TECH TALK: How AV is Borrowing from IT

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It’s no secret that the worlds of AV and IT have been overlapping over the past several years. Initially this change came from manufacturers in the AV markets but more recently IT departments are seeing AV-over-IP as essential to their work.

They are now informing the marketplace with their years of experience deploying and managing functional, robust networks.

What is the role of the AV manager?

The AV manager is concerned first and foremost with the health of the devices that he/she must manage. Because legacy AV systems are generally closed (e.g., not networked or available via the internet) these devices require physical access to alter.

Keeping these devices running and stable is a chief concern, which leads to decisions to isolate devices under lock and key, and to implement redundant hardware and power supplies, to cite only a couple of common precautions.

What is the role of the IT manager?

IT managers generally work in more dynamic environments. While networks are certainly comprised of hardware devices, the functionality of the network is expressed almost entirely as software interactions. Computers may easily be replaced as long as they run the same or similar applications.

IT managers are concerned with maintaining the services that run on their networks.

A PC or phone may come and go, but keeping the email and databases running and available is critically important.

Any change that threatens the availability of these services demands attention.

What AV is borrowing from IT

As AV products become network products, the concerns of AV managers begin to overlap with those of IT managers. The AV products may still be “black boxes” on the outside, but deliver their services and data over a network. What once required physical access is now accomplished with a click on a screen.

Zone capabilities
In AV, zones of devices are groups of connected devices that shared a common location or purpose. The downside of this using legacy approaches is rigidity; changes to any zone require expensive, slow physical actions.

Networked AV systems accomplish this same goal using software to define groups. Products like Audinate’s Dante Domain Manager allow an AV manager to define domains (e.g., zones) using software, meaning that changes can be made quickly and at nearly no cost by simply rearranging devices on a screen.

The software-driven approach of IT gives AV an enhanced version of what was already a common practice.

Security
In the past, AV security meant simply keeping the door locked. Devices themselves rarely incorporated any protections from unauthorized changes. That’s now how IT works. Since networks provide ubiquitous access to data and services, security means reasonable physical precautions and a lot of software to control how the network is accessed, and by whom.

This sensibility is part of AV-over-IP. Dante Domain Manager is an example of a product that provides user authentication and restrictions for Dante devices, employing software to do what lock and key can no longer perform.

Scalability
This is an area in which IT-based solutions have unquestioned superiority over every previous technology. Legacy AV is built upon point-to-point connections, stringing one device to another using analog or severely constrained digital media.

Scaling such a system beyond dozens of devices becomes extremely difficult to deploy and maintain, as there is no centralized means of control to allow any changes to the system.

Point-to-point connections do not exist in networking; instead, all devices are equally capable of connecting to one another with no change to cabling. Creating a system comprised of hundreds of devices and thousands of channels is easily done and is centrally managed.

Industries that use both AV and IT

The use of IT systems is commonplace in nearly every type of modern organization, and many of these institutions require AV for a range of uses from communication to background music. Examples include:

• Conference rooms in any business
• Event spaces in large businesses
• Houses of worship
• Airports (announcements, music)
• Train stations (announcements, music)
• Restaurants
• Casinos
• Stadiums
• Hotels

Benefits of converging AV and IT

AV-over-IP allows audio, video and data traffic to share infrastructure in both new and existing builds, saving costs and reducing the complexity of maintaining separate systems. Converging AV and IT systems places responsibility under one roof, consolidating critical communications resources with a common platform.

Building out AV-over-IP systems over time is far easier than legacy point-to-point AV, allowing additional devices and spaces to be added without having to route bespoke cables or tear out existing ones.

Further investments in IT infrastructure are useful for a wide range of uses, making it an easy choice for customers.

Audinate addresses the trend of AV/IT convergence

Audinate built Dante to further the goals of AV people everywhere, and that includes a complete suite of tools to address real world needs and issues.

Basic Dante meets its design goals of being incredibly easy to use and trouble-free on simple, flat networks. For people in live sound, this is key. But as AV-over-IP moves into different environments, new requirements must be met.

Dante Domain Manager benefits, use cases

Dante Domain Manager is an example of how the Dante platform can easily be extended to meet the needs of IT departments and larger installations.

Domains
Large AV systems often contain many smaller spaces, buildings or rooms, but if a single network is shared these distinctions are not visible. Dante Domain Manager lets AV managers create domains (e.g., zones) of Dante devices that make it easy to see each group one at a time in Dante Controller.

This makes the system far easier to “read”, increases security and reduces the likelihood of mistakes.

User accounts
Until recently, AV-over-IP systems behaved like legacy AV: there is no mechanism that could restrict actions based upon user, so anyone could make any change they wish.

Dante Domain Manager introduces User accounts tied to individual domains, allowing the AV/IT manager to regulate who can use the system, and what they can do.

This reduces errors and provides a solid record of all actions by each user for increased accountability.

Routed AV-over-IP
All AV-over-IP systems initially operated only within a single network segment, or subnet. This limitation is inherent in the standards used for clocking and other functions in the absence of more sophisticated mechanisms.

Dante Domain Manager provides that intelligence, allowing clock domains to span network segments for fully routable AV-over-IP. This ability is a game-changer in larger systems, allowing a single AV system to span multiple rooms, floors, departments and buildings across a campus.

Conclusion

The lower cost, ease of use, high quality and unlimited flexibility of AV-over-IP means that this approach is going to stay with us for a long time to come, and the industry is still in the early phases of a complete transition.

Where will AV/IT go next?

AV-over-IP is likely to become, well, boring. As the marketplace matures, the use of networks will be become increasingly common and eventually only a fact about “how things work”, just as we have accepted the use of automobiles, airplanes, email, word processors and social media.

This point is still years into the future. In the meantime, IT will continue to inform the development of AV-over-IP, supplying wisdom gained from many years of hard-won experience. And like IT, it will eventually become transparent to user goals and “just work”.

SI Asia notes: This article was contributed by the team at Audinate. Read through our TECH TALK column to see more contributions made by Brad Price, Senior Product Manager. We thank them for their contribution.