the industry—Microsoft and Ali Cloud and Amazon, and now Google is coming on to support the technology—it's really phenomenal. And what's also interesting is the attention that it's actually getting from the standards committees, right? We presented SRT a number of times and are collaborating with the ITF to promote SRT as a fundamental IT technology standard in the industry, and it's just thrilling to see what a ride this technology is going on.
CW: So, when you look back at the last few years, Peter, have there been any kind of real lightbulb moments where you've seen the technology being applied or a particular workflow or particular customer that's got involved and you kind of sat back and going “Wow, that's kind of incredible.”
PM: Well, I mean, the pandemic. The pandemic has been interesting for a lot of companies. I think the first real lightbulb moment was, you know, feeling the sports organizations wanted to get back in business and wanted to get back in the game after everything was shut down and it was really the NFL Draft that had such an extensive use of SRT—both with Haivision Makito encoders, and with a plethora of other products that supported SRT. So, they had like… fifty… sixty… hundreds of video feeds running around, all being mixed down centrally and pulling off such a dramatic event was very interesting, certainly. And, you know, the SRT technology was the foundation to the entire operation, right? Every video stream was using SRT at the moment. So that was kind of one of the most striking uses.
CW: And I guess for something like that it also showed, one: There's such an appetite for live content. And two: The technology is robust enough to support it.
PM: Exactly, and that appetite for live content, I mean, it's just increasing every day. And whether it's micro broadcasters or in the faith market, let's say, or, you know, secondary, tertiary sporting events, college football... all of this. Everything needs to be live and to produce all of those live video feeds is a challenge and it needs to be cost effective, right?
So, whether you're producing it at a college stadium or in the street for a news reporter or whatever and sending it home to be rebroadcast, or whether you're taking multiple feeds back, synchronizing them, producing them in the basement, and then broadcasting them—The cost-effective transport is the fundamental of what people need to do every day.
CW: And so, when customers now are assessing what they're going to do, one of the things that we've spoken a lot of people about in the podcast, of course, has been the impact of the pandemic over the course of the last, you know, 18 months or so. The move to more remote working, people looking to do things like we're doing right now. I'm still kind of working from home.
So, I'm interested to know how you feel that has impacted, or has it accelerated people looking at taking advantage of ton of technologies like SRT, what's your thoughts on the last 18 months or so?
PM: Well definitely. I mean, the last 18 months in the broadcast industry has been incredibly interesting and for broadcasters to survive and just get the job done, of course they have to embrace, you know, firmly remote workflows.
So, the initial challenges that that we experienced were, you know, simply providing the basement video feeds to people at home so that they can monitor their operations. But more and more, a lot of our customers even before the pandemic hit were doing remote interviews and very low latency contribution. But more and more, they're getting into remote production and production from home. So, it's not about remote interviews, but it's about “Ok, let's bring all of the video feeds to one place so that we can produce them centrally.” And do the Remy models, but also a lot of the operators that were in the basement are now at home. So how are you going to work your Avid system (or whatever system you're working). How are you going to work that from the home? And certainly, people have used PC over IP and you're very familiar with TERADICI and those type of solutions. And those are kind of bringing a computer screen to a remote operator, but they need to have real time video at the same time beside the computer screen. So SRT is a unique enabler to providing their real-time video to any remote operator as they’re approaching those type of challenges.
CW: I presume as well, Peter… I think at the moment they’re still a little bit unsure about exactly what the return to the office is going to be, how many people will go back, and many people will continue to work remotely. I think the majority people I speak to at the moment think there'll be some kind of blended model of perhaps sometimes people will be in the office and perhaps sometimes people will be out.
But thinking of the news market, I think the majority of people want their journalists to be in the field. You know, they don't necessarily want them to be in in the office and I think remote contribution using things like mobile phones is something that we're going to continue to see more. So, is that something that's an area of focus for you guys, as well?
PM: Yeah, well, I mean, there there's high vision and SRT right? Of course, we have our mobile apps that support SRT viewing and contribution. And there are a number of other companies as well that have mobile applications or computer-based applications that absolutely are taking advantage of SRT to enable that type of business. And you were talking about the return to work. I think the fact of the matter for the broadcast community is it's almost the old saying that goes, “You can't unsee what you've seen.” And the efficiencies that people are getting and the cost savings and the flexibility of adopting these remote workflows… I mean, they're here to stay. So, I think the pandemic has really accelerated a trend in the industry that was happening anyway and so you can't unsee it and the remote workflow is here to stay.
In broadcast or in any industry, in pharmaceutical industry, marketing, whatever—everybody is remote these days.
CW: So, what are the kind of future possibilities for SRT? What's the next thing? What are the sorts of things that you're looking at?
PM: Well, from a raw technology point of view, SRT had a number of inflection points in its development. I think the first major inflection point was to enable file transfer. So, there's a number of people using SRT not only for real time video, but for fast file transfer. Another technology development that we've released is technically called Socket Groups. So, the ability to take multiple network paths and apply resiliency between different network paths or bonding. So that’s something that, from a technology point of view, is coming along very rapidly.
From a workflow point of view, I think that the major inflection point is going to be in the cloud and in the cloud-based workflows. So, we've seen the trend towards remote. All of the broadcast infrastructure solution providers like Avid, or like I said, Harmonic Medicon, whatever—everybody is trying to judge when this inflection point is going to happen and we can really get our servers into the cloud and so I really think that that's the next big thing, and everybody is banking on it, and the pay-as-you-go model pays bit for bit is actually a reality today, and so I think that's the next major thing.
CW: One other aspect to ask about cloud is the security aspect of it. Because I think that's something that still a concern for people. So how do you address those kinds of concerns with the way that sort is kind of constructed? “Secure” is part of the name of it, so how do you convince people that it really is?
PM: Yeah, that's certainly interesting and, you know, we deal with a lot of markets that require more security than broadcast, right? The government and defence markets, for example, or medical. And you know, I think there's different aspects to security. One of them is, the wrong encryption that's applied to a video stream or to the data as it moves to and through the cloud. But there's the whole aspect of enterprise-grade security that people need to need to consider and what we're focused very heavily on, from a systems perspective, is keeping peoples’ data secure from one another—not only the raw video content.
So, absolutely. That's an area that's very, very important. But I think that the cloud providers are becoming very sophisticated in their application of security and, you know, there's trends across all markets, in particular in the government markets, where there are mandates that you know we're not going to (and I'm using colloquial or simple terms,) we're not going to buy servers and buy software anymore. It needs to be cloud based, so there's things like Fed Ramp and Gov Cloud and stuff like that that are creating these hyper secure environments for cloud-based processing that the broadcast industry is going to take advantage of ultimately.
CW: So, Peter, when you look around the landscape, there is one question I ask everyone who's on the podcast, so I will ask it to you: What is it—if anything—that keeps you up at night?
PM: Yeah, you told me that question was coming, and I've been trying to get a fun, good answer to that. I guess just from an SRT perspective, the trip has been so amazing for high vision, so amazing for me that you kind of think, you know, “OK, what's next? What do we do to innovate going forward?” And it's funny, we've proven that we can shake the foundation of the industry once. Can you do it again? You know, what's the next big thing? And we're playing with a lot of different ideas.
Whether it's the application of SRT for, let's say, bonding. Or… we even signalled a number of years ago and it's kind of fundamental to our company is “Can SRT (which is fundamentally been known as a contribution and distribution technology) can we apply that to the delivery side and kind of shake-up this CDN space? And we've been playing with things like peer-to-peer technology and what's that going to look like in the in the future? So really, we're just trying to dream and see “Can we do it again? Do we need to do it again?” And “What's the most important thing to do in the industry?”
CW: I love that thought about dreaming up the next big thing. Great stuff from Peter there and a really interesting discussion. Thanks again to him for taking part.
So how are you looking to use SRT in your operation? Feel free to get in touch. You can email us, our address is MakingtheMedia@avid.com or contact me on social media. I'm @CraigAW1969 on both Twitter and Instagram—though I should warn you now that I'm also a bit of a runner, so be prepared for tech stuff on Avid, and other stuff about marathon training.
Now, did you know that the next version of Avid | Media Composer is coming with some fantastic SRT workflows? Check out the show notes to find out about this great development.
Also, there you can discover more about Media Central Stream and its support for SRT RTMP and LIVEU workflows to get your media efficiently into your Media Central production system.
That's it for this episode of the podcast. All that's left for me to do is to thank you for listening and if you like it, please leave a review. Subscribe to get notified when the next episode is out. And of course, spread the word with your friends and colleagues. Thanks also to Matt Diggs for his production duties. My name is Craig Wilson. Join me next time for the latest on the people making the media.