Lessons Learned Part 5: Why Diagnostics Are Key to IP

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In this last of our “lessons learned” from real-world deployments, we look at diagnostics. If you’re deploying PTP-aware switches in an IP environment to support reliable transport and timing for video, audio, data, control, monitoring, intercom, and other signals, you’ll want proper diagnostics during staging to get everything humming along nicely. Down the road, of course, you’ll want diagnostic tools to accelerate troubleshooting, or to prevent small issues from becoming big problems.

Diagnostic tools will tell you if an endpoint or device is compliant with standards in the same way as other endpoints. They can log and capture activity, such as messaged delivered or dropped, across the network and segregate them to make analysis easier. For example, with some experience using diagnostic tools to look at information such as PTP messages, you’ll be able to see when a particular endpoint isn’t responding to delay requests from the timing server. You’ll know that messages aren’t reaching that endpoint, or that they’re being dropped by the device itself.

With the right tools and experience using them, you’ll gain the ability to recognize the “signatures” of different issues. Each signature points to a specific problem; it’s a symptom that points directly to the underlying cause of that problem. You’ll look at reports from devices and switches and think, “No wonder!” So, while IP is more complex than SDI, you will become increasingly familiar with these symptoms. You’ll recognize patterns in diagnostic reports, you’ll be able to see where ports and endpoints are behaving irregularly, and you’ll know where to look to address the issue.

Oftentimes these issues stem from errors in provisioning the system. You might see an audio signal from a speaker joining a video flow and realize things weren’t set up quite right. Maybe a port is getting flooded with messages, and packets are getting dropped. The problem may be simple, but finding the cause isn’t always so. Diagnostics make it much easier to pinpoint and resolve these issues before they cause a major headache.

Fortunately, the industry’s shift toward IP and embrace of IT-based systems brings a critical benefit: Networking is not new, and we already have access to sophisticated diagnostics and troubleshooting tools for IP networks. At the same time, vendors whose IP-based technologies target professional audio and video applications are growing more adept at building analytic and diagnostic tools into their products. By leveraging artificial intelligence (AI), technology suppliers are beginning to offer even more powerful tools capable of delivering even greater insights into system performance.

With tools such as these in hand, engineers can focus more time and energy on the production side of their work — creative aspects, such as where to situate microphones to get the right effect — rather than on IP infrastructure. They can focus more on the art and let diagnostics do the science necessary to support proactive maintenance and rapid troubleshooting of IP systems and endpoints.

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