RƎLAY General FAQ

Where can I purchase RƎLAY?

You can purchase RƎLAY products from the Lawo distributor in your country – click here for a complete listing. Or, contact us directly for more information.

How is RƎLAY supported?

Support is provided through Lawo’s worldwide network of dealers.

I heard that the Lawo team are the virtualization experts. Is the radio studio of the future going to be in the cloud?

It’s possible. But first, the tools we use in the studio – codecs, phone systems, stream encoders and all the rest – need to be moved out of the hardware domain and become pure software. Once all these things have been set free of the box and become applications or services, we can run those apps locally, or from the cloud. This is not really such a hard thing to do — nearly all modern broadcast hardware is software-based already. In fact, many of them have a PC behind their fancy front panels.

Are you implying that software can do everything hardware can do?

We’re not implying it – we’ll state it as fact! Software can actually do more than hardware is capable of.

Consider: hardware devices are only as powerful as the chips they’re built around. Those chips have a set array of functions that can’t be added to or expanded, so implementing new features or capabilities is hard, if not impossible. That’s why there’s a constant upgrade cycle: if you want new features, you have to buy a new box.

PCs, on the other hand, are very powerful, and don’t run hard-coded routines. You can update their software to add new features rather easily. (Just think about how often the apps on your smartphone get updated.) And CPU power keeps doubling about every two years, so once we’ve turned the tools broadcasters use into software running on commodity computers, that software can easily change, evolve and grow along with the needs of your station.

You say that most broadcast gear is already running software inside. So what's different about RƎLAY??

Today’s PCs are fantastic at DSP. In fact, Intel’s Core i7 chips are so powerful that they’ve replaced embedded designs in Military and Aerospace applications.

But radio studios don’t use all that DSP power. We only let our studio PC play audio files! Perhaps this is just inertia — after all, back in 2000 when we replaced our carts, CDs, DAT tapes et cetera with playout automation, that single-core Pentium III was running at top speed just to play 4 WAV files at once.

But today’s off-the-shelf PC is about 350% faster. So your playout computer is loafing – literally wasting clock cycles. We say: let’s use that untapped power! Let’s move everything into the PC. When you think about it, all of the tools we use every day already accomplish their tasks with DSP:

  • Remote codecs.
  • Multi-caller phone systems.
  • Microphone processors.
  • Profanity delays.
  • Live streaming encoders.
  • Audio loggers.
  • Final audio processing.
  • The mixing console!

RƎLAY enables you to dump all of those heavy, power-sucking, rack-space-eating, budget-busting broadcast tools that used to require dedicated boxes, turn them into software apps, and run them all at once on a standard PC.

Benefit: besides costing less, you’re freed forever from the racks, the miles of discrete copper, the Ethernet cables, the conduit and cable trays, the network switches, the utility bills, and the maintenance headaches that go along with them.

That’s how the RƎLAY approach is different.

One PC can do all of that?

Ye.! Once a product becomes an app, or a service that runs on your PC in the background, it opens the door to virtualization — software apps running on commodity hardware. This enables you to build studios with far less cost and complexity.

I'm still not sure. How can you say that virtualized radio studios are possible?

Because radio studios are very similar to recording studios, and virtualization has already revolutionized the way recording studios are built.

In the early ‘80s, recording studios had racks full of hardware to sweeten, process and manipulate audio, all funneled through huge, costly mixing consoles with fader counts that boggled the mind. But when they began migrating to digital, computers emerged to take center stage, and Digital Audio Workstations (DAWs) replaced multi-track recording and editing.

DAWs evolved and their computer hosts became more powerful, and DSP effects plugins were introduced to extend and enhance their functionality. DAWs weren’t confined to recording, editing and playback anymore; they could also host software versions of familiar studio tools.

Today, these DAWs are so powerful that they can run hundreds of tracks of digital audio, all being processed, squeezed, synchronized, sweetened, auto-tuned and mixed at the same time — using ordinary computers.

We realized that if recording can do this, radio can too. What makes it possible is software DSP tools, coupled with staggeringly powerful off the shelf computers — like the playout PC that’s already at the core of your studio.

Isn't running my whole radio studio on a PC like putting all my eggs in one basket?

This may come as a shock, but all your eggs are already in that basket. 95% percent of your programming content already comes from your playout system! If your playout PC fails, your content goes with it. And if that happens, you have a contingency, right? You fix the PC, or switch to a backup playout computer. With virtualized RƎLAY studios, you’ll do exactly the same thing if needed. Virtualizing your studio is no riskier than automating your content.

What we’re proposing is using virtualization to take advantage of the unused power of your playout PC by moving more apps into it, in order to save money and reduce system complexity.

You say virtualization saves money. How?

Most modern broadcast devices already have software at their core, wrapped in expensive rack-mount boxes with fancy control panels. Moving their functions into the playout PC you already have will save a lot of money compared to the cost of keeping them housed in those expensive, dedicated boxes.

What computer is best for running RƎLAY?

Because RƎLAY is a high-performance broadcast audio application, there are some baseline system requirements which should be observed for best results.

Current recommendations are published in the CPU Requirements document on our Documentation page.

What if my PC isn't powerful enough?

It’s time to upgrade! No one has repealed Moore’s Law — the cost of computing power continues to fall even as available power rises. The following chart shows the dramatic, continuing rise in the number of transistors per CPU chip, courtesy of Karl Rupp, a computational scientist who’s worked at the Argonne National Laboratory and Vienna University of Technology:

Furthermore, the performance/cost ratio has continued to rise, so that the newest CPUs deliver more computing power even when the relatively higher price of new designs is considered, as this chart from computing technology analysis site Anandtech illustrates:

I've heard the migration from hardware to software referred to as "dematerialization." What does that mean?

Strictly speaking, dematerialization is the science of using less to produce more. In practical terms, it’s the smartphone in your pocket: a portable computing device that replaces a multitude of other things. The graphic at right, from the Cato Institute, illustrates just a few of the everyday items that have been virtualized by smartphones. We broadcasters have devised even more: audio analyzers, sound pressure meters, engineering calculators, even speaker angle optimizers.

RƎLAY is an excellent example of dematerialization. Using a standard PC, the RƎLAY environment enables you to virtualize activities that used to require hardware: mixing audio, taking phone calls, connecting to on-location remotes, processing audio, encoding webstreams and more. Just as with your smartphone, software apps take the place of separate hardware for a smoother, more seamless experience – and a less costly one as well.

Wouldn't a radio station in the cloud be risky?

There are different kinds of clouds – public, shared, and private. You could choose any of them — or stick with a local installation. With RƎLAY you’re free to choose the infrastructure that suits you best.

But a cloud-hosted platform could allow us to do some very cool things. Imagine multiple copies of your studio – with the mixer and all of its audio peripherals running in software on a private cloud server. You could:

  • Build your ideal studio and clone it to provide identical radio production environments to multiple studios or stations.
  • Enable talent to run shows remotely, with complete control of all audio and devices.
  • Load and run multiple concurrent “virtual” studios, managed by a hypervisor watchdog that instantly switches from main to backup in case of a problem.

And there are likely plenty of uses we haven’t even thought of yet.

RƎLAY Virtual Machine FAQ

Can RƎLAY software operate on virtual machines?

Yes.

What are the benefits of running audio software inside a virtual machine?

When dedicated hardware is supplanted by a software equivalent, it’s referred to as “virtualization”. Today’s smartphones are a great example of virtualization: instead of carrying a separate wallet, address book, calendar, camera, etc., these functions are now performed in software inside the phone’s OS.

The cost of abilities provided by software is nearly always less than that of a dedicated hardware equivalent. In the IT world, businesses use software running in virtual machines, on commodity computing platforms and controlled by hypervisors, to cut costs and increase capabilities on-demand.

Broadcasting can realize these benefits and savings too. Audio editing software, mixing applications, audio processing apps, VoIP hybrids and more can run as software inside virtual machines in IT centers. Expensive single-purpose hardware is replaced with inexpensive software, and scalability increases: when more tools and capacity are needed, more software apps can be run by more virtual machines.

Will a virtual machine affect RƎLAY performance?

Software running inside a virtual machine is contained within more layers than a program running on a desktop PC. As this illustration shows, the applications run inside a virtualized OS inside the virtual machine, which in turn runs on server hardware:

As you may expect, the performance of software running inside a virtual machine is different than that of software running on dedicated hardware. However, with careful tuning of software priorities and system timing, even critical apps such as audio mixing and delivery can be reliably implemented within virtual machines.

Are there any special considerations I should know about?

We’ve noticed that using VNC to access RƎLAY inside a virtual machine causes the VM to devote nearly all its resources to VNC, at the expense of other programs — even audio. In general, carefully following the suggestions published by VMware is the best way to achieve optimal results.

What virtual machine environment should I use for RƎLAY?

Lawo is a VMWare Partner. We use and recommend VMWare Server 6.5 and VSphere.

Do you have any setup tips?

To familiarize yourself with the VMWare environment, we recommend you read the following Technical White Papers from VMWare:

After you’ve read these papers, here are a couple more tips for configuring VMWare for use with RƎLAY:

  1. Iit is essential to use the latency sensitivity settings mentioned in the White Papers.
  2. It is crucial to follow the “100% reservation rule” for CPU and memory.
  3. Use the resources needed, but be careful not to over-size your Virtual Machine, as this could actually impair performance.
What server & network configuration are you using?

We followed the recommendations in the VMWare white papers. Our test lab uses an HP ProLiant DL380 G7 server, with 2x Intel Xeon CPU, E5620 2.40GHz (4-Cores + Hyperthreading), 12GB RAM, Central HP Storage (FibreChannel), and 4x1GB LAN.

In addition to VMWare’s recommendations, we set up a separate, standalone network for streaming, with additional NICs and an additional VSwitch.

However, this setup is not meant for actual use in a radio production environment. It is meant only for our lab, to test a few virtual machines with one or two apps.

An actual VM server meant for on-air use will demand much more RAM, and likely also require one physical CPU core per virtual CPU to assure adequate resources for mixing, processing, streaming, etc.

Are there any technical White Papers on virtual machines that I can read?