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Blog Central

SNMP with Charlie Toner

Posted by Kirk Harnack [TWiRT] on May 8, 2014 10:32:00 AM

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TWiRT 210Since 1992 SNMP has been used to manage IT devices over IP networks, now engineers can manage networked broadcast equipment, too.  Charlie Toner is an SNMP expert. He explains how good use of SNMP affords control of your broadcast devices, codecs, transmitters, and automation systems.  Plus, we get clues on how to create a robust network environment of managed broadcast devices with SNMP.

 

 

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Kirk Harnack: This Week in Radio Tech Episode 210 is brought to you by the Telos Z/IP One IP-audio codec, remote talent, outside broadcast, studio transmitter links and convenient remotes with Luci Live smart phone apps. The Z/IP One, see it at Telos- systems.com.

SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol. It's been an IT professional's secret weapon for some years and now broadcast engineers are using it, too. Charlie Toner in on top of the SNMP game for broadcast gear and talks with Chris Tobin about putting SNMP to use.

Chris Tobin: Welcome to This Week in Radio Tech, I'm Chris Tobin. Kirk Harnack is down under and unfortunately has some bandwidth issues. That's down under in Australia, not something from a night of having too much good time. Our guest today is Charlie Toner, so we're going to talk about some good stuff.

Welcome to the show and as always be sure to check us on demand if you can't stay with us long enough for this next hour. This show is on SNMP, so you definitely need to take a look see. It's probably best to do it on demand if you can't stay with us for the full hour, because you want to sit back, enjoy a cup of tea, coffee, or maybe your favorite adult beverage and take in what we're going to talk about today. So with that and without further ado, let's go to Charlie and bring him in.

Charlie Toner: Hi, Chris.

Chris: Yes.

Charlie: Just saying, hi. Thanks for having me, it's been a pleasure. I've become a TWiRT fan in the last year and it's been a wonderful, informative platform for just about everything. Like Kirk says, "From the mic to the light at the top of the tower."

Chris: That's our goal. It's basically conversational. It's a if you and I were sitting at the NAB, whether it be 2012, 13, or 14, having a cup of coffee in one of those public areas and just laughing about stuff, and sharing some experiences. Now what we do on the show is we bring it out to the masses.

Charlie: Which you were doing a couple of weeks ago if I remember correctly.

Chris: That's correct, we were. I like doing this and let's make sure I have this straight, you're just outside Toronto?

Charlie: Yeah, I'm at our Peterborough studios for Magic 96.7. We're about an hour and 20 or 30 minutes northeast of Toronto, which is still actually cool up here. It's been raining.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. We're lucky the rain left us.

The reason I make the reference to Canada is because I enjoy my relationships with friends I have up there. For those in Canada that can recognize this, the CCBE, that's the Central Canada Broadcast Engineering Conference, which is a very fun conference in a resort in Barry, Ontario.

Charlie: We'll be there again.

Chris: Yes, I look forward to it; it's always a fun time. I'd like to say thank you to the folks up there, from where I sit and in your neck of the woods from Toronto, to the guys in Quebec and elsewhere that enjoy the show who I've met several times. I just want to pass that on. Dave Simon is one of them and there are a few other guys I have to think of so I mentioned Dave and I know there's a few others. There's Ron Paley. Those of you in Canada know Ron and a few others. So I just wanted to say thank you.

Charlie: Only too well. Ron took me out to dinner at NAB and I think his brother Ted and I talk probably twice a week about something or somebody, so we have a good relationship with the Paley's.

Chris: Yeah, so Ron Paley and his company, Digital JukeBox, has a few folks, Joe Meyers who I used to work with at other companies is enjoying nice new digs, also Mr. Parsons the software guy who makes it all come together for Ron and Joe and the others. If you have a chance, check out Digital JukeBox for your automation needs and just say hello to them.

Charlie: They won some awards at NAB actually.

Chris: Yeah, they did win awards. Talk to any of those guys.

Charlie: Their logger won Best in Show, if I remember correctly.

Chris: I believe that's correct, yes. So if you happen to talk to those folks let them --

Charlie: Actually [inaudible 00:04:13] on the software here.

Chris: Yes, that's what I heard. Be sure to let them know you heard about them on this show, This Week in Radio Tech, so that we give credit to both parties. This way people know that we're being legitimate about everything.

So Charlie, tell us a little bit about where you are, the broadcast group you're with, and your participation in the success of your broadcast group's money making ventures in radio.

Charlie: Well, Pineridge Broadcasting is a very small locally owned group of three stations and we share engineering resources with another group called Durham Radio, which is just a little bit to the west of us, for a total of eight radio stations. It's a very dynamic group of stations, everything from one that is a jazz station out of Hamilton that does webcasting only. Then the other seven stations are all off-air broadcast as well as streaming.

The station I'm in right now is actually our newest station of eight stations. It was built about three and a half years ago, all digital IP platform from microphone processor right through to the transmitter. It's actually one of my most stable and easily maintained radio stations of all eight, is the best way I can put it. It's been a very big success and a lot of it has to do with how we've moved on with technology like Davicom or Burke.

I know there's a lot of people that prefer the Burke of the Davicom or the Davicom over the Burke. We're using Davicom. We're using Nautel transmitters, and they've really gone a long ways with their SNMP monitoring, and control, and management with all of these different platforms. It's made a huge difference with the ability to sit back with a laptop on a beach in Jamaica, which I actually did the first year that we broadcast, and fix any issues or problems, or reroute audio and get rid of echoes, or whatever on the soundboard from the beach.

Chris: Now that's the best part I enjoy about the newfound technology, something that is foreign to many of use in broadcasting, the ability to from an outside location to control your facilities thousands of miles away while you enjoy a nice beverage on a beach or maybe at a resort. Yet, I still come across folks who have an issue with IP and just can't seem to get their head around it.

So I'm hoping with this episode we can start the process for people to start learning and understanding that IP can be friendly and can be as robust as the familiar TDM ISDNs, T1's, E1's, even Switch 56 for those of us that still have the old stuff. This show is going to talk about Simple Network Management Protocol otherwise known as SNMP. For those of you who may not be aware, this is an Internet standard protocol that's designed for managing devices over an IP network, correct?

Charlie, do I have that right?

Charlie: That is correct. It actually started in 1992. I actually come from the networking industry when I got into engineering back in the late '80s when I started in computers and then into the '90s with network and network infrastructure. 1992 was when SNMP 1 and then 2 came out and in 1994 I believe SNMP Level 3, which is a much more secure system. It's the protocol that manages basically all network traffic, whether it be public Internet or business network is all managed in one way or another, or available to be managed, through SNMP.

Chris: So basically if you believe that IP technology is immature technology it's time to sort of step back, get rid of that old encyclopedia, open up the laptop and start researching, just so you know.

Charlie: It's been around for a long time. I mean, in 1992 I was also involved in radio and I was still spinning vinyl, I was still playing commercials on cart machines, and we had a VCR machine for our logger. The radio business has come a long way since those days.

Chris: Absolutely. I'm excited about it. I've actually helped a lot of folks put together some nice networks and systems in broadcast. Broadcast as we all know is a different mindset, mission critical thinking, always up time of 99.99%, that's four nines of reliability, unlike other industries where they really say 95% is what they consider the best. We in broadcasting would consider that a really bad day. SNMP, once you get your fingers into it and really understand it, can actually help you to really deploy a nice network with all the equipment, and devices. You can be rest assured that you can sleep nights and know that things are under control.

Let's start with this, I have a question. I've had several people over the years ask me, "I have a device or several devices and I want to use SNMP." For the broadcast environment what is the basic or entry level approach someone should take to build that foundation, so they can start growing their SNMP architecture as their plant expands?

Charlie: Well, the first thing I do right now is anytime I'm buying a new product for broadcast, whether it be a codec or switch--I usually go with a managed switch right now, we standardized on Cisco managed switches. We've got a bunch of 2960G's that we're using right now for both our audio over IP network as well as our office network. We have two separate networks that we utilize. That's kind of important, make sure that is has a good SNMP capability and when you order or purchase that product make sure you get the MIB file. The MIB file is the definition file of all the SNMP characteristics. We're going to get in to seeing actually a MIB file for a Nautel VS transmitter.

Chris: Question, if I may. This is the question that comes up a lot. You said, "A managed switch." I understand the reason for that. Explain why I'm building a network in my facility and I need to use a managed switch--In your case it's a 2960G, a very nice switch--why should somebody even be concerned about the type of switch, managed/unmanaged, what's the difference? Why should I care? I can get an unmanaged switch for 30% less than that managed switch, what's the difference?

Charlie: You can probably get an unmanaged switch for a lot less than 30%.

Chris: Oh yeah, I'm just using the number.

Charlie: They are more expensive, but the managed switch allows you to manage traffic dependent on where the traffic is going. It's basically having an entire group of traffic cops built into your switch that allows you to manage the traffic and to control that traffic to make sure that if I'm asking for the IP address for the transmitter--I'm sending information to the transmitter or to a codec which is very important, that the quality of the channel or the path through the network, which can get very muddied water if you don' use a managed switch--it's not broadcasting across all the unmanaged port, it's actually going to exactly the right port, the right connection all the way through to the destination that it needs to go to and the information coming back through that channel.

In layman's terms it's having the best possible, best educated traffic cop as part of your network. That's kind of the whole infrastructure. That's the bare bones, making sure that you have the right highway system and the right traffic system for your network traffic to maneuver through your network and do it seamlessly and fast.

Chris: So basically if I'm a broadcast engineer, technician, an IT guy doing broadcast work and someone says to me, "Boy, I sure liked the old days of ISDN where it was reliable, I made a connection and up it went." You could sort of say using managed switches in your facility can give you the equivalent quality that you've always had with a TDM type system, say ISDN or T1's, yes?

Charlie: Absolutely, yes. We actually use a T1 line to our transmitter site here and it does a great job. It does a wonderful job. We also have a fiber optic that's going in and out of our studio groups and between the studio groups, so we can actually see through our managed network and our fiber optic connections and all of our routers and everything else that are all managed and all have SNMP capability, we can monitor that path of data and make sure that that data is getting from Point A to Point B absolutely the best way it possibly can, reliably every day no matter what.

Chris: Now that is exactly what I've told folks. I've been to several meetings and talked to broadcast groups about IP and general basic stuff and there you've explained it. You've said it exactly as what I've tried to tell everyone. Years ago when you ordered and ISDN line or a T1, or E1, or any kind of DS0's, of DS3's and stuff, the phone company took care of what Charlie just said, making sure from Point A to Point B, everything in the middle is properly managed and gets there.

Now let's flip this to 2014 and we've got a device or a technology called IP. The phone company says, "Here's your pipe. Whatever you stick in it is up to you to manage." Basically that's correct, right Charlie?

Charlie: That's correct. Yeah, they have offloaded a lot of the management to us. To tell you the truth it's a good thing they did, because phone companies, as much as we deal with them and love them in many, many ways, do not understand the demands of broadcasting, either radio or television, and that's the reality of it. They're not broadcasters. If they have an outage, well they'll have it fixed within four hours. You know what happens within four hours of being off the air in radio. You usually get a few more phone calls from people that sign your paychecks.

Chris: Absolutely. I'm actually working with a department within the Department of Commerce in Washington helping them look at going from the old phone system approach in distribution of what they do to an IP approach. The questions they keep asking are the same ones we're answering right now, so I'm glad to hear that you're explaining it the same ways I've been explaining it to others and it's not just me walking around beating a drum and saying, "Guys, it's possible to do things, you really can." So I'm glad to see that we're on the same page.

Let's move forward, we're talking SNMP, managing our devices on our network, continue on with your basic layout. I've bought my managed switch. I have a network that's set up for my broadcast revenue generating LAN, that's what I usually call it, and now I need to begin the thought process of how to lay out my SNMP management, I guess I could call it.

Charlie: I kind of happened into SNMP here a little while ago and I really spent a lot of time playing with it. What happened is we have Davicoms that are at our transmitter site, our monitoring and control, because we do have to have control of our transmitter sites remotely as part of our CRTC license, much like you do with the FCC licenses that you have, we have Davicoms in our studio blocks as well.

Well, a lot of the IP and digital audio that we have, if something goes wrong you need to have something that will make a decision on-site without necessarily being there. This is one of my remote station sites from where I live, it's a little less than an hour's drive, but in an off-air condition I'd like to be able to control both the studio and the transmitter site remotely, so we have Davicoms.

The week before NAB we actually had one of our units fail. I've never had one fail before, but something happened in the software and it just kind of hiccupped and wouldn't come back to me for a bit. So rather than having to rewire and have another unit overnight expressed, I actually used the Davicom unit at the transmitter site and took all of the commands that I would normally use to control our studio site, which also is our network operations center, and I moved it all to an offsite Davicom.

We have about six Davicoms throughout all eight stations that control all the transmitter sites. There's 12 locations and there's a lot of double duty with these Davicoms when they see each other, so we can actually move all of the programming from one unit to another unit in another city and still control the studio or the transmitter site, or anything, all remotely through SNMP. We didn't have to run extra wires, the pipe is already there and we're just throwing a very minute amount of extra traffic on it.

Chris: Now the data com, just so I understand it, is a product or is that just a term you're using for data communications?

Charlie: Davicom.

Chris: Davicom, sorry, got you.

Charlie: You know Andrew.

Chris: Oh yes, sorry. Unfortunately my little earpiece thing is not the highest quality. It's one of those acoustic tubes and I should change it out.

Charlie: It's the same idea as a Burke or is very similar to a Burke, which a lot of people in the U.S. are familiar with as well. They're both excellent systems and excellent companies. I do like the SNMP manager on the Davicom a little bit better than the Burke, but that's my preference.

Chris: Yes, Davicom we have actually had actually at the SB meetings here in New York City, so I know exactly who you're talking about and they do have a very nice product. I actually have used it over the years, so I would agree.

Charlie: Nice.

Chris: So continue on with your moving along as we build out of SNMP network.

Charlie: The SNMP network that I've been able to design is very portable in the sense you can just grab all of the addressing commands and what you're looking to get for information and how you're going to send commands, traps and things like that, that is very mobile and moveable and as long as you can see the device--You can ping the device with a simple ping command--then you can get that SNMP data back and forth through it as well. It's only two parts, 161 and 162. It's a very seamless and very, very little traffic. It's very, very light as far as bandwidth.

In this location we have fiber optic to the Internet, fiber optic between this studio location and our studio location and head office in Cobourg, Ontario. We have T1 lines going out to our transmitter sites. Through the managed network that we have using SNMP to manage the traffic we can reroute traffic or even studios.

For example, in an emergency, whether we have a flood here in Peterborough and this has been flood season, but Peterborough's been spared this spring. We are in the basement or a very lower level of the mall here for the studio, so if something tragically happened to this studio we could very quickly up and just move all of the function and form, and control of the transmitter site which is up on a mountain, move it to another city, or to another building, or another studio all very quickly. It's not a matter of having to rewire, it's a matter of plugging in a bunch of CAT 6 cables.

Chris: So when you speak of being able to shuffle your monitoring and control from one location to another do you do this with any particular scripting or is it just, as you point out, a cable move so you're moving ports where you're directing the control, just so I understand for those listening and watching?

You're watching and listening to This Week in Radio Tech Episode 210. Charlie Toner is talking to us about SNMP as he brings up his screen share as he smiles and laughs at the fact that I'm now narrating a visual for those of you in the radio audience or the listening audio audience. Image a person in front of a screen trying to bring up something else.

Charlie: I keep forgetting that there's also just an audio podcast so it doesn't have the video part of it.

Chris: That's true. I always kid folks that we now live I a visual world even though the auditory portion is the best part of it.

Charlie: This is actually the Davicom. This is my screen of the Davicom that we have in the studio block. If I actually go to my SNMP page, I'm just monitoring two different transmitters, my primary and my secondary, that I have powered up on a dummy load.

Because this studio doesn't have physical hardwires plugging in to the GPIO's of the transmitter, because it happens to be about six kilometers away, we're using IP. So this is SNMP command and control with get commands getting all of this information including the forward power, reflected power, PA current, PA volts, and VSWR for efficiency for the A and the B transmitters. I have another unit at the transmitter site.

Chris: So as you're doing this, using the Davicom you can control and manipulate your transmitters accordingly as you would normally if you used the IP direct connection to a Nautel transmitter?

Charlie: That's right. This is the Davicom that we have at the transmitter site itself. I didn't duplicate the SNMP because it's local and it's locally controlled through the GPIO. All of these analog inputs and status inputs are GPIO's within the site and a lot of them have to do with both the primary and secondary transmitter.

Here's the thing about the difference that I found between using GPIO and SNMP. GPIO when we go to calibrate the voltage signal coming from the GPIO I find that I'm recalibrating these numbers, whether it be a Burke or a Davicom, every time I do an annual.

Chris: How interesting.

Charlie: However, in SNMP those numbers are exact every time. Actually I'm going to go to my other Davicom here, because it will show the numbers, because the B transmitter's up on the screen.

Chris: Is that because the SNMP is a more exact using the Get commands and everything else nothing gets lost in translation, so to speak?

Charlie: That's right. There's no line loss. This is a digital signal from your, in this case a Nautel VS 2.5 transmitter, it's a digital signal over IP. It's exact, there's no line loss that you have to account for or voltage loss, or whatever you might have with a GPIO connection that we've used for 50 or 60 years.

Chris: Oh okay, very good. What you now have is a network that you can control your facilities from anywhere you happen to be with a laptop or a smart phone also.

Charlie: Yes.

Chris: The question I always have for folks like yourself who are building these types of systems, security? How do I prevent somebody from being a man in the middle or hacking in, whatever terms you want to use? How do I protect myself? Say I'm a publically traded company, here in the United States we have the Sarbanes-Oxley Act which requires compliance for how to prevent loss of business due to malfeasance, basically.

I'm not sure how it works with the CFRTC in Canada, but I'm sure it's probably similar with publicly traded companies as well. Your network, how do you protect yourself? How do you make sure, do you have a security appliance at the gateways? Don't give anything out that could compromise you, but just general stuff.

Charlie: We do use VPN's at our gateways. We use a good, solid, strong VPN at our gateways. We have a firewall in the gateways. There's a lot of protection on that side and we haven't had any problems. In the case of our transmitter site it's actually well hidden. It's on an isolated network that's only accessible from within our network. Either I'm VPN'd in to our office network and then there's a bridge over to our transmitter network or I'm in the building, so those are my two options.

Chris: Okay, so you take the controlled access approach to getting to your other end points rather than try to connect directly to the end point from the outside?

Charlie: Yeah, I'm not a big fan of just throwing something without a firewall between it and the rest of the Internet world. It tends to get hacked very quickly.

Chris: Ah, yes absolutely. I have one question before we go to our sponsor for this net cast. When you're using VPNs, I've always been a fan of VPN software using rather than just the default Microsoft PPTP approach, do you use like a Cisco client or a VPN client, open VPN? I'm just curious.

Charlie: We're using a Cisco VPN client. It's actually part of the RV016 that we have at our network operations center. Then we have RV042's in all of our other locations.

Chris: Oh, those are great little appliances. I use those, I like them.

Charlie: Absolutely, I love them. The RV042 is actually our bridge through our fiber links that link all of our sites together. We use RV016's at the NOC and we have another NOC in Oshawa also. NOC standing for Network Operation Center.

Chris: Right, exactly. I recently built a transmitter facility and studio connection using the 16's and their access is through a VPN through the client and they all looked at me like, "Are you sure this is going to work?" I said, "Trust me, it'll be fine. You'll do just fine." So I'm glad to hear you're doing the same thing.

I need to now go to our sponsor, the kind folks at Telos, otherwise known as the Telos Alliance. Resistance is futile, as someone told me. Here in my hands, for those of you who can watch this, is a Telos Z/IP One. This is a broadcast IP codec. It's actually pretty cool. It also has basic SNMP, I'm told. It's a recent firmware update so you'll all have that information. It's an IP, so basically on the back of the unit you have the ability to take analog audio or AES, or those of you with Livewire Axia systems--there's my finger pointing to Livewire--then you have yourself a nice little setup.

The Z/IP One has the ability to talk on various algorithms. You don't need to get in the details about algorithms, because you know what they're all about. What you need to know is the hardware is designed in such a way that you get the connection from Point A to Point B, you control it, you make sure you get the best connection, and you don't have to worry.

You're worries are unfounded because you can also choose the SIP approach or the Telos Server. I believe they have a name for it, but I'm going to say SIP Server, so you don't have to worry about remembering the IP address of the far end or the remote location. What you can do is you type in an alias to the directory, the phone book, and that's all accessible through the little knob on the front--You can maybe hear the little beeping there.--then you can connect to the far end of wherever you look to be. Or, you have somebody looking to connect to you. They look up in the directory, they find your name, and your codec's name, and off you go.

If you choose, you can also use a software application from the folks at Luci and your smart phone can now become a portable IP codec talking to the Z/IP. Now why would you want to do that?

Well, let's see, a portable smart phone has some limitations we know because it's very small and has limited connectivity, but the Z/IP is at a firm location in your studio. It's behind a setup with nice broadband. It's also a device as see as I rotate it in my hands. It's a hardware device, in other words it does one thing, takes IP streams, brings them in and converts them to audio for your broadcasts. It doesn't worry about updates, USB ports not working properly, or waiting for a change in some kind of device driver. It's doesn't care because it doesn't have to and that's where you have the hybrid connection, so you have a smart phone and a Z/IP One and you're off to the races as I like to say. So that's what we have there.

Just remember on the back you have two connections, Livewire and your WAN connection, so if you're a non-Livewire facility you still can talk to the box and you can use the other port to manage it. So now you have your connection to the outside world and then you can manage the box. So don't fear, you're not losing out on anything because you don't have a Livewire enabled network at the time that you make the purchase or use your Z/IP One.

So there you have it. That's a very basic approach to the Z/IP One. I don't want to confuse too many people about what you can and can't do with it. The best part is it's simple to use, it's intuitive. If you've ever used a Telos product you know exactly how it goes, the Z/IP One follows in the same vein.

So it's the IP codec that drops jaws, not audio. If you have a very poor IP connection, because you didn't manage it properly as you've been listening to us on this particular episode with SNMP and managed switches then it's your own fault for not getting a connection that you like. The box didn't do it, it's the connection.

Remember, you take two Z/IPs and put them back to back, put them through their paces and you'll find they work very well. Put them on a network that you don't properly manage or want to work with, well the results could be very dicey. The Z/IP, though, gives you the tools to make sure that you don't go there.

These are all the things we're going to talk about over time through This Week in Radio Tech and you can contact the folks at Telos, you can drop me an email and I'll be more than happy to talk to you about it around helping promote and help folks install these things. Again, the Z/IP is in front of me. It's a very nice 1RU device, it works very well. It's very well made, too. It's solid, not that you want to be dropping it or tossing it anywhere.

Let's see, what else do you have? That's about it, parallel control, GPIO's, and all the basic stuff. Everything can be done from the front panel if you choose, or you can use the web browser interface for the more detailed stuff.

There you have it, the Z/IP One from the Telos Alliance. Check it out at the website telos-systems.com/codecs/zip-one or just go to the Telos website, click on the tab for codecs and you can read from there all the different things that Z/IP can do for you. There you have it, Z/IP One from Telos.

Let's get back to Charlie. I think you've been reconnected and the video's properly going. Do we have you there, Charlie?

Charlie: Yeah, I'm here. Can you hear me?

Chris: Okay, good. Where we left off we had talked about the VPN and then you were going to talk about some stuff with your network and how things are going with the Nautels, and how everything moves around.

Charlie: Well, actually I can bring up something as simple as a MIB file using a MIB browser. The MIB file is that definition file, it's what defines the address of every piece of information that you want to get or send, or receive a trap from. Those are the three things that happen in SNMP. You can get information, send information or commands, or you can receive traps or send traps. Traps are usually alarms or alerts, or some other type of information that happens given a certain set of circumstances on the network.

Let's see if I can bring that up again.

Chris: Just so that you know, the MIB file, not Men in Black, but the Management Information Base. That's the proper term, but everybody calls it a MIB, so make sure you remember this, that's important. Any device that you're going to use in a SNMP environment, you want to make sure you have the MIB file for that device. Now don't panic, there are many devices, so audio codecs, that may not have control function of the SNMP, but just strictly alerts. That's still part of how you manage and use them, it doesn't mean that control is missing and that's a problem. That's just part of the implementation for that particular product.

Correct, Charlie?

Charlie: Yeah. We have codecs that are part of our STL and the codecs are very simple in the sense that they do one thing, it's one direction audio going from Point A to Point B. You could sit there and maybe have a MIB file that you could you get the number of packets that are being sent across the network. That's kind of mundane and you don't need to know the number of packets that are being sent at any specific time, you can always look that up on a device specific browser or a web interface, or whatever. But if it's dropping packets, if it's dropping connections, or information, or if there is some sort of a fault of alert on that device that's when you want to have those traps. Most IP enabled devices have the ability to send traps, so really trap management is probably one of your biggest things. You don't have to have a big, expensive Davicom or Burke system to it; you can actually do it with something as simple as a free version of Spiceworks.

Chris: That's true; I have talked to folks that have used that, that's pretty handy. I like that.

Charlie: I don't know if you guys can see my screen or not. I didn't hit start, there we go.

Chris: We see a screen of a frozen Charlie Toner at the moment and a spinning circle.

Charlie: Ah, the story of my life.

Chris: [laughs]

Charlie: Apparently so, maybe I'm sharing too much.

Chris: Uh oh, see we're back to that bed with management issue again. "See if this was an ISDN line I wouldn't have these issues," somebody would tell me.

Charlie: Have you got me back again, guys?

Chris: Andrew, do we have Charlie back? I only see myself at the moment.

Andrew: Nope, Charlie, you're frozen. We've got to reconnect.

Chris: Charlie's frozen, we have to reconnect.

For those of you tuning in or who have stayed with us, it's This Week in Radio Tech Episode 210. We're talking SNMP. SNMP stands for Simple Network Management Protocol. It's an Internet standard protocol that's used by many folks. It's been around, implemented, and used since 1992, so those of you panicking that it may be something new and foreign, it's not.

But the trick is how do you manage it and best deploy it, managed switches. You can do Cisco, you can do HP, you can do many others, just remember, understand the building blocks, learn the inner sanctum of IP on a very basic level and you can start evolving your network to where you want it to be. You want to be as robust as your traditional T1's and ISDN's you can do it. It takes some time, but you know have control of all those parameters that would dictate how to make it robust.

Let's see, is Charlie back with us and do we have video from him now?

 

Charlie: I see my video.

Chris: We see Charlie, there we go. I guess we just don't have enough bandwidth for you.

Charlie: I think it actually has to do with this computer. This is one of the computers that the jocks use during their morning show and afternoon drive show and I think it's due for some maintenance.

Chris: Well, if it's anything like the radio studios I've managed over the years with the jocks I'm surprised we're even seeing you right now. This is good.

Charlie: All right, I was just going to mention about using a MIB browser, iReasoning. It's a great little MIB browser. You can load the MIB files that you get from the manufacturer for your various IP based products whether they be traps, or managed SNMP where you can go in through SNMP Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3. Level 3 being the most secure, by the way. You can get commands, and send and receive, or send traps as well or set commands as well. We're actually controlling our transmitter sites using SNMP. It actually works very well through devices like Davicoms and we're also it through Spiceworks.

Here's basically the environment that we have here where we have microphone processors that are digital, they're IP based. We have an AoIP network, at this location it happens to be Wheatstone. We've also seen it with other carriers and other products as well, but we're also available, with the managed switches, the guys in the background, we can actually manage the data going from every single point throughout the network right to the transmitter and right up the tower. We can measure the data going through the T1 lines, through the routers of the T1 lines.

We can measure the data going through our fiber optic. We can measure the data going through the switches, and we can measure coming in and out of every device that has SNMP capability, including the transmitter site. In the case of a Nautel transmitter with SNMP you can actually control and monitor all the aspects of the transmitter. It'll send you all the information back from the transmitter. I did a quick measurement using the iReasoning MIB browser and it was something like 500 plus different readings that you can get off of the transmitter, just within SNMP. Try to do that with GPIO.

Chris: Wow, you're absolutely right. The iReasoning Networks MIB browser allows you to connect to your device and look and see what's available to manage it, do I have that correct?

Charlie: That's correct. Basically you load the MIB file into it and you can actually go in and scan and pull the readings right off of the device or send commands to the device all using the browser. It's just like using an Internet browser. You've just interfacing and interacting with the SNMP management of each and every device on your network and by doing that you can put together a map of how you want to manage your network. This is where you kind of start creating your roadmap of your network, is using a MIB browser.

Just experiment with some of the information. Experiment with creating problems, creating faults and seeing how you can create alternate logic using SNMP to choose another path, choose another route to get to the transmitter, or choose another route for the audio, or if you have an audio silence alarm start getting audio from another source. We've been able to do that with--the Nautels actually have a little USB plug in the back and a little player in the Nautel if you lose audio.

The only problem with the VS Series is that it doesn't switch back to your original audio source when it's restored, so we can do that within Spiceworks, within Davicom, within Burke, within iReasoning as a browser, but it's user interface only with iReasoning and even Wheatstone has the ability to do that. It can send a contact closure or send a trap that given that condition, the audio is restored, you can tell the transmitter to go back to the original source.

Chris: Wow, that is cool. I like that. Let's say I have a network in place, I'm doing AoIP, I'm using either Wheatnet or Livewire, or Andante and my devices are SNMP enabled, but I haven't really built out an SNMP management system I could do an iReasoning browser or a MIB browser, sit and experiment and play--I shouldn't say play--with different facets of SNMP.

Charlie: Oh, come on, we're engineers we play with it.

Chris: Very well then. I've got some folks that always make fun of that. I'm more than happy to play. I'm all about making mistakes, learning from mistakes, and growing from that. I'm not one to shun away from stepping into something and go, "Wow, that was a mistake, but you know what? I learned something. Good, move on." Make the same mistake twice and then you're an idiot, but I'm only kidding.

But a MIB browser would be a good entry way of learning SNMP, getting more familiar with it, and developing, as you point out, a roadmap to where you should go or where you would like to go, correct?

Charlie: That's correct. There's future uses though for SNMP. I mean, I think us in the IP world or in the broadcast world have really been, I guess, hesitant to really embrace a lot of what is available with SNMP and with all of the technology that's been around in IP. It is a stable and mature environment. SNMP has been around since 1992, it's not new. This is not new technology to the network industry, it's just new to the broadcast industry. We can make a lot of use of not having to reinvent the wheel.

One of the big things that of course has been coming up in the last few years and a big discussion in Europe in September of last year was AES67. For those of you who are not familiar with AES67 and the AoIP, the audio over IP environment where all of your audio is going through a managed network is that the AES- =67 or IEEE 1588 set the clock speed so that audio can be visible to all devices that support that clock speed, that AES67 whether it be Livewire, or Ravenna, or Wheatstone, or Logitech. I mean, it doesn't matter who the audio is coming from it's a universal clock speed.

However, that's only one of three different things that you need for audio over IP. We need the clock speed, we need discovery so that we know the audio is there and how to address it, and we need control. Well, I understand the desire for every manufacturer to protect a lot of their programming and a lot of their trade designs and there's no reason why they shouldn't. I mean, they've got a lot of time and money invested into it, however, the whole purpose of SNMP is to do discovery and control of any IP device on a network. There's an answer.

Chris: And the answer?

Charlie: That answer is that solves our whole AoIP interoperability between multiple platforms.

Chris: What you're saying is if they're willing to work together SNMP could be the glue that brings it all together for us in the broadcast industry to enjoy interoperability amongst the premier products?

Charlie: Well, since 1992 it was designed to do discover and control. I had the chance at NAB to talk to a lot of the engineers. I talked to Greg from the Telos Alliance, I talked to Kelly over at Wheatstone, I talked to the guys over at Ravenna and that was the big discussion that, "Well, we have our own discovery and control system." Everybody has their own discovery and control system, but they also have SNMP or in some cases they haven't turned on all of the SNMP availability, but it is there.

One of the things about a MIB browser like iReasoning is that you can really start going through that IP device and see exactly what is in that device for command and control and availability and it's just not turned on yet, it's set in read- only mode. So there's a lot of ability to do discovery and control within IP-based devices.

I actually spent a few hours last night going through a Wheatstone Blade just looking at all of the information that was coming out of SNMP. A lot of it was read-only and you couldn't use it other than to just get information, but you could receive traps and everything else. But there's no reason why they can't turn on some of this technology through SNMP, which is a universal open-source platform, and have control of AES67 or AoIP across multiple platforms.

Chris: I like it. This sounds like a presentation you should be preparing for CCB in September.

Charlie: Actually it's part of the whitepaper I have to deliver.

Chris: See, I was thinking already. This is going to be a fun fall, I like this, this is going to be fun.

Charlie: So you're coming up to CCB this year are you?

Chris: I come up every year, yes.

Charlie: Excellent.

Chris: It's great. I get to see a lot of folks I've made friends with and people. When I worked for a radio station that my co- channels were up in Canada we got to keep in touch and talk. Wally Lenox [SP] over at Astral. Is that right, Astral? I'm losing track.

Charlie: Well Astral was sold to Bell, so Astral is now mostly Bell, yeah.

Chris: Sorry, Bell Media. So Wally over at CFRB. Then I know Dave Simon who moved on because of good things for him, he was at Bell, and a few other folks I bump into all the time, so it's a great time to get up there, met some folks, catch up with stories, met folks like you with technology to talk about.

Charlie: You probably know Ron Comden [SP].

Chris: Yeah.

Charlie: Well, Ron is my counterpart at Durham. The two of us share engineering responsibilities for all eight of these stations between Durham and Pineridge. We literally talk every day.

Chris: Oh wow, yeah. Let's see, two years ago with the golf course we did a wireless video. I did a project with the CCB and we did wireless video on the golf carts. I'm not sure if you were there for that show. Yeah, we've definitely talked.

Cool, well for those of you in the audience listening, CCB, Central Canada Broadcast Engineers, it's in late September, 25th or 26th. If you have the opportunity--

 

Charlie: It's the perfect time to hit the golf course in Barry, in that beautiful resort town.

Chris: Let me tell you, last year we had some of the best weather in Barry that I've had up there in a long time. Everyone was like, "Wow, this is impossible. I can't believe it." Again, the greens were very busy. It's a good time.

So you're submitting your paper with Chris Robatel [SP]?

Charlie: I believe so, yeah. Well it's Ron who told me I had to submit a whitepaper, so I have to write it still.

Chris: Yeah, he's on the paper's committee as well. Yeah, I think there's a couple of guys. Okay great, it should be fun; we should have a good time. We'll definitely make sure we all get together and have a good time.

So with SNMP we've solved the problem with Telos talking to another product, another product talking to a Comrex, another product talking to a Wheatnet, so now we've got something going on. How do you see SNMP evolving for broadcasters? As you say, the broadcast industry tends to be a little slow in adopting things because of our 24/7 mission critical, always on, afraid to rock the boat type of approach. Do you see it becoming more integral as IP becomes more popular, I'll say?

Charlie: I think it's part and parcel. I mean SNMP is part of the IP design an structure. It was created in 1992 and this is back in the times of the Internet and when the Internet was just starting to get going, so it's always been there. It's kind of like forgetting to check the tire pressure on your car. You know the wheels go round, but sometimes you may have a tire pressure that's running a little bit low and you forget to check the tire pressure.

Basically, SNMP is like checking the tire pressure or controlling what's going on in the car. The check engine light has come on, well that's the SNMP trap being sent to your dash. That's the whole idea. SNMP is part and parcel of the IP industry. We've just not grasped it, it's always been there. It's always been in the managed, even unmanaged, switches. I have a few unmanaged switches that have SNMP traps. It'll send alarms if there's a failure or a disconnect on one of the ports.

Chris: Okay, now with SNMP we're controlling devices. The device could be a computer; it could be a hardware device like a codec. I used to use a software called Nagonos [SP]. Is that right? Is that how you say it?

Charlie: Yes.

Chris: And for a radio station building out a facility or a group of stations that have their own private network, is it a good idea to invest in some type of application or software server that does SNMP trapping and monitoring of other things like computers, your automation system that controls your commercial play out, or music play out? Now we've moved from the transmitter control, audio codec path control, now to the in the studio, what else do we have that could make sense to take advantage of SNMP and how do we keep our systems robust?

Charlie: Yeah, you can use software and you can load it onto your computer. If you're running a RAID array for your play out system, which I strongly suggest you should be running a RAID array, if you're not you're just playing Russian Roulette with your hard drive live on your computer system. You can monitor that RAID array to make sure that the RAID doesn't have any issues, so that there's no dead spots on the drive, for example, that the fan is at the right speed. We've all gone into a studio that might have a computer or some device that's cooled with a nice quiet fan, but the fan isn't quite so quiet anymore. Usually if it's not so quiet it's also not running at the right speed, so SNMP can actually measure that fan speed and bring that information back through that you've got to replace a fan.

Here's a general example of what we're using. We're using Davicom products, we're using Spiceworks, which is an ad driven network management package that does everything from creating work tickets for your technical staff, right up to and including- -I'm just watching here that I know that I'm in a live studio and they're going to be coming up very quickly to a traffic--but you can manage every aspect of the computer systems, your surfaces that are IP based. Again, you can look for any problems, or issues, or disconnects, silence alarms.

Chris, the imagination just goes endless as to what you can manage, right down to the lights that light up on a studio when the studios mic is turned on.

Chris: Perfect, that's exactly the line I always tell folks. I was at a university the other day talking before some students in a broadcast curriculum at the radio station explaining how to understand workflows in a broadcast commercial environment. I've worked in sports, news, music, and talk shows, so I'm familiar with the format workflows. They asked the question, "Well, if we do this thing with IP related stuff," because they're all talking about using their laptops and audio servers, and Icecast and all the usual stuff we talk about when you do web streaming and things of that sort, and they said, "Well what can you do?" My line at everyone had always been, "You're only limited by your imagination."

The fact that you said the same thing, we're talking about command and control of devices and you're talking about, you're limited only by your imagination is so relevant. I just want to impart that onto folks in the audience, don't box yourself into, "Well, it's this, it's that, I don't know." Just take a look- see, read up on it, ask questions, find somebody you know, check you SBE chapter locally here in the states. Up in Canada we have a lot of engineering conferences and various organizations you can reach out to. There may be people in your own market that you can reach out and say, "Oh, I didn't know you were doing this. What have you found as a success or failure."

I love the fact that you said imagination is the key. That's what I think we're missing in a lot of engineering practices these days. It's just, "Hey, I plug it in, I walk away, it's okay." I'm sure you run into that a lot.

Charlie: All too often engineering genius comes from having to find a solution to a problem, an off-air issue, an off-air problem. More often than not, I've been able to turn to IP and create a solution using either SNMP to control it or to monitor it, but I've been able to go to IP to create a solution on the fly absolutely a lot faster than having to hardwire it.

Chris: Yes, absolutely. About a month ago I did that for a broadcast group. They lost their connectivity to their transmitter facility. The only thing they could find that worked was some IP connection from a local DSL circuit that was being used by some communications company in the same room, it was a shared space. They said, "We don't know what we're going to do." I said, "I'll tell you what, I've got these two codecs. I'll put one at your studio, it's already even programmed to do X, Y, and Z, and let's do this one here at the transmitter and we'll connect over the public Internet, we'll call it, and we'll get you back on the air." "What, you can do that?" I'm like, "Believe it or not, you can. Then you can call the phone company and find out why your T1's not working."

We did it and here we are five weeks later and they're still using the connection because of the T1 issue. It turns out the phone company had issues with their cable distribution in the building and I guess the cable vault got compromised. As we all know, phone companies are moving away from copper stuff and trying to become wireless than wired.

Charlie: To tell you the truth I'm still dealing with that in the old POTS phone systems at our old studio location in Cobourg, but we did have a T1 failure here that we kind of had an argument with the provider of that. A one-hour response time didn't mean that it had to be offline for eight hours before they considered it offline.

Chris: Oh, wow.

Charlie: We actually put the station back on the air using a--the guys are making fun back in the background there--we used a tie line field-unit and a tie line head end, very similar to a Z/IP. Z/IP would have done it extremely well. It actually would probably have been easier to do it with a Z/IP. We just used a 4G hub and a tie line unit went back to our Internet connection here at the studio, which at that time was a cable connection, used SNMP and QoS, Quality of Service, to create a good secure link over the Internet. We stayed on the air for three days using a field unit and a 4G hub.

Chris: I have done similar stuff. I wish more people would be excited and try to explore that approach and the things that come out of that once you do it. You're like, "Wow, wait a minute, if I do this."

It's funny you mentioned that 4G hub, because I'm talking with this radio group right and they're asking me, "How do we make this a more robust link using this approach?" I said, "I'll tell you what, if you get yourself a router that supports a failover to a wireless modem, you can keep the DSL approach--or if you prefer some other method like a wireless local loop ISP provider that has an SLA of quality that you can use--now you have the ability to failover to a wireless connection that you still control and pay for, when you need to and keep yourself connected while you troubleshoot the other side, but not impact the facility to the point where you're pulling cables and making a mess of things, because you don't know what the heck just went wrong."

Charlie: That sounds like a Cisco RV042 router.

Chris: I'm sorry, did I inadvertently mention that? No. You see, this is what I'm talking about, once you understand how these things work and you can have some real good fun. At the end of the day you can play the part of the hero if you like. You just go home, you know everything is good, and that's it.

Charlie: I keep a 4G hub in my toolbox. It's one of my tools. If I need Internet anywhere, I've got a power inverter in the car and I can power it up and away I go. If I need a connection back to the studio with a codec, plug the codec, reprogram the codec to accept an IP address from the 4G hub, plug it in, and away you go. It's literally that easy. You can reroute your entire path without having to call a contractor to come out with a boom- truck and string new wire across a bunch of poles.

Chris: Yeah, as a matter of fact, at this past NAB I was doing ad hoc presentations for a couple of customers who wanted to talk about moving forward with some technologies with codecs. I brought with me my trusty Cradle Point NPR-95 and I set it up at the table, covered it up with some things so you couldn't see it, had the codec sitting on the table, plugged it in. We started playing with it, and playing audio, and connecting to the far end here at my offices in New York.

They're talking and they're like, "Wait a minute, we're sitting at a table at the lunch area here at the convention, how are we connected? Do you have Internet connectivity from the show?" I'm like, "Oh, no, I'm sorry, did I forget to tell you." I lift the cover off the Cradle Point and show them it's a 4G wireless connection we've been playing with for the last 30 minutes and they hadn't had any dropouts.

We've been running 128 or 192 kilobits of AAC/HE audio, both stereo and mono for voice. They have a couple of voice applications and they have some music. They didn't even think to ask first when we sat down, "Where is your broadband connection coming from?" They just saw the device, started talking and just assumed that I was connected to something wired, because of the day of the [inaudible 59:51].

Charlie: It just makes us look all like magicians. It keeps us employed, Chris.

Chris: Exactly.

Well listen, we've come to the end of our time allotted for the net cast as we broadcast out to everyone. So those of you who've stayed with us, thank you, we enjoy your company and we hope that you've enjoyed ours. For those of you who are tuned in and enjoyed this on demand, thank you for the downloads.

So This Week in Radio Tech Episode 210, Charlie Toner.

Charlie, do you have any parting words, anything you want to say to anyone in the home area? Maybe somebody's watching and you just want to be a hero and say, "I'm a video star right now."

Charlie: Well, I'm just going to hand off to the radio star that's coming into the studio here starting his live drive shown. I'm actually cutting into about five minutes of it, Jay Thuler.

I know you voice-tracked that [weather].

Chris: I my goodness, we're interfering with him.

Charlie: So he's been waiting in the wings.

I'll say hi to my son who's working hard out in the yard at Rent- All Center in Cobourg, and my daughter who's at college in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Chris: Excellent. All right, you heard it here, we're interfering with an afternoon drive show. We should move things along; we can't interfere with their revenue capabilities.

So my name is Chris Tobin. I'm co-host for this show. Kirk Harnack could not be with us, he is somewhere down under enjoying the Australian outback with very little bandwidth, so he's used that excuse to go out and enjoy some other things. I'm sure he's holding a koala bear right now, maybe not.

Anyway, this is Episode 210-SNMP. That's the protocol used for matching devices on an IP network. Look it up for more details.

All right, thank you very much, Charlie, we appreciate it. Thank you all for tuning in and downloading us on demand.

Topics: Radio Technology