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Network AV solutions for secure IP transport feature image

Network AV solutions for secure IP transport

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Over the past decade, audio-over-IP and more recently video-over-IP has revolutionised the way radio and TV broadcasters move their signals around. Network AV solutions are about to do the same in the audio visual industry, as IT departments realise the power and flexibility of IP distribution.

No More Central Routers

Central routers have been a mainstay of audio and video distribution systems. First they were analog. Then AES audio, SDI video and DVI/HDMI PC signals saw an array of digital routers proliferate – from small in-room rack boxes to massive card-based multi-format switchers. With their abilities to be controlled, scheduled and remotely switched, router systems opened up new possibilities and efficiency.

But their Achilles’ heel is the large amount of expensive single-purpose cable, which needs to run long distances back to central racks in equipment rooms and service cupboards. This makes them expensive to install and often very difficult to upgrade when needs change in the future.

CAT6 media converters, such as HDBaseT, have made central A/V routers more manageable, by allowing longer runs on less expensive cable. But these systems are still managed separately from the IT network, and are often inflexible.

Network AV benefits

Network AV brings audio visual services fully into the IT world. Using business-grade gigabit switches, audio and video up to 4K can easily be moved on a corporate or campus network. Signals are converted to IP using converters that are only marginally more than existing CAT6 media converters. Once in the IP realm, the audio/video streams travel as multicast groups, with encryption, security and content protection. Using multicast means the bandwidth is optimised, and streams of 950mbit/s can happily share uplinks with voice, office traffic and other applications.

Being IP-based, your organisation can design a network topology to integrate Network AV. In many cases, existing networks can add Network AV with minimal changes or upgrades.

IP Challenges

IP distribution of media does offer unmatched flexibility. But there are a few challenges as well.

Traditionally. digital media signals like AES audio, SDI video, HDMI and even voice signals were run on dedicated serial transmission lines. These point-to-point connections had dedicated cable types, and were generally very reliable. They weren’t always trouble-free – requiring specialist test gear to commission and diagnose faults.

As IP networks become faster and wider, it makes a lot of sense to “packetise” these dedicated serial signals and move them on existing networks. This gives IT departments a single type of cables and distribution equipment to manage, and far more flexibility to reconfigure the network as organisational needs change.

Audio was pretty easy to move to IP – each stereo audio signal is only a few megabits and even a big deployment can easily fit into an existing network. Video is a little trickier. Uncompressed video signals can get as high as 12-16 megabits once 4K/UHD video is needed, and this is a big stretch for most networks. Usually, some form compression is needed to bring the overall bandwidth down, but this can add latency and quality concerns if not done properly.

Multicast IP also adds new challenges. Although the multicast protocols such as IGMP have been around for decades, their use has been relatively limited until the last 10-15 years. Multicast traffic is fairly easy to integrate into a network, but it requires switches with native support, and an understanding of multicast groups and protocols.

Not all switches will support high-bandwidth video either. Any enterprise-grade switch from HPE, Cisco, Juniper, Arista of the other big names will be fine. Even lower-grade switches such as Cisco Small Business and Netgear can work perfectly well. It is important to know what your switches are capable of – can they support uncontended backplane switching, and do they understand multicast traffic?

Crestron NVX Digital Media range

Crestron NVX Network AV diagram

The NVX range from Crestron gives you 4K video and multi-channel audio over a multicast gigabit network. The encoding is frame-based, so very low latency (around 1-2 frames), and equivalent in quality to a native connection.

Bandwidth usage is configurable, up to 950mbit/s for highest quality or as low as 200-300mbit/s if you need to conserve bandwidth on switch uplinks to certain areas.

The content is fully encrypted through the chain, and therefore fully HDCP compliant. Switching between sources is quick and easy, and fully managed by the Crestron control system.

In a fully networked A/V system, the NVX units replace a traditional Digital Media transmitter or receiver. This can remove the need for central presentation switchers, or just provide the links between rooms and remote sources. Pricing for NVX systems is comparable to a traditional router-based matrix, and if the existing network infrastructure is already in place, may even be cheaper.

For more information on the Creston NVX range, see our iTkey media page and the Creston NVX microsite.

How iTkey can help with your Network AV migration

We’ve been building IP networks for media for a decade, so intimately understand the benefits and pitfalls of Network AV. Our qualified network engineers understand multicast inside-out, and know how to design a network with audio and video in mind.

As an IP System Integrator, we work across many disciplines, including networking, servers, lighting control, audio visual, security and CCTV. All the systems we work with are designed to be integrated into an IT network, so you have full control.

We can help with new designs for a relocation/rebuild, or help assess and upgrade your existing systems. iTkey engineering staff have recently completed the Crestron NVX training course, so we are fully certified to help with any Crestron Network AV projects.

If you are interested to learn more, we can show you our own demo room, including:

  • Crestron touch-screen control and room scheduling
  • Crestron NVX Network AV integrated with the 4K Digital Media Presentation System (DMPS)
  • C-BUS Lighting Control
  • Shure MicroFlex ceiling array microphone with DANTE Audio
  • Skype for Business video conferencing
  • Panasonic PTZ and fixed cameras
  • CMS Electracom Soft Power

In an future post, we’ll cover more details of the recent demo room build project.

In the meantime, please visit our website for more details – itkey.com.au

 

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MiFID II and what it means for financial institutions

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Achieving MiFID II Compliance with Meinberg Time Sync Solutions

This article on MiFID II compliance is courtesy of our friends at Meinberg, the world’s leading provider of time solutions. There’s also a great post from Heiko Gerstung from 2016 that covers more of the background.

iTkey is the certified partner for Meinberg in Australia and New Zealand. With MiFID II about to come into force, we can assist with compliant synchronisation and monitoring solutions for Australian financial institutions with operations in the European Union.

Introduction

On July 2nd, 2014, the “Markets in Financial Instruments Directive” (MiFID) in its revised and amended form, known as “MiFID II”, entered into force together with the Markets in Financial Instruments (MiFIR) regulation. It originally was scheduled to apply within EU Member States by January 3rd, 2017. In February 2016, the European Commission formally delayed the implementation date by 12 months, it is now scheduled to become applicable in January 2018.

On September 28, the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) published a document called Regulatory Technical and Implementing Standards for MiFID II, which on 553 pages defines draft technical standards for implementing MiFID II (and MiFIR). Starting on page 501 of this document, the Regulatory Technical Standard 25 is defined which covers Clock Synchronisation for operators and participants/members of trading venues. This RTS requires all affected organizations to establish and maintain unprecedented levels of clock synchronisation and time-stamping accuracy in their mostly complex systems and networks.

As a leading expert in time synchronisation for computer systems and networks, Meinberg provides assistance and guidance to their customers affected by these new legislative and compliance requirements.

MiFID II Requirements for Time Synchronisation

The Regulatory Technical Standards document defines the time accuracy requirements for both market venues (exchanges) and market participants (traders) in RTS 25.

For both roles, the standard defines several “classes” or levels of time stamping accuracy (“maximum divergence to UTC”) and the timestamping resolution (“granularity”) that is required under MiFID II.

The most common requirements are either 1 millisecond or 100 microseconds of accuracy.

Compliance with MiFID II regulatory requirements

Time Accuracy

Obviously, time accuracy is only one small part of the MiFID II compliance requirements. However, it is a technical challenge to achieve the required accuracy in a distributed computer system like a stock exchange IT ecosystem or a trading infrastructure. Compliance with RTS 25 cannot be established by simply deploying highly accurate clocks like Meinberg’s IMS series, LANTIME M Series NTP appliances or SyncFire High Performance NTP servers.

The achievable accuracy is determined by three main factors:

  1. the quality and performance of the clock
  2. the quality and stability of the network
  3. the stability and performance of the hosts that require time synchronisation

Meinberg products are market leading in terms of clock accuracy, stability and reliability and therefore will cover the first point in a MiFID II compliant infrastructure. Depending on which accuracy class your organization is assigned to, you can use either Meinberg GNSS synchronized NTP appliances or Meinberg GNSS synchronized PTP Grandmaster clocks.

Our products can, in addition to GNSS satellite signals, use a large variety of other time sources as their main reference. The guidelines to RTS 25 issued by ESMA clearly state that GNSS is a valid and accepted source of UTC traceable time in the context of MiFID II. Using other time sources for your clocks is of course allowed, but you must make sure that these sources are traceable to UTC. One example would be NPLtime, which is available in London, UK and is operated by NPL.

Monitoring

The guidelines issued by ESMA clarify that you must put up reasonable effort to ensure that your servers and other hosts that require to be MiFID II compliant are operating within the accuracy class your organization falls into. The exact wording here is “relevant and proportionate monitoring”.

Meinberg’s NetSync Monitor solution offers the market’s best monitoring solution because it uses standard PTP message formats and a technology called “reverse PTP” to actually measure the accuracy of a PTP slave clock. It does not rely on self-reported accuracy like all other monitoring solutions and can also monitor NTP clients as well, using the standard NTP protocol to “read back” the time from your hosts.

As NetSync Monitor is the best in class monitoring solution available today, we believe it clearly fulfills the requirement for “relevant and proportionate monitoring” as mentioned in the guideline document.

Meinberg Compliance Statement

We therefore hereby state that our clock synchronization solutions, including our GNSS synchronized NTP servers and PTP Grandmaster Clocks, as well as our monitoring solution NetSync Monitor will be an important step on your way to gain MiFID II compliance.

References

The ESMA documents referenced in this document are listed below and should be consulted in any case as they are forming the official documentation body that is relevant for the MiFID II clock synchronization compliance.

Directive 2014/65/EU (MiFID II)

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014L0065&from=EN

Amendments to Directive 2014/65/EU (and consolidated version)

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/markets-financial-instruments-mifid-ii-directive-2014-65-eu/amending-and-supplementary-acts/amendments_en

Regulation (EU) No 600/2014 (MiFIR)

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32014R0600&from=EN

Amendments to Regulation EU) No 600/2014 (and consolidated version)

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/markets-financial-instruments-mifir-regulation-eu-no-600-2014/amending-and-supplementary-acts/amendments_en

Regulatory technical and implementing standards – Annex I

https://www.esma.europa.eu/sites/default/files/library/2015/11/2015-esma-1464_annex_i_-_draft_rts_and_its_on_mifid_ii_and_mifir.pdf

Guidelines

https://www.esma.europa.eu/sites/default/files/library/2016-1452_guidelines_mifid_ii_transaction_reporting.pdf

Final Report on Guidelines

https://www.esma.europa.eu/sites/default/files/library/2016-1451_final_report_on_guidelines_mifid_ii_transaction_reporting.pdf

 

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