Applied Technology: Radio Studio Monitoring & Management
Dec 1, 2014 9:00 AM, by Kenny Miller, Director of Sales, NFB Consulting/Suitelife Systems
The power of knowing how the key parameters of your broadcast facility are functioning at all times is difficult to manage at best. With so many points of failure within a multi-channel, multi-formatted studio, it is even more difficult to foresee the technical failures before critical mass hits the fan.
When the fault event occurs, you are working diligently to troubleshoot the problem while, oh by the way not only are you are off the air, but there are several system components down, and you just can''t get to the ultimate root cause. These types of events may occur with your content air chains, your facility power, or numerous other parts of the operation or your facility.
This is where enhanced monitoring technology can come to the rescue. You proceed to set up each of the individual management systems that will report errors that occur in UPS systems, automation servers, and hardware processing gear. That seems good, but when four different alarms ping you from four different management systems, which one do you attend to first?
Detecting and preventing faults that can cost thousands in lost revenue when your signal is knocked off the air is the first priority of a properly established monitoring system. Alarm management based on the principle of monitoring by exception allows engineers to filter faults, so they can discern which faults are critical vs. those faults that may be not be relevant.
Nigel Brownett, president of Suitelife Systems, provides insight into the current industry needs and the solutions Suitelife offers for better fault monitoring and management. �Today, engineering is staffed short, but still expected to manage projects, support various events daily or weekly, and yet still keep the plant running fully operational and on air. The Axess Management System aggregates data from all devices and managers with careful data grooming rolled up into custom graphical interfaces empowering engineering and even operations to quickly identify the problem, in many cases before faults occur.�
Equipment rack OVI display
Nigel goes on to share how an Axess Management System interfaces with facility systems and technology. �Growth of SNMP-enabled devices in the studio as well as transmitter sites promotes greater functional monitoring. Axess can browse into a MIB and pull only the data required for an operation, liberating engineers from rigid device driver applications that may actually miss on delivering the desired monitoring functionality. This data can be harvested into a graphical form, which we call an OVI � �Operator Visual Interface.'' From this interface, engineering can locate a problem quickly, in many cases preemptively, and perform a root cause analysis to drill down to the core problem.�
This level of data manipulation can be used to develop reports for management, establish hysteresis for component performance trends and interface with trouble ticket and scheduling programs for even greater functionality.
The Axess Management System may also employ a WMI windows-based agent to manage performance of content, automation and storage servers. Monitoring functions like CPU usage, memory and hard drive space can be presented into digital or analog meter readouts. Axess has been used to monitor network device services, switching and bandwidth performance in many critical business broadcast environments.
Server OVI display
Axess also utilizes GPIO connections for status, control and monitoring. While many broadcasters utilize these connections primarily at the transmitter sites, Axess users may deploy serial IP addressable interface units in increments of 8 to 240 inputs at the studio or TX site. These connection types can help grow overall monitoring coverage and are ideal for power and environmental applications.
�The same system that monitors the studio may also monitor remote transmitter sites,� states Nigel. �In this application, Suitelife Systems is introducing GPIO connectivity that is modular with multi-pin connections that will interface with legacy wiring from older hardware based systems.� Studio management can coexist with legacy TX site monitoring systems already in place, or easily replace these systems to bring all technical operations to one screen.�
Nigel adds, �A key operational aspect that Axess offers is an agnostic approach to application and device connectivity. Regardless of your greatest monitoring priority or the technology component a broadcaster chooses to deploy, if an interface is available to connect to, Axess can aggregate the data into a graphical OVI customizable to display the data the way you or your operators need to see it. Whether it is heating and air, power, content delivery or key infrastructure devices, connecting to thousands of devices over hundreds of sites is what Axess does � monitoring, management and control, with high intelligence.�
Automated control of failovers that are programmable based on user-preferred thresholds allow engineers to identify problems before they occur and manage the event unattended without loss of air time or system outages. Definitive control of the data points programmed into the SCL (Status Control Logic) or macro gives a high level of confidence. When an event occurs and the cutover is made, the event is logged and data is available to assist with the troubleshooting efforts.
Such data point control enables integration into third-party trouble ticket systems, which can send the trouble ticket to the appropriate engineer or resource in charge of the system with descriptive data on what occurred and when it happened.
Getting a handle on the technology and facility conditions that an engineering team is responsible for is achievable with a proper monitoring system. The return on investment is very favorable compared to spending time trying to explain to management why an �off-the-air'' event took place. Effective monitoring and control can turn the conversations with management to how engineering is working to prevent downtime while using the data gathered to make future technology decisions.