The openGear Story
Several years ago Ross Video made a Standard Definition gear frame and line of terminal equipment products. We called this frame our 8000 Series and it was (is, we still make it) compatible with other industry products from companies like Harris (Leitch), Cobalt Digital and AJA. Given that the 8000 Series rear connector structure was fine for SD but not suitable for HD, we needed a new frame.
Rather than reinvent the wheel and design a new Ross frame, we thought that it would be best for us and our customers to find another company in the industry that was willing to let us develop cards that would be compatible with their existing frames. Making a gear frame is a surprising amount of work and effort and we thought if we could simply use an existing one it would be faster and simpler for us and our customers would have a range of choices available to them. We approached most of the major industry players to discuss this idea explaining that the advantage to them would be that by offering competition within their frame they would be able to win a larger share of the market.
Surprisingly, we were told by company after company that we could not make cards that were compatible with their frames. These companies made no bones about their business model which was designed around getting a couple of their frames into a customer and then lock them in to their solution. Once they got their frames and control system into the customer, since there would be no compatibility with other vendor’s products the customer would have no choice but to go back to them as they needed more equipment. Our approach had always been different. Every one of our analog and digital lines of terminal equipment had compatibility with existing standards. Customers always loved this because they had choice.
So, we had to create our own frame and control system. Instead of doing yet again the same thing every other company in the industry was doing we decided that we should create an industry standard for terminal equipment. This fit perfectly with our code of ethics “#1: We will always act in our customers’ best interest” Having a standard would be great for customers, they would only have one frame and control system to worry about with a wide range of product choices available. If it was great for customers, it would also be great for other players in the industry, especially smaller companies that just did not have the capability to produce a frame and control system. They could create cards for this new frame and sell them into the market place and be compatible with the growing openGear terminal equipment ecosystem. As the new standard took off, Ross would also do well as we got our share of the business. We called this new standard openGear.
During the development of openGear every design element was created around being open and being able to have numerous companies make cards for the system. This is very important to understand since trying to put all of the concepts and ideas about an open system onto an already designed platform would not work very well at all and would likely fail or be impossible to manage. openGear was designed from the very start to be open which has allowed for far more flexibility and simplicity than if we had tried to incorporate it after the design was shipping.
Becoming an openGear partner and being able to create openGear compatible cards is a straightforward process. Companies sign a simple license agreement with Ross Video which gives them access to the hardware and software specifications and the right to use the openGear logos. Ross Video does not charge any royalties and there is a single annual $1,000 fee to cover some of the openGear website and other general marketing costs. There are no exclusive rights within openGear to any card or product type, any company can create any product they like – including those that compete directly with Ross. Open competition on products within the frame is one of the strong reasons for customers to want to adopt openGear. Customers can buy the best product that meets their needs, price and delivery from whomever they wish and still have a single frame and control system standard.
Ross Video manufactures all of the frames, power supplies and network cards for openGear. These are provided to all of the openGear partners at an OEM discount. Since frames are a loss leader in the industry, the goal here is to consolidate production to increase volumes and hopefully drive costs down over time. Virtually all of the profit on terminal equipment is made on the functional cards that plug into the frame. The frames are generically branded openGear in the top right corner of the front of the frame and partner companies have a location to add their own brand in the top left corner of the frame before shipping on to the end customer.
Every openGear card can be controlled by DashBoard, the Ross control system software graphical user interface. DashBoard is provided to customers and partners at no cost and can be downloaded from the openGear.tv website. DashBoard allows customers to configure card settings as well as see all of the status and alarm information for openGear frames and cards. DashBoard is java based and runs on Windows, Mac and Linux systems, thus fitting right in to virtually any IT environment.
The openGear frame contains a network card which aggregates the communication from all of the cards in the frame and makes it available to the IP network via the Ethernet Port on the rear of the openGear frame. Each openGear card talks to the network card inside the frame using OGP, the openGear Protocol. Through this protocol, cards describe themselves, indicate how many controls they have, the names of those controls, the minimum and maximum value of each control, as well as a number of other pieces of information. This mechanism allows cards to be controlled by DashBoard with absolutely no changes required in the DashBoard software, the only software a partner needs to write is inside their own card.
Customers benefit in many ways by choosing openGear. First, they have a wide range of choices and competition within the platform – great products at great prices from a large and growing variety of vendors. Second, openGear keeps the cost of ownership down significantly by reducing the complexity and the number of systems to learn. Once a customer understands the openGear frame and DashBoard they do not have to relearn it for new openGear products regardless of which company makes the cards. Third, openGear can also be much more space efficient since empty frame slots have many other products that can fill them instead of being limited to the offerings from only one company. This also reduces the number of frames, power supplies and network card slots that the installation requires driving costs down yet again.
The openGear ecosystem has grown even larger with the addition of openGear Connect. openGear Connect opens the DashBoard control and monitoring system beyond openGear frame based products. OpenGear Connect is for products that for some reason don’t make sense as openGear cards but that benefit from integration to the DashBoard control system. With openGear connect, any equipment that has an Ethernet connection can appear in DashBoard. These frames can contribute alarm and signal status information alongside the openGear card information. In addition, an openGear Connect compatible product can also be fully controlled from within DashBoard if that company desires. openGear Connect is made available at no cost and with no royalties required to both customers and other broadcast equipment manufacturers.
Implementing openGear Connect is quite straightforward; there is a simple no-fee license to sign. Once signed Ross Video provides all of the documentation required about the openGear Connect protocol. There is no software of any kind that is required to be written inside DashBoard by another company for their product to become openGear Connect compatible, they only have to implement the openGear Connect protocols within their products.
openGear has been a great success with 4 industry awards, more than 25 partner companies on board developing products for the openGear platform and new partners joining every month. There is an extremely wide array of solutions available from 3G video, to digital audio, IRD’s and fibre.
We hope you agree that openGear is an important advancement in the broadcast industry and whether you are a customer or potential partner we would be pleased to speak with you about how openGear can be of benefit to your organization.