The 357 Model

The 357 Model: A Strategic Framework for Technology Management

No technology plan or model is bulletproof (and yes, pun intended), but embracing a 3-5-7 model for technology analysis, expansion, refresh, and retirement helps organizations stay at the cutting edge of innovation while keeping their systems fully supported. This model isn’t a universal fix for every type of technology lifecycle, but it proves quite effective for hardware, software, and infrastructure when applied independently.

Understanding the Technology Flywheel Concept

A technology flywheel is a metaphor for a self-reinforcing cycle that gains momentum and efficiency as it grows—imagine a heavy wheel that becomes easier to spin the faster it goes. In the world of technology and business, it’s akin to a process where advancements in one area lead to increased performance, reduced costs, or enhanced capabilities, thereby unlocking new avenues for further innovation. This creates a virtuous circle, where each success builds upon the last, spiraling up to drive exponential growth and a competitive edge. Having demystified the flywheel concept, let’s connect it to our proposed model for media supply chains and technology lifecycles.

Detailed Breakdown of the 3-5-7 Model:

  • Year 1: Specify, purchase and deploy
  • Year 2: Finalize implementation, system “Burn-in” and data collection
  • Year 3: Analyzing the technology landscape and kickstarting the budget for Year 5.
  • Year 4: Re-strategize and roadmap
  • Year 5: Executing comprehensive system upgrades, expanding products, or refreshing systems using the planned budget.
  • Year 6: Finalize legacy data migration and second system “Burn-in”
  • Year 7: Retiring technologies that have been replaced or reached EOSL (End of Service Life).
  • Year 8: Starts the flywheel back to “Year 3 Analysis” of the Year 5 changes

Application of the 3-5-7 Model in Video Production Technology

Focusing on video production technology, let’s see how software fits into this 3-5-7 framework. Two years post-purchase (note: not implementation), it’s crucial to concentrate on minor version updates, feature enhancements, industry advancements, and how well the system integrates with existing platforms while assessing its alignment with your organization’s specific needs. This stage is ideal for a detailed cost-benefit analysis to determine the anticipated return on investment, setting the stage for decisions about immediate purchases versus what can wait until Year 5. Whether it’s adopting a new release, updating to a major version, or switching vendors for a better fit, the analysis conducted in Year 3 lays the groundwork. Year 5 restarts the purchasing and commissioning cycle, and Year 7 closes the chapter with a thorough legacy migration and decommissioning.

Hardware’s lifecycle, though distinct from software, also aligns well with the 3-5-7 framework. Inspired by Moore’s Law—which observes that the capacity of integrated circuits roughly doubles every two years, leading to significantly enhanced computing capabilities—this model is particularly apt. For example, the performance evolution of workstations and laptops, closely tied to processor speeds, reflects this trend and impacts their compatibility with operating systems and software. IT departments typically initiate hardware upgrades in the third year and aim to retire them by the fifth year, with a final act of securely erasing or destroying the hardware by the seventh year. Server replacements, though more gradual, follow this rhythm as well, with the third year reserved for planning and the fifth for upgrades, ensuring a robust, supported, and secure technology infrastructure. By the seventh year, clients are usually notified of the product’s end of sale or service, often with a six-month heads-up.

Storage systems, which utilize processors within their controllers, similarly adhere to Moore’s Law. The third year is an opportune time to assess storage performance and utilization, deciding whether additional capacity is needed or if integrating more cost-effective nearline storage for inactive data is advisable. This assessment is vital for budgeting enhancements in the fifth year, with many storage controllers needing upgrades by the seventh year due to EOSL.

Avoiding Pitfalls: The Risk of Bargain Bin Purchases

While cost optimization is generally beneficial, “Bargain Bin” shopping can disrupt the Flywheel’s momentum, as manufacturers often offer significant discounts for technology nearing EOSL. To achieve the best return on investment, value-engineered solutions should leverage the 3-5-7 model. A frequent pitfall for smaller organizations is acquiring technology close to EOSL, forcing them to rely on platforms like eBay for spare parts or face unexpected full product replacements.

Integrating New Technologies: Ensuring Maturity and Compatibility

The allure of “New Technology” every three years can be tempting, but its integration and API maturity must be assessed to avoid costly and continuous upgrades that disrupt the Flywheel.  The increasing interdependence of different technological systems (e.g., IoT devices, cloud computing, AI-driven analytics) suggests that changes in one area can necessitate faster adaptations elsewhere, potentially requiring more frequent review intervals.

Challenges and Opportunities with Cloud Technology Under the 3-5-7 Model

The application of the 3-5-7 model to cloud technology mirrors its use in software lifecycle management. Often, cloud solutions project ROI beyond the five-year mark, meaning initial migration costs may not yield immediate returns. By the fifth year, hardware upgrades fall to the cloud provider, usually without disrupting the end-user. This shifts the end-user group’s focus from infrastructure analysis to evaluating how their Cloud provider or MSP addresses their current and future needs.

Cloud storage, while following the 3-5-7 model, presents unique challenges with its ongoing costs. Unlike Linear Tape-Open (LTO) storage, which incurs no additional expenses after archiving, cloud storage continues to rack up charges even for dormant data. This has led many organizations to reevaluate their data retention strategies, aiming to keep less data over time. By evaluating data relevance every three years, organizations can optimize costs more effectively. For instance, general “Dated” b-roll footage might be deleted after five years, reflecting its reduced utility, while only content deemed “Historic” after seven years is reserved for long-term use.

Conclusion: A Foundation for Future-Proof Technology Investments

While the 3-5-7 model isn’t a magic bullet, it establishes a solid foundation for maintaining a technology flywheel, ensuring investments continue to meet evolving needs and maintaining a competitive edge.  Overall, the 3-5-7 model provides a structured approach to technology lifecycle management. Tweaks and adjustments will occur depending on organizational initiatives, such as sustainability, trends and evolutions in the industry or economic and market dynamics. Organizations might increasingly look to customize this model to fit their particular circumstances, ensuring that their technology investments are both strategic and sustainable.


Embracing the Future of Broadcasting: What comes after SDI?

Embracing the Future of Broadcasting: What comes after SDI?

The prominent buzzword at the 2024 NAB Show was Artificial Intelligence (AI). Still, if you look beyond the vast AI offerings, you will notice that the broadcasting industry is witnessing a significant transformation in infrastructure. The industry is moving from traditional infrastructure models to more flexible, IP-based solutions. This results in leaner and easily scalable systems that are ready to bridge the gap between true software-based solutions and newly imagined workflows. The SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards and Network Device Interface (NDI) technology are at the forefront of this revolution. These IP-based transport solutions redefine how content is created and delivered and shape the future of production. These changes involve adopting and merging long-standing IT-based technologies with new media technologies and workflows. For those familiar with the concepts of SMPTE ST 2110 and NDI but new to their practical application, here’s a look at implementing these technologies effectively.

Understanding SMPTE ST 2110 in Practice

The SMPTE ST 2110 family of standards offers a robust IP-based broadcasting framework, separating video (uncompressed or compressed), audio, and metadata into different essence streams. This separation is crucial for enhancing the flexibility and scalability of broadcast operations. It’s important to remember that ST 2110 is a media data-plane transport protocol based on RTP (Real-Time Transport Protocol) for sending media over a network. The network,  Typically called a media fabric, is the infrastructure, but it’s not uncommon to refer to the combined protocol and the media fabric as ST 2110.

Key Considerations for Implementation:

  • Infrastructure Needs: Transitioning to ST 2110 requires a network infrastructure or media fabric capable of handling high bandwidth flows with low latency for high-quality video and audio transmission. Implementing a robust IP network with sufficient switches and routers designed for media-centric transmission is essential. Most media fabric designs will utilize fiber optic cabling due to the higher bandwidth requirements. A fabric can utilize single-mode or multimode, but it’s becoming more mainstream to prioritize single-mode fiber.
  • Timing and Synchronization: Unlike the baseband world, where timing is inherent, IP systems require precise synchronization. Implementing Precision Time Protocol (PTP) as per SMPTE ST 2059 standards ensures that all devices in the network are synchronized, which is critical for maintaining audio and video alignment. Most broadcast and production facilities use a GPS signal from roof-based antennas feeding a reference signal generator. That generator is then connected to the media fabric to allow the distribution of PTP.
  • Multicast Management: A cornerstone of effective SMPTE ST 2110 deployments, enabling broadcasters to utilize network resources efficiently while ensuring the high quality and timely delivery of audio and video streams. Unlike unicast, which requires individual streams for each endpoint, multicast allows multiple endpoints to receive the same stream simultaneously, dramatically reducing the bandwidth requirements for distributing the same content to multiple locations.

Integrating Network Device Interface (NDI) into Live Productions

NDI complements IP workflows by providing a versatile and low-latency compressed method for video transmission over IP networks. It is particularly beneficial in live production environments where speed and flexibility are paramount. NDI is software-centric and relies on video compression to move media across existing or lower-bandwidth network fabrics efficiently, compared to ST 2110-20, which requires a dedicated high-bandwidth network for uncompressed video.

Practical Steps for NDI Integration:

  • Network Configuration: Ensure your network can handle NDI’s bandwidth requirements. NDI can run over existing 1 Gigabit networks, but 10 Gigabit infrastructure is recommended for handling multiple high-quality streams without compromise.
  • Software and Hardware Compatibility: Check your existing production software and hardware compatibility with NDI. Many modern manufacturers support NDI natively; however, interface devices like converters and gateways can bridge gaps with non-NDI-compatible hardware.
  • Workflow Optimization: Use NDI’s capabilities to streamline your workflow. For example, with a free software download, NDI tools can monitor and record feeds directly from the network without specialized hardware. NDI’s software-focused approach makes workflow optimization simple and allows for a wide variety of tools from third parties. This setup can significantly reduce the complexity and cost of live productions such as corporate town halls, religious gatherings, and sporting events.

Adapting to Industry Changes with Flexible IP Technologies

The shift towards technologies like ST 2110 and NDI is driven by their potential to create more dynamic, scalable, and high-value production environments. As the industry adapts, the flexibility of IP-based solutions becomes increasingly critical.

IP greatly enhances remote production capabilities allowing broadcast teams to manage and coordinate productions from multiple locations, reducing the need for extensive on-site personnel and equipment. This shift cuts down on logistical costs and enables a more agile response to changing production requirements.

Moreover, integrating ST 2110 or NDI into broadcast infrastructures is also a strategic move towards future-proofing. These technologies are designed to accommodate future video and audio technology advancements, including higher resolutions, emerging media formats, and immutable software infrastructure. By embracing these standards and systems now, organizations are better prepared to adapt to new trends and innovations, ensuring their systems remain relevant and highly functional in the evolving media landscape.

In conclusion, practical integration into existing systems can unlock unprecedented flexibility and efficiency for broadcasting professionals familiar with the theoretical aspects of SMPTE ST 2110 and NDI. By focusing on proper network infrastructure, synchronization, and compatibility, broadcasters can harness the full potential of these IP-based technologies to revolutionize their production workflows, making broadcasts more adaptable and future-ready. As the industry continues to evolve, embracing these changes will be key to staying competitive and meeting the increasingly complex demands of audiences worldwide.