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April 2017

Brave new world? QSC has prompted discussions regarding the evolution of DSP technology by demonstrating how its Q-SYS software can run on standard IT hardware. Is the rest of the industry likely to follow suit, and what will be the implications? Duncan Proctor reports

Key Points


n the run-up to ISE 2017, QSC announced that the company’s Q-SYS software could be decoupled from its proprietary hardware and migrated to a scalable, standardsbased IT platform, in this case off-the-shelf Dell servers. The announcement was followed up at ISE with an industry-first demonstration with fourth-generation Q-SYS software on a standard high performance Dell EMC PowerEdge R730 server. While certainly significant, this revelation is the manifestation of a specific aspect of AV-IT convergence that has been percolating through the industry for some time: manufacturers moving away from proprietary hardware to software running on standard IT hardware. That said, the move looks set to have far-reaching consequences for DSP technology and the pro AV world as a whole. QSC believes the move makes sense, particularly for larger installations utilising data centre processing, and that the rest of the industry will follow suit, though the precise timescale is up for debate. “QSC is excited to be the first manufacturer in the industry to introduce a solution where audio, video and control (AVC) processing can now live on standard IT hardware,” says TJ Adams, QSC’s director of installed systems product management. “For QSC, we realised nearly 10 years ago there wasn’t a ton of value to building

proprietary processing hardware. I emphasise processing because we do believe there is value in building AV I/O hardware endpoints, because of the special applications that only AV manufacturers really have expertise in building. “For us, we saw a lot of value in taking advantage of an already established, powerful generic processing platform that offered capabilities well beyond AV-specific processing. All of which came at a lower price point with development typically faster than most proprietary offerings.”

‘We realised nearly 10 years ago there wasn’t a ton of value to building proprietary processing hardware’ TJ Adams, QSC

Challenges Karl Christmas, senior product specialist, Yamaha Pro Audio, agrees that the move is a logical one. “Adapting audio and control software to run on a central server using standard hardware is

„ QSC’s initial development is a manifestation of a broader trend within the industry „ Migrating to IT servers would offer significant cost savings, but could potentially also entail a degree of risk for integrators and end-users „ Developments are likely to be driven by customer demand, but timescales are uncertain currently effectively a natural step in the evolution of the audio software industry,” he says. However he raises a number of questions: “One of the major potential disadvantages is that, if there is a problem with the system, does the end-user contact the manufacturer of the server or that of the software? Will the two manufacturers collaborate closely enough so that any service outages are minimised? What happens when the server or software manufacturer wants to update its product?” Richard Bugg, Meyer Sound digital products solutions architect, agrees with the premise. “For audio signal processing, once the conversion to digital has been done, there is nothing unique about the hardware needed to do many of the signal processing or automation functions.” He too has some words of warning: “The

Installation April 2017 Digital Edition  

AV integration in a networked world

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