Technology Record - Issue 30: Autumn 2023

162 VIEWPOINT’s partnership with Timebeat is delivering the essential tools for broadcasters to deliver a seamless viewing experience through the cloud GEETER KYRAZIS: SWXTCH. IO Transforming time synchronisation Picture this: a live broadcast of the FIFA World Cup final is being transmitted across the globe using Microsoft Azure cloud networks. The video stream originates from South Africa, graphics are being layered in New York, and a voiceover is being recorded in Tokyo. All these elements need to be perfectly synchronised to ensure a seamless viewing experience. This is where Precision Time Protocol (PTP) comes into play, providing seamless synchronisation for these complicated, time-sensitive operations with lots of moving parts. For the uninitiated, PTP is a protocol used to synchronise clocks throughout a computer network. It works by having a source clock, often referred to as the grandmaster, that is typically linked to a GPS signal. This connection to GPS provides highly accurate time references, down to the sub-microsecond level. This grandmaster clock distributes these time references across its network using switches and routers. PTP is crucial for media, entertainment, finance and other high-performance applications to ensure synchronisation between data streams. Key standards and regulations like SMPTE 2110 for media, along with FINRA and MiFID II for finance, require the highperformance clock synchronisation that PTP provides. Beyond these other industry sectors like industrials, government, and service providers routinely rely on PTP for their production systems. In larger networks or over long distances, PTP uses boundary clocks and transparent clocks to maintain synchronisation. Boundary clocks correct for any time discrepancies, known as ‘clock drift’, between the grandmaster clock and themselves, providing an accurate time source to the end systems. Transparent clocks, on the other hand, simply pass PTP messages through them, maintaining the integrity of the time information. As industries that rely on precise time synchronisation migrate operations to the cloud, however, they’re hitting a barrier: most cloud providers don’t support multicast, a crucial component of PTP, or provide native precision time services. Multicast allows a single packet producer to move a stream of packets into a switch or router, which then replicates and distributes the packets to all subscribed entities. Without multicast and PTP together, these industries may face difficulties in extending their on-premises networks into the cloud, potentially slowing down plans to scale wider or enable remote work via the cloud or hybrid cloud setups. Solutions like CloudSwXtch from bridge the gap between traditional on-premises systems and the cloud. Within the Microsoft Azure Cloud universe, we can effortlessly add our CloudSwXtch virtual overlay network “Together, Microsoft Azure and can offer our common customers improved operational efficiency”