The Switch Expands with ScheduALL
The Switch, owned by privately-held Beers Enterprises, Inc. (BEI), is the leading provider of customer-controlled video switching services throughout major media markets of the United States and in key international locations.
Since 1991, the broadcast marketplace has embraced The Switch for its technical innovation in direct customer control of switching.
In 2011, The Switch officially announced a plan to expand their current six-city network to fifty cities across North America and the United Kingdom. Throughout 2012, The Switch brought twenty-one new cities online, and plans to add seventeen more cities in 2013. All locations served by The Switch are connected and accessible to all customers via their exclusive Switch-IT technology.
Switch-IT was designed with the customer in mind. Highlights of the system include automated scheduling (on demand switching), the ability to transmit in multiple digital formats, and dual transmission path backups for every path ordered. This fully automated and client-accessible scheduling system is an industry first. This expansion currently underway will position The Switch as the largest provider of customer controlled video fiber switching in North America.
ScheduALL was chosen as the resource allocation management system by The Switch for managing their new network. ScheduALL integrates all systems and allows The Switch to control all components of the network and field resources, while also giving its customers direct access to the master booking interface.
The goal of Switch-IT, was to provide a fully automated reservation system that enables clients (broadcasters) to plan broadcasts for now, tomorrow, next week and next month from the convenience of their own office. In order to accomplish this, those clients needed to be able to interact directly with the ScheduALL reservation system through Switch-IT and easily make real-time changes to their bookings, without having to make a phone call or wait on a confirmation from The Switch.
Transmission is a competitive marketplace. The Switch has several competitors, so they set out to develop the unique capability of real-time control to their customers.
“The challenge was to replicate what the booking people do on a daily basis and give them the same options that they had verbally, now via a remote control system,” said Howard Miller, Vice President, Operations at The Switch.
ScheduALL is the provider of a platform for effective and extensible workflow advancement, system-to-system collaboration and true interoperability to the media and broadcast community. Both Net Insight and Miranda interact closely with ScheduALL for the efficient management of circuits and signals. Net Insight’s NimbraVision, Miranda’s iControl and ScheduALL all work together seamlessly to simplify the booking process for customers of The Switch.
“ScheduALL provided our network customers with a confidence during the transition and development phase because they knew that we were using the broadcast industry’s gold standard in ERM software,” said Miller. “After all, most if not all of them are ScheduALL customers themselves.”
ScheduALL is making interoperability systemic, with its unique ability to integrate and automate disparate business systems. ScheduALL’s existing partnerships with industry leaders like Net Insight and Miranda are what makes it the global leader for ERM software. ScheduALL, in tandem with Net Insight and Miranda, and the custom Switch-IT software gives The Switch customers the ability to book any media resources needed for transmission configuration, as well as the scheduling and management of occasional use fiber circuits and bandwidth.
The Switch uses Net Insight for encoding and decoding equipment in the field. Net Insight’s trusted media-rich transport solution Nimbra Vision is also integrated with ScheduALL’s clients’ circuit booking and management systems. This connectivity provides enhanced booking capabilities and brings ScheduALL’s acclaimed Booking and Resource Management functionality to the Nimbra solution.
Miller asked, “Why reinvent the wheel when ScheduALL already does a lot of what we needed and speaks to the same equipment we use?”
Miranda Technologies was chosen to supply 3G video routing switchers along with its iControl centralized control solution. Miranda partnered with ScheduALL to innovate the way facilities transmissions are assembled and workflows streamlined for mutual customers like The Switch. ScheduALL helps Miranda hardware deliver the most efficient management of incoming signals through the production workflow at The Switch.
The Switch-IT next-generation, web-enabled customer control system was developed with user touchscreens, offering customers the choice of on-demand switching or scheduled transmissions via ScheduLINK advanced transmission management solution. LINK is the industry leader and system of choice for the world’s largest satellite bandwidth and transmission providers, television broadcasters and cable networks.
“We use ScheduALL very differently than most organizations,” added Miller. “The APIs included in the ScheduALL Chorus interoperability platform allow our customers to talk to our systems directly, giving them the same functionality that our own schedulers at The Switch would have.”
ScheduALL’s comprehensive Chorus platform enables complex interfaces like Switch-IT to interoperate and provides a one-stop, comprehensive solution with multiple levels of connectivity. Chorus allows the Switch-IT touchscreens to directly access and control the ScheduALL interface, which is what gives The Switch their unique position in the industry.
The Switch has also implemented the ScheduALL Circuit module, which includes multi-tiered conflict checking of resource availability, bandwidth and technical mismatches. Circuit speaks to all integrated systems and reports any conflicts to the operator, hours and even days in advance. The alert capabilities of this module are so advanced that it not only shows hardware errors happening now, but also how the issue will affect other, future bookings.
“ScheduALL Circuit has been a very dependable scheduling tool. We get alarms from all the systems to which ScheduALL is talking – we get a heads up, four hours in advance of an approaching problem, and see the trickle effect that it will have on everything else,” said Miller.
The key to the successful rollout of this new operation lies in the ease with which The Switch’s users interact with ScheduALL, and the speed at which they were able to adopt and utilize ScheduALL’s powerful functionality. ScheduALL’s intuitive user interface and flexible layout design save administrators valuable time.
“Our operators were very quick to learn the system and use it to their advantage. ScheduALL’s ease of use has enabled them to adapt very quickly,” says Miller.
ScheduALL’s partnerships with the leading providers of hardware and software in media, broadcast and transmission enable its industry experts to leverage this breadth of expertise to ensure quick and seamless implementation. With 1,200 installations in more than 50 countries, ScheduALL spans the global community and offers unparalleled interoperability capabilities.
“We had time constraints and needed to look at the most expeditious way to get from the beginning to end of our expansion,” recalls Miller. “ScheduALL gave us an edge on that timeline because they already had the solutions in place to quickly accomplish what we needed to do.”
ScheduALL continues to support The Switch in handling the growing diversity and complexity of their expanding network. In early 2013, The Switch acquired substantially all of the assets and operations of HTN Communications, LLC (HTN).
With the merger of these two companies’ operations, The Switch and its HTN Sports Group division is now a leader in providing sports television distribution services.
ScheduALL’s scalable software solution will allow The Switch to easily overlay the HTN network onto their existing HD network plus add the new Ethernet capabilities required with this expansion.
ScheduALL helps The Switch guarantee the unprecedented control it requires in a competitive marketplace – one that is becoming increasingly more complex and demanding as broadcasters expand their transmission requirements. The result is Switch-IT, a real-time reservation system that enables customers of The Switch to plan for now, tomorrow, next week, etc. while being able to make changes easily and quickly.
In 2012, The Switch won the Broadcast Engineering’s Excellence Award for Network Automation. ScheduLINK is the centerpiece for the network’s resource allocation management and scheduling system. Miller concludes, “As the amount of traffic continues to grow, ScheduALL positions us to handle this increase in cities, routes, equipment and demand for our services.”