The Future of Open Source Software in Broadcasting Industry: SMPTE BootCamp 2017

        

Savoir-faire Linux participated at the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE)’s BootCamp 2017 having the overarching topic of Media in the IP Era. This bootcamp was organized by the Montreal SMPTE Committee including the main actor, CBC (Radio-Canada), and was held at LÉcole de technologie supérieure (ÉTS), June 12-13, 2017.

Michel Proulx addressing the audience at SMPTE BootCamp 2017 in Montreal


The Event’s Focus and Our Role

The SMPTE, including the Montreal/Quebec chapter, has three key goals: educating players in the media and broadcasting industry, communicating the latest technological developments, as well as encouraging networking and interaction among industry stakeholders. This year, the SMPTE’s BootCamp 2017 rallied participants around the following topics:

a) IP transport and the SMPTE 2110 Standards,
b) Virtualization and software.

On this occasion, our open source software (OSS) consultants: Éloi Bail and Amir Taherizadeh, jointly delivered a talk entitled Open Source Software: A Tool for Digital Transformation in the Broadcasting Industry. The first part revealed the empirical results of our joint R&D project with Radio-Canada on “how to handle IP contents in the cloud”. This includes deploying FFmpeg OSS technology on a general purpose server in order to transmit raw data at speed of 3.5 Gbps without relying on specialized hardware broadcasting equipment. In addition, Éloi demonstrated to the audience the actual data transmission, and performance on the stage in real time with the help of two generic servers and a switch. This showcases for the participants the technical implications and potential of FFmpeg in broadcasting industry for the years to come.

Amir Taherizadeh and Éloi Bail while presenting on the stage.

The second part explores the nature, inherent attributes, myths, advantages, challenges, and licensing opportunities associated with OSS. It explains OSS as a relevant, significant, and ubiquitous tool in a variety of industries including, but not limited to, aerospace as well as media, entertainment and broadcasting industries. The aerospace industry presents an interesting case as it is somewhat comparable to broadcasting industry on three dimensions. It is a rather closed and highly standard-governed industry. It is capital intensive and advances rapidly. There is also a complex and symbiotic interrelationship between hardware and software components. Amir has presented an example where the networking stack of the Linux kernel drives the multi-media equipment of an aircraft. This case demonstrates how value-added solutions can be created having adopted an open and collaborative value creation process. Indeed, OSS projects like the Linux kernel and FFmpeg are testimonies to collaborative software development where private companies and communities work together towards a common objective. In what follows, you find a brief summary of the event from our representative s’ perspective.

From left to right: Éloi Bail, Daniel Guevin (Radio-Canada), David Beaulieu (Radio-Canada), Amir Taherizadeh, Ash Charles, and Francois Legrand (Radio-Canada)

Amir Taherizadeh (PhD, MBA)Reflecting upon SMPTE® BootCamp 2017 Montreal Chapter…

Amir holds a Ph.D. in Science & Technology Management from UQAM. He has completed his research on OSS Tech. collaborations embedded in shared R&D and innovation processes in ICT sector while he was a researcher at CIRST – a Canadian leading interdisciplinary research cluster of UQAM, the UdeM and the University of Sherbrooke. He presently acts as a Tech. Marketing & Business Dev. Consultant at Savoir-faire Linux.

I found the BootCamp exceptional, dynamic and forward-looking! Definitely a learning experience wrapped around two days of presentations, case studies, Q&A, and one-on-one technical discussions. You could easily see the upcoming trend, i.e., virtualization and cloud computing. There was a shared wish among many broadcasters and technology providers to move the media production infrastructure towards more use of IP – i.e., replacing Serial Digital Interface (SDI), cabling and physical complexities – and benefiting from the flexibility, scalability, agility, and redundancies offered by IP networks and cloud computing.

In several case studies from around the globe (e.g., Belgium, Canada, Luxembourg, Norway, USA, etc.), presenters discussed not only the main advantages of this upcoming technological change, but also shared and discussed their experiences about disadvantages, challenges and uncertainties associated with the shift. Some key issues underlying the heavy reliance on IP-based infrastructures and hybrid IT and broadcasting know-how include the following:

  • Unknown expected scaling scope actually needed; i.e., untested real scaling practices,
  • Unclear cost analysis methods and realistic evaluations,
  • Unknown skills required for such technological transformation,
  • Being undecided about what tools will be exactly needed and how to use them effectively,
  • Challenges of reorganizing and orchestrating the workforce and the work flows., etc.

As a case in point, on occasion a broadcasting facility uses IP switches, there is high possibility of packet loss which demands a variety of techniques bundled together in order to manage the data traffic effectively and to police the data flows appropriately. The situation is further exacerbated when early adopters are faced with technologies which are not quite mature yet.

Irrespective of the bumps on the road to full conversion to virtual networks, and software-based solutions, the majority seem convinced that this is the way forward for the industry to not only survive but thrive. Darwin’s quote perhaps best describes the current situation.

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Charles Darwin, 1809

It is, thus, not a question of why any more, but how and how fast! This positive forward-looking approach, in my opinion, presents an opportunity for mature OSS projects to be a part of the virtualization solution. This accordingly calls for the expertise of OSS service providers such as Savoir-faire Linux to accompany broadcasters with their expertise and social capital from communities in their digital transformation journey.

Looking Ahead: A Call for Action

Overall, we found this event as an important step forward in further balancing the role of software – including OSS – in broadcasting industry. This implies an even more highlighted potential for a variety of instrumental open source technologies including FFmpeg, GStreamer, VLC but not limited to them. As a leader in this field, we strongly believe it is our duty not only to openly discuss multiple implications of deploying OSS solutions in downstream industries (e.g., media, aerospace, etc.), but also to empirically diffuse the results of our R&D projects through the public. These experiments on FFmpeg (see notes 1 & 2 below) speak for themselves and open new horizons that can convince decision makers to further collaborate with us and CBC/Radio-Canada in order to test the limits of open source technologies and further push their technological boundaries. As the old African proverb goes:

Tout seul, on va plus vite. Ensemble, on va plus loin.”
Alone, I go faster; together, we go further.”

In conclusion, the inherent attributes of OSS value creation process, today’s mandate for adopting open business models, and most important of all, the technical requirements of entertainment, media and broadcasting industry call upon us to pull our intellectual forces together to contribute to FFmpeg and its application in this industry through the following routes:

1. Full decoding, transcoding, streaming in software,
2. Cloud based solution scalable for streaming demands,
3. Synchronization over PTP, 

4. Handling of several streams,
5. IRQ model,
6. Busy polling,
7. Check latency.

While the past cannot be changed, the future is yet in our power. Let’s work together to shape it.

Notes:
[1] https://patchwork.ffmpeg.org/patch/3225/
[2] https://patchwork.ffmpeg.org/patch/3224/

Our Shared Vision on the Symbiosis between Open Source Software and Azure Cloud

We are happy to have completed a joint project – an informative video – with Microsoft on the relevance and significance of open source technologies in the Azure cloud environment.

First Microsoft Open Source Partner in Canada

We are the first “Microsoft Open Source Partner” in Canada. This partnership has been a testimony to our ability to implement free and open source technologies in hybrid ecosystems such as Azure cloud computing platform. Since then, we have been well positioned to help our clients leverage the power of the Azure cloud for their information systems (IS) based on open source software.

Since we are the front-runner in the open source software industry in Canada, it makes sense for Microsoft to appreciate our technical approaches to fit open source technology into the bigger picture of organizations’ information systems. The real winners of partnerships of such complementary nature are Canadian customers and end-users for we collaborate together to support our clients’ cross-platform IS requirements by bringing into the table “the best of the both open source software and cloud” worlds. Put simply, while the flexibility offered by adoption of open source technologies enables clients to do ‘mix and match’ and create their own unique IS, Microsoft Azure ensures reliability, flexibility and scalability of solutions as a cloud platform. For a snapshot of how Savoir-faire Linux views the symbiosis between Open source software technologies and Azure cloud computing platform, you can watch the video – a joint effort which testifies our shared vision of OSS-based enterprise IS solutions.

Small Business Digitization Initiative launch in Ontario

The Digital Revolution is happening! The Small Business Digitization Initiative (SBDI) was officially launched on April 6th in Ottawa. A hundred youth from across Ontario are helping Small and Medium-size Businesses (SMBs) thrive. This exemplary collaboration between businesses, academia, young talent, and government is positioning Ontario as a world leader in the Digital Economy.

Amanda O'Reilly, CEO @BalanceInStyle, explains why she invested her time in the SBDI program
Amanda O’Reilly, CEO @BalanceInStyle, is leveraging the SBDI program to build stunning customer experiences

SBDI is designed to support small and medium-size businesses like Balance InStyle (illustrated above). Amanda O’Reilly, award-winning CEO and Top 40 under 40, moved the audience when she explained why she dedicated her life to reducing stress and saving people’s time. She is generously communicating her sense of purpose and business savviness to the young generation. Also, she believes she could leverage technology to improve customer experience. Enters Melanie.

Melanie is telling the audience about her work with Amanda
Melanie is building a digital sales channel for @BalanceInStyle

Melanie is a highly driven and well-educated young professional. She became frustrated when she could not find a job in IT after graduating with a degree in Interactive Design from York University. She has the right credentials and skills, but too many small businesses don’t understand how to leverage her talent. Melanie grew frustrated that many businesses “don’t get it”. She has been eagerly looking for opportunities to apply her skills, including as an entrepreneur.

Melanie and Amanda are a fantastic match. Amanda has become a role-model for Melanie, on her way to become one of the top business women entrepreneurs in Ontario (watch for it!). At the same time, Melanie is applying her IT and Design expertise to improve Balance InStyle‘s customer experience.

Small Business Digitization in Ontario, Canada, and the World

Funded in part by the Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Growth, the Small Business Digitization Initiative connects talents with business opportunities. The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC), a national center of expertise for the digital economy, acts as the catalyst to make the Canadian ICT sector thrive globally.

Savoir-faire Linux is the main training delivery partner, and a leader in technological innovation and Open Source Software since 1999. A recent study by Black Duck Software estimates that 78% of enterprises run on Open Source Software. Savoir-faire Linux shares its expertise with customers and partners such as Microsoft, IBM, Desjardins, General Electric, the Canadian Space Agency, and many other leading companies.

ICTC research shows that too many young ICT professionals (13% are unemployed) struggle to start a career in ICT where, on the other hand, jobs opportunities are enormous. The ICTC will need to fill 216,000 new positions in the next three years, and the gap is widening. ICT Job growth outpaces other sectors by 4 to 1.

There is a real risk for small businesses to be left behind. On one hand, technology and skills are changing fast as the world is going through the Fourth Industrial Revolution (Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, 2016). On the other hand, IT companies and large enterprises are competing for the same talents. Small businesses face the double challenge of envisioning where technology can help transform their industry, and acquiring the talent they need to execute on their vision.

SBDI strengthens Canadian businesses, helping them thrive locally, building on local talent excellence, and opening the door to share their expertise to the rest of the world.

Early Lessons Learned

For the little time we’ve been running the program, we learned there is a real need to educate small businesses. We realized that a program that we originally presented to employer as a “co-op” opportunity for students, is really an educational opportunity for businesses. We flipped the model on its head.

We are fortunate to work with leading business executives like Amanda O’Reilly, and many others in Ottawa, Toronto, and North Bay. They are visionaries who understand that technology can help make their business processes faster, better, and cheaper.

The Honourable Bardish Chagger and the Honourable Anthony Rota on a group picture with SBDI participants
The Honourable Bardish Chagger and the Honourable Anthony Rota with SBDI participants and the ICTC team

Our ambition is to inspire SMBs to leverage digital technology to grow their business, and to attract the young talent they need to succeed.

We also thank Microsoft, a Savoir-faire Linux and ICTC partner, for hosting the event at their Ottawa Office.

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Traveling to Myanmar to Teach Embedded Linux: An Unforgettable Memoir

Savoir-faire Linux sent one of its experts, Julien Grossholtz, to Myanmar to teach a Linux training course at a young company specialized in industrial equipment. Learn about his testimony and his discovery of this enigmatic and picturesque country.

I traveled to Myanmar to teach a course on Embedded Linux, my specialty, to our client, Amber Star Trading. Amber Star Trading is located in the small town of Pyin Oo Lwin, in the Mandalay region, in the center of the country.

An aerial view of Myanmar captured via Google Maps

Upon my arrival, I visited the city and its surroundings. There were many beautiful bungalows and villas that the British built during their rule. It was also a place where the famous writer: George Orwell, lived during the 1920s. The botanical garden of the city was absolutely magnificent with its lake, its tangled and swirling trees, its giant bamboos, its flowers, the Orchids and many more exotic views that cherished my eyes. It was also an ideal place to observe the local population: there were families in traditional clothes, children and many monks.

The National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens
The National Kandawgyi Botanical Gardens

After the first days of discovery, I started the training. My mission was to train seven engineers on embedded systems running Linux. We covered many topics: cross-compilation, application development, interactions with hardware, buildroot and several other related technologies. We carried out many practical exercises with a Technologic Systems’ board (the TS-7680).

Technologic Systems’ board: the TS-7680

The course was in English and we could communicate effectively, although it was not always simple. We used many drawings on the board to overcome the misunderstandings and understand one another despite our cultural differences. My students’ technical backgrounds were varied too. Some of them have already had good knowledge of Linux on PC while some others were specialized in hardware. So, I adapted the course, explanations and exercises to their individual needs.

Julien Grossholtz, open source software consultant at Savoir-faire Linux, during training sessions

Finally, I believe it was a very successful journey. My assessment of the training is very positive. The students and the company are expecting to achieve their objectives and are ready to use Linux for their embedded systems. As for me, I am very proud to have shared my knowledge with talented individuals who have high hopes for their future; and especially, in a country that is developing and gradually opening up to the world.

A Match Made in Heaven: Savoir-faire Linux Forges a Strategic Partnership with Technologic Systems

                   

May 16th, 2017 – Savoir-faire Linux, a Canadian leader in Open Source technologies and Free Software, and Technologic Systems, an American embedded solutions company, are pleased to announce the completion of a one-year partnership agreement in order to provide mutual support on technological and marketing levels. This initiative reinforces and improves marketing of customer-focused solutions that combine the Linux expertise of  Savoir-faire Linux and the high-tech hardware components of Technologic Systems.

Both companies have been long collaborating together to offer a whole value chain solution to their clients. The indispensable symbiosis between hardware and software solutions in the digital economy is the main driver of their co-creations and technological collaborations. Having been successful in increasing their end-users’ satisfaction and operational performance, they now want to become more strategically engaged to even further augment the industry standards.

A Technologic Systems’ TS-7990 embedded system complete with capacitive touchscreen

For 33 years, Technologic Systems (Arizona, USA) has been creating world class physical computing objects in order to address a wide range of industrial needs. Technologic Systems has hundreds of commercial off the shelf products, and the ability to modify existing solutions, or design a completely custom embedded computer to meet and exceed customer requirements. A wide range of out-of-the-box Linux tools come to aide Technologic Systems’ vision of creating the whole customer solutions. Linux OS, Debian, Ubuntu Core and many more open source software platforms are strategically deployed on a wide range of embedded systems to cater to the customer’s particular application and requirements.

Our team of product engineering building a touchscreen intercom system: “Quick-Phone

However, to further ensure continuous support and quality excellence in providing open source solutions, Technologic Systems has drawn upon the deep expertise of Savoir-faire Linux (Montreal, Canada). For almost two decades, Savoir-faire Linux has been able to constantly create and share open source software knowledge through consultancy, design, architecture, and maintenance of a variety of information systems in the North American and European markets. The company, as a silver member of the Linux Foundation, is well-known for developing reliable and supported open source-based software solutions and has already forged strategic partnership with major open source players such as Red Hat, Liferay, and Odoo, to name a few. Being embedded in free/libre and open source communities such as Linux Kernel, Debian, FFmpeg, Buildroot, etc., the company knows the ‘ins and outs’ of many key open source technologies; and therefore is able to guarantee software stability and performance at a level unmatched by its competitors. Robert Miller, founder of Technologic Systems says,

“Since we provide embedded hardware for multiple industries and verticals, it would be almost impossible for us to provide application level support to all of our customers. Savoir-faire Linux is a fantastic partner in this regard as they are well suited to handle a variety of projects across a multitude of platforms. Savoir-faire Linux works seamlessly with the customer to bring their vision to life and bring the most out of our hardware in the process. They have consistently been great to work with at every level of engagement. We recommend them highly easily knowing that our customers will be in good hands.”

Thus, both companies together make a great match that ultimately benefit their end-users through having an access to a whole hardware-software solution that exceeds industry standards concerning performance, quality, reliability and continuous after sales support. This partnership is set to grow and mature into more technologically advanced collaborative R&D teams, and expanding each one’s market reach both in Canada as well as the USA.

“Quick-Phone”: A Homemade Doorbell with a Cool Touchscreen

The Product Engineering team of Savoir-faire Linux, along with the colleagues working on the Ring project, expanded into a new office. But they had a problem: at lunchtime, the sandwich delivery guy needed to pound on the door to get someone to let him in. Being hackers, the team realized that they actually could use in-house technology to help them manage the access to the office. Put simply, a welcome intercom system or a doorbell dubbed “Quick-Phone” (inspired by QTQuick), was needed. Here’s how the story unfolds…

An idea
Like most companies, each of us has a phone on his/her desk that connects to a company gateway using the SIP protocol. We use an open source Asterisk server, so we could have simply installed a regular SIP phone on the corridor wall in order to establish a connection between guests standing at the door and the people inside. Yet, we believed, as product engineers we could do better than that. In fact, we should design a sexier SIP phone with a touchscreen. This is part of the solutions we develop everyday for our clients, and we should build ourselves one too.

The nitty-gritty
In order to get us started, our friends at Technologic Systems generously sent us their new TS-TPC-7990 touchscreen system to be deployed in our fun and functional project. This board embeds a 1 GHz Quad Core NXP i.MX6 ARM CPU along with a powerful GPU and a set of hardware encoders/decoders to support graphical and multimedia applications.

A Technologic Systems’ TS-7990 embedded system complete with capacitive touchscreen

We defined the minimum value-objective for the product to be a simple interface listing all users so as to allow a guest to directly call someone from the department. To realize this objective, we designed our user interface (UI) with Qt QML, taking advantage of the hardware acceleration to keep it responsive. QML is an awesome tool for creating complex cross platforms UI with OpenGL. With the help of GPU, QML offers a smooth operation on embedded platforms. Moreover, we used ‘Qt-cinematic experience 3D’ which runs smoothly on TS-7990 consuming only about 20% of CPU capacity.

In addition, by using a hardware decoder in the GStreamer pipeline, we have been able to decode 720p h24 stream with almost no CPU usage. Even though we decided not to add video calls for the first version, these experiments showed that this board was already capable of supporting multimedia applications. As for out-of-the-box Technologic Systems, it already provided support for Qt QML in their Yocto layer. We took this opportunity and began to code in QML language and contribute to the Yocto open source community.

To feed the system with data, first, we retrieved all user names, extensions and pictures from our ERP (i.e., Odoo open source project) and stored them in a file with a simple REST client. This was a simple but necessary step to take to make sure the embedded computer has access to its own independent data file.

Next, we integrated a famous SIP stack, pjsip, and its python wrapper to develop a simple SIP audio caller. We chose pjsip for three main reasons. First, it is a reliable multimedia communication library written in C language. For example, we have already used its low level libraries for our DHT/SIP phone: Ring, and it worked very well. Second, it is highly functional. Its high-level libraries already supports a set of audio codecs such as Speex, iLBC, GSM, G711, G722, and L16 codecs. Third, we know the ins and outs of it very well. In fact, in a matter of few hours, we developed a fine and dandy SIPbased on python pjsip sample code so as to enable guests to call anybody in the office.

Putting it together
With the inauguration party of the new office commencing in a few hours, we had to value our time dearly and use it wisely. We knew it was an opportune time to install the prototype and show off our contribution a little gift for the ceremony so to speak. This could also show our software development capability in harmony with an industrial grade hardware component. However, mounting the board on the entrance wall was not an easy task. We needed a custom-made wooden box, power, and connectivity, while all we had readily available was an ‘Ethernet’ outlet.

The process of crafting the wooden box by product engineers

This was specially troublesome since the board did not support ‘Power-Over-Ethernet’. We needed approximately up to 19W (at <28V) which was different from a typical PoE setup. Undaunted, we rigged up a passive PoE injector in order to use our own power supply and hacked an Ethernet cable to split out power for the board. As for the wooden box, we had already designed a custom frame, so we just gave it a few brush strokes and made it whole. At this time, we were all set to give it a go!

Test driving the ‘PoE’ setup

Having mounted the device, we did a little more of debugging so as to downgrade the link speed. This was necessary because our hacked Ethernet cable was no longer properly shielded. But in the end, just two hours before arrival of the inauguration guests, we experienced a proud moment: we could establish the very ‘first call’ between the corridor and our office. The following day, the sandwich man came in with a happy smile on his face: he did not have to pound on the door anymore!

A little command line for debugging magic to save the day

All open source
The whole project was built using open source tools and libraries. In fact, anyone interested can follow simple steps in order to create their own version. Visit this GitHub repository for instructions on how to build your own image for a TS-TPC-7990. Source code for the QML application is also available here.

A team effort
As fun as building things can be, the most satisfying aspect is working effectively as one cohesive unit. We seek happiness in satisfying our clients. This is what we focus on everyday. For this internal project, we have used the same ‘Agile Development Methodology’ that we use for our customers.

A happy ending for the team ready to welcome the quests

We designated the project actors: two stakeholders, a product owner and the development team. We organized short meetings to understand needs, set the priorities, estimate the effort for performing each task, and to split them into shorts iterations. We also set regular iteration deadlines with the major one being the inauguration day. Now, our stakeholders are pretty happy, but of course, they have requested a few more enhancements. We are working on them and we will share that story too. Stay tuned …

Savoir-faire Linux and ICTC empower Young Digitization Leaders

The first cohort of the Small Business Digitization Initiative kicked off in Ottawa. Young Digitization Leaders with diverse backgrounds are honing their skills in class and in their work placement.

A terrific first cohort

Our first cohort is committed to make a difference in the Ottawa region. Some students come with previous business experience, while others have followed a more classical Bachelor of Commerce program. Another group of students is bringing to the table strong technical foundations earned at the local college or university, or from abroad. Finally, some students are young entrepreneurs in their own right (and may already be serial entrepreneurs). All of them will be joining forces, as a cross-functional team, in order to solve authentic challenges faced by Small Businesses.

Digitization Leaders with a Vision

The first classes set the stage for the course, especially as students explored the major trends affecting all industries. Every company is challenged to level up its game. Businesses compete on new and smart ways to leverage digital technology, in order to improve customer experience, productivity, and accessibility for their products and services. Our students already had a chance to reflect on innovation, and how it happens. They learned about S-curves and network externalities. They reflected on the pros and cons of diverse software licensing and adoption strategies. Disruptive innovation is on the back of their mind.

Finally, we discussed business strategy. Our students are already familiar with the internal and external forces that affect a business. They know how to assess those. We explored a bit more in depth the importance of a business’s core capabilities. As technology allows to automate certain processes, Digitization Leaders also need to understand where to (re)focus resources to maximize revenue (economic, and other types).

Domesticating Technology

One of the main challenges faced by the Senior generation is our relative uneasiness with technology. Digital natives have an advantage, because they’re “naturals”, who are not afraid of technology. During our three days of Tech Labs, everyone installed Linux and the Open Source Community version of Odoo, in a matter of a few hours. I was pleasantly surprised by the intellectual agility demonstrated by the students. They don’t get stuck in the details. Instead, they have a very pragmatic approach, focusing on “making things work”. So, we went on experimenting with a wide range of applications used in business, popular and less popular ones. We installed and configured WordPress. One student even managed to set up his own website in Amazon Web Services. Another configured his machine to serve multiple customers from a single virtual machine. We had fun!!!

Solving real business problems

After these exciting first weeks, I’m looking forward to tackling the productivity challenge for small businesses. This week, students are diving deep into the main business processes run by all businesses: accounting, customer relationship (CRM), purchasing, selling, human resources, project management… They will build on what they are learning in class (including theory and software skills), to propose novel solutions at their workplace. At the end of the day, our goal is to help Small Businesses gain in productivity, reach new markets, and compete locally and anywhere in the world.

In conclusion, I’m confident our young Digitization Leaders will help Canada strive as a nation of modern business entrepreneurs and innovators. I’m looking forward to helping them realize their professional aspirations!

Tackling Three FFmpeg’s Technological Challenges to Further Shape TR-03 Standards for Broadcasters

Industry Context

“Today, the magic of film and television is half visual storytelling and half technical wizardry” (SMPTE, 2017). Major broadcasters (e.g., Radio Canada) largely depend on proprietary big ticket professional digital broadcasting equipment whose standards are written and shaped by Society for Motion Pictures and Television Engineers® (SMPTE®) which includes both the broadcasters and the manufacturers of the equipment. In short, SMPTE’s main job is to help advance “moving-imagery engineering” across the broadcasting industry. These heavy duty broadcasting machines are capable of transmitting raw data (i.e., uncompressed, unencrypted digital video signals) within television facilities. Recently, Savoir-faire Linux– a leading open source software service provider in Canada− has embarked on a journey (financially supported by Radio Canada) to test a technological possibility: can we adapt FFmpeg, using a general purpose server, in order to transmit raw data at volume/speed of 3.5 Gbps without relying on specialized hardware broadcasting equipment?

Savoir-faire Linux Takes Up the Technological Challenge

The journey started this winter which was by the way extremely cold and snowy in Montreal. A team of three from the product engineering department of Savoir-faire Linux decided to spend some time looking at FFmpeg’s internals in the hope of getting a working TR-03/SDI pipeline processing up to a several HD streams on a contemporary server while benefiting from FFmpeg’s easily available lower definition derivatives from the same video stream.

A few challenges arose from this endeavor. The first was the TR-03 format itself which wasn’t supported in the upstream version of FFmpeg. The second was the volume of data to be processed: we are talking about 3Gb/s of traffic here, which according to the FFmpeg developers might not be possible to process. Finally, the need to add transcoding to the pipeline which meant even greater CPU load.

Implementing TR-03 was not the biggest challenge, as the video format was pretty straightforward, and the team quickly got a working implementation. In this context, they used GStreamer, which was already very capable in terms of streaming as a sender for this volume of data.

Image result
Logo of FFmpeg

Once the data began to flow in, the performance bottlenecks became even more evident. To clearly locate these bottlenecks, they made the decision to write a few benchmark scenarios using a combination of unit tests and LTTng (i.e., an open source tracing framework for Linux). These benchmark scenarios allowed the team to detect where they were dropping a bunch of packets (i.e., losing data at different layers) at both the kernel socket and NIC buffers. Since the data processing process was closely monitored, it was relatively easy to tweak the buffer sizes, while keeping the delays within our acceptable range. However, another issue arose. The team noticed that FFmpeg’s data gathering/decoding thread was hogging a single CPU core causing occasional packet loss on the occasion when they were not fast enough to dequeue data from the socket buffer. To work around this, they decoupled the data gathering work from the decoding part. Following through these steps carefully, made it possible to have the packet drop-free pipeline, an achievement celebrated with a fine cake and a few drinks in front of a cool movie they could finally watch. As the head of the engineering team mentioned, “I could have never imagined that Big Bug Bunny was so much fun”.

Big Buck Bunny is a short computer-animated comedy film by the Blender Institute, released as an open-source film under Creative Commons License Attribution 3.0.

The Latest Update and the Road Ahead

Later, on April 5, 2017, the contributions developed and refined by the team were finally integrated into FFmpeg, meaning that, their proof of concept met with the stipulated standards of the community and became part of the platform.

For Savoir-faire Linux’ product engineering team, this was a very encouraging and promising adventure. Despite all odds, they empirically demonstrated the possibility to run SDI processing pipelines on top of a general purpose server equipment using open source software. This experiment was a success as it turned out there was great potential for broadcasters. To continue in this direction and further shape the standards of SMPTE 2110which are not frozen yet – being still in embryonic phase they face another main challenge. FFmpeg does not support the synchronization as described in SMTPE 2110; so, the team is now evaluating the possibility to provide and include the support needed.

Authors:

  • Damien Riegel,
  • Eloi Bail, and
  • Stepan Salenikovitch.

ICTC and Savoir-faire Linux Partnership: Empowering Ontario Youth to Digitize Small Businesses

 

Logo ICTC           Logo Savoir-faire Linux

Toronto, March 29, 2017 – The Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC) and Savoir-faire Linux Inc. have joined together to deliver the Small Business Digitization Initiative (SBDI). With this initiative being piloted in Ottawa, Toronto and North Bay, up to one hundred Ontario youth between the ages of twenty to twenty-nine will have the opportunity to receive twenty-four weeks of free training with the aim of transforming them into future business digitization leaders. This pilot initiative started its first class in Ottawa on January 23rd, 2017. Over the next six months, cohorts will be starting in North Bay and Toronto in March, and in Toronto and Ottawa in April.

SBDI is a training program, funded by the Government of Ontario, that connects youth and small businesses together to solve real employer digital adoption challenges. The initiative provides training for in-demand skills to unemployed and underemployed youth to prepare them for the digital workplace, while providing businesses with enthusiastic and knowledgeable talent to implement smart technology solutions to support their innovation.

One of the key features of this program is the integration of in-class training with hands on experience. The twenty-four weeks of full-time training will include a sixty-day experiential work placement, where each participant has the opportunity to work with innovative entrepreneurs and small businesses to expand their skill set while providing sustainable solutions to improve business operations by implementing technology solutions. Youth will attain transferable workplace skills in project management, data analytics and intelligence, entrepreneurship, as well as enterprise resource planning (ERP) (including principles of sales, marketing and accounting).

Savoir-faire Linux is responsible for more than half of the classroom training delivery. Savoir-faire Linux’s instructors kick-start the course with a boot camp on business strategy and innovation, focusing on the 4th industrial revolution driven by digital technologies. The main part of the course focuses on the automation of back-office processes, introducing technologies to save time and money to small businesses, and to provide a better service to their customers.

Savoir-faire Linux ensures that this training is grounded in reality. In class, Savoir-faire Linux instructors help students to understand technology and practices aimed at fitting software to the business. Students will spend the other half of the training at a work placement, to solve a real challenge. There will be ample time in class to provide guidance, as students learn by alternating class work with industry work.

Savoir-faire Linux Opens a Red Hat Individual Exam Center in Montreal: A Timely Response to Shortage of Linux and OS Experts in Quebec

Montreal, March 28, 2017 – From April 1, 2017, Savoir-faire Linux, the leading free and open source expert in Quebec and Canada, will host Red Hat® individual exam sessions at its Montreal office.

From left to right : Pierre Lamarche (Director of Business Development and Strategic Partnerships), Raymond Cantin (Director of Training Dept.), and Eric Schaefer, Red Hat-Canada Channels Leader.

As a Red Hat® Advanced Business Partner, Savoir-faire Linux will now be equipped with a kiosk to run individual Red Hat certification exams on its premises in Montreal. The exam will take place on a personal test station, secured and accredited by Red Hat® within a Quebec-based company. The Red Hat® Individual Examination Booth will cover a wide range of certifications: Red Hat® Certified System Administrator (RHCSA), Red Hat® OpenStack System Administrator, Red Hat® Hybrid Cloud Management Expertise, Red Hat® Hybrid Cloud Storage Expertise, JBoss Developer, Jboss Administrator (RHCJA), and many more.

“We are very pleased that Savoir-faire Linux takes the lead in opening this unique individual exam center in Quebec. It has been logical to select Savoir-faire Linux because the company leads the free and open source initiatives in Quebec and has deep expertise in free open source software.”

Eric Schaefer, Canada Strategic Alliances and Business Development.

There is no need to emphasize that Red Hat® has already become the world leader in open source software technologies and it has done so within a relatively short time, about 2 decades or so. By collaborating closely with a broad network of IT leaders, open source supporters, developers and business partners, Red Hat® technologies have already changed the landscape of information systems and the companies success is echoed globally. Moreover, the digital revolution, marked by the rise of open technologies and the recognition of digital strategies at the heart of innovation and business growth, has already impacted the Canadian market and IT sector. According to Information and Communications Technology Council (ICTC)’s 2015 Labor Market Outlook, the cumulative hiring requirements for ICT talent in Canada will be approximately over 182,000 by 2019.

The Linux Foundation itself has published a report in 2016 in which it describes a growing shortage of Linux and open source specialists. 87% of professionals acknowledge the difficulty of recruiting adequately trained and certified experts; while 59% intend to increase the recruitment of these same specialists to meet the digital transformation challenges they face.

“In a rapidly changing technological sector, where competition is fierce to attract top talent, we consider these certifications to be essential to support the development of a pool of digital talents in Quebec and strengthen Quebec’s position in the digital economy of the North America. This kiosk installation was more than necessary to respond locally to the emerging technological trends”

Christophe Villemer, the Executive Vice-President of Savoir-faire Linux.

With this new service in Quebec, Savoir-faire Linux becomes the only Red Hat®’s partner in Quebec to offer both Red Hat® training and certifications in a collective and individual fashion. The company intends to consolidate its position as a major partner in the digital strategies of Quebec companies.

References:
Report “2016 Open Source Jobs Report” (May, 2016).
ICTC Press release (March 12, 2015).