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Tedd Tramaloni, Business Development Manager for Production Switchers and Servers Mar 31, 2021 3:01:37 PM

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Alphabet Soup (AS) – Software-Defined Production Engine (SDPE) Explained

If there’s anything this industry loves, it’s abbreviations and acronyms. From the obvious to the obscure, there’s an endless array of initialisms describing everything from signal standards to chassis height. To an outsider, conversations among the initiated might sound like a foreign language except for the occasional sprinkling of “real” words – “Boot up in HD-SRC mode, then use an FS/FC to lock the incoming SDI without stripping the ANC data…” Vraiment?

To be sure, we do sound cool when we rattle off those incomprehensible all-caps names – after all, doesn’t “JAY-san” sound so much hipper than “JavaScript Object Notation?” (Yes, I did have to look it up…I mean, Google it…) But here’s one you may not have heard: SDPE. And before your thumbs do the walking, I’ll tell you that SDPE stands for “Software-Defined Production Engine.” Thirty-two letters, nine syllables; all in all, quite a mouthful. And frankly, “SDPE” probably gives you about as much information as “Software-Defined Production Engine” anyway.

Software-Defined Production Engine Explained

So, what is an “SDPE” and what is it used for? The answer is pretty simple: It’s a piece of hardware whose function is defined by the software that is loaded and running.

But wait, that doesn’t tell us much at all! And besides, isn’t every device these days “defined” by the software it runs? After all, your laptop or mobile device wouldn’t be much good without the operating system and applications that it uses, so aren’t all devices “software-defined?”

That’s true enough, but in the case of the Ross Software-Defined Production Engine, we’re talking about something much more interesting and exciting. But before jumping into that, let’s take a step back to ancient times; specifically, AD 2015.

It was April of that year when Ross introduced the Carbonite Black 2RU (initialism alert!) production switcher chassis. It featured a larger I/O matrix (another IA!), larger M/E count (and another!) and was paired with the beautiful new Carbonite Black series of control panels. But even as Carbonite Black was beginning to ship, the development team was asking a question: Was it possible to create an entirely different product using the Carbonite Black chassis by simply writing new software code? This idea became known internally as the “Software-Defined Production Engine,” but because we love initials as much as the next person, it was quickly shortened to SDPE.

In 2016, Ross introduced UltrachromeHR, a standalone chroma-key engine that could provide up to four high-quality keys each with additional layers and transitions. It was followed by Mosaic, a multi-channel image processing engine specially designed to help manage signals to large-scale displays such as LED walls. Both products had one thing in common: each used a standard Carbonite Black chassis. In other words, the exact same hardware was used to create three different products, each with its own unique capabilities. That was the start…

Introducing Ultrix Acuity

Fast-forward to early 2021 and the introduction of Ultrix Acuity, a powerful merger of two flagship Ross products based on the next step in the evolution of SDPE. Ultrix Acuity is, essentially, a standard Ultrix router frame that, in addition to input/output cards, is also fitted with specially designed SDPE switcher blades to produce a completely unique hybrid product. But that’s just the beginning...

The SDPE blade gives us a platform to develop completely new products with different features and capabilities. And because they share the same base hardware, a whole new world of possibilities opens up as well.

I’d love to give you a peek behind the curtain to show you what’s next for that same SDPE blade, but that would just spoil all the fun. But I can tell you that the roadmap for the SDPE blade is extensive and we’re going to have lots more to talk about in the coming weeks and months. So, as the saying goes, “stay tuned”. I can’t guarantee any new initialisms, but I can promise we’ll have more exciting news.

Learn More

For more information on Ultrix Acuity, visit our product page.

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