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February 2017

A platform for driving growth The SDVoE Alliance seeks to drive the adoption of AV over IP with HDBaseT-like levels of performance. Paddy Baker spoke to Alliance president Justin Kennington, director of strategic and technical marketing at chipset manufacturer AptoVision, about the Alliance’s philosophies, technologies and targets What’s the thinking behind the SDVoE Alliance? The fundamental idea here is that we are trying to move the industry conversation beyond the idea of the most important question being ‘what is the transport?’ What we want to do almost is to take the transport for granted. We’ve gotten to a place, certainly reflected last ISE and InfoComm, where everyone seems very interested in moving AV over IP, and very many manufacturers have solutions to do that. I think we’ve reached a point of confusion in the industry: everyone seems to agree that video over IP is a good idea and it’s what we should do, but with all these different approaches, no-one’s very sure how this is going to work. So what’s your approach? What we’re trying to do with SDVoE – softwaredefined video over Ethernet – is first and foremost to establish a baseline transport of video over IP, to define some baseline performance characteristics that we require – meaning HDBaseT-level performance characteristics: zero latency, zero compression – because those are requirements needed in pro AV that are a challenge to achieve over Ethernet but can be done now. But more than to define that transport, we want to acknowledge that once we’ve moved away from older-style matrix switches – where the functionality and even the logical partitioning of the video network is defined exclusively by its physical architecture – we can create a technology that can move content over Ethernet, process and shape it, and provide a very clean, easy-to-use software API for managing the transport, the switching and the processing. And the idea, which I think is reflected in many other communications technologies well outside of pro AV, is once we’ve created that platform of hardware and a software-layer interface, now the industry of manufacturers and software developers can really exercise their creativity. They can spend less time and effort thinking about the very excruciating details of how to build hardware, how to design a matrix switch, and instead focus on how to use software to create good user experiences. In the old matrix ecosystem, the value from a manufacturer is concentrated in the matrix

switch; it’s very complex to design the firmware and basic controller software that makes a matrix switch tick. Meanwhile the endpoints – HDBT transmitters, receivers and extenders – are basically commodity devices: you can buy extenders for $200. If you look at the new ecosystem as we see it through the lens of SDVoE, we’ve taken all the value out of switching and put that into commodity off-the-shelf Ethernet gear that we can buy from any number of manufacturers. That’s because all we really need in terms of transport is just dumb heavy lifting – moving a load of bits from point A to point B – and frankly it’s the kind of heavy lifting that the IT industry is so much better to address than the AV industry is. And that’s reflected in the

prices of equipment: you can buy a 48-port 10-gig Ethernet switch for $5,000 at retail; a 48-port HDBaseT matrix switch is a $30,00040,000 item, and it doesn’t have the same kinds of flexibility as the Ethernet switch, or the advantages of size and power consumption; or the low and falling cost. There’s no value that an AV manufacturer can add when it comes to the raw switching and moving of bits. Where we can add value as an industry is any time we touch the real AV signal. In the SDVoE ecosystem, the value has been pushed out to the edges of the network, to what we call processing nodes. These are encoders and decoders that modify video signals by scaling and making videowalls; or modify audio signals by cross-routing them by downmixing

Installation February 2017 Digital Edition