5 min

Recently, we were present at ISE, the trade fair where audio/video (AV) applications are central. Netgear took advantage of the ISE to explain its plans around AV over IP networks. The network vendor has been exploring this technology for a number of years now and still sees enormous potential. We decided to discuss it with John Henkel, ProAV Product Marketing Manager at Netgear.

The AV industry has been discussing the changing infrastructure for a number of years now. IP-based networking is now seen as the standard in the industry, as processing data traffic using network equipment brings many benefits. As a result, new AV applications are actually IP-based as standard.

For professional AV applications, IP-based networking is difficult to ignore. For example, gigantic screens at airports and shopping centres use the standard to play video material on one or more screens. In the case of small AV installations, the new infrastructure is not always the basis, due to the costs that sometimes increase. However, this does not detract from the fact that IP-based AVs can save costs if the infrastructure is large.

The shift offers network suppliers plenty of opportunities, because with their expertise, they can build an ideal basis for AV over IP. At Netgear, this development has not gone unnoticed either, and the technology is being taken seriously. It has developed a broad portfolio of switches for the AV market.

AV over IP changes the role of AV suppliers

Although the infrastructure for AV applications has been changing for some time, IP-based has not yet become the standard that every AV professional can easily deal with. According to Henkel, there are plenty of AV vendors who have difficulty configuring the network. Technological development does bring innovation, but it is technically very different from what the industry is used to. If the market had become more or less accustomed to traditional platforms, a different architecture could cause a stir.

As a result, it seems inevitable to educate the AV professional, to make him or her more of an IT professional. In practice, this will happen a lot, although Netgear has opted for a different approach. The network supplier wants to keep complex matters simple from the start by offering plug & play solutions within his or her IP portfolio. According to Henkel, this is the uniqueness of the Netgear equipment; competitors that are also active in the AV market do not offer the Netgear simplicity.

Pre-configured switches and software-defined

AV integrators who choose Netgear are thus able to plug in one or more switches and get started immediately. To make this possible, Netgear supplies the switches with a number of configurations as standard. The implementation of these pre-configured switches is relatively quick, after which everything can still be configured and designed to measure. Netgear offers professional services for this, should users want help with further optimization.

By default, the AV-optimized switches come with some multicasting configurations and the multicast protocol Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP). Multicasting is useful in this case, as the switches are used to send data to different screens and monitors. For example, if you want to play a video on four screens that together form one surface, then multicasting can be used for this purpose. But the user application can also require separate videos on the screens, which is also supported by the switches. By providing standard settings for this, the user can quickly select his cast option. Additional hardware adjustments do not have to be made.

Netgear also supplies the switches with a number of VLAN configurations as standard. This creates several virtualized networks, in which the AV applications can be accommodated in the appropriate subnetworks. This makes it possible to find the optimum performance for the specific AV applications.

The switches must also be given character by a software-defined approach. In principle, this development is nowadays the standard in the network landscape, but that does not make it any less interesting for Netgear. Software-defined has ensured that the management software is disconnected from the hardware, allowing management to take place in the cloud. As a result, Netgear’s AV switches can be managed from any location.

Recent steps

As said, Netgear has been working on the AV over IP for some time now. In the meantime, dozens of switches have been made suitable for the AV market, ranging from 4-port switches to 96-port switches and 1 Gigabit switches to 100 Gigabit switches. The network supplier is also a member of the Software-Defined Video over Ethernet (SDVoE)-Alliance, which includes several manufacturers who want to make the technology even easier.

During ISE, Netgear put a number of newer developments in the spotlight. For example, it recently made two models available, the M4500 switches with 32 or 48 ports. What is unique about these devices is that they allow management software from other IT suppliers to run. This eliminates the need to install a separate controller on the switches. Netgear indicates that this possibility stems from the SDVoE membership.

Another development that came up during our discussion with Henkel was the firm focus on expanding partners. Originally a network supplier, Netgear has proven its added value there especially; in the AV market, it has a smaller footprint. To guarantee success, the company is very much dependent on targeted partnerships. The switches have recently been certified by AMX SVSI, Atlona, Aurora, Biamp, Broadata, Christie, Crestron, DVI Gear, Just Add Power, Kramer, Megapixel, PureLink, Savant, tvONE and ZeeVee. Companies that don’t say anything directly to every IT person, but we understood from Henkel that there are a number of very big players among them.

AV over IP focus is taking on an increasingly prominent role.

Netgear is a reliable party in both business and consumer. The focus on the AV market should make the network supplier an even more dominant player in the business sector. For some followers of Netgear, it may take some getting used to the fact that the company is making more and more work of the AV market, but that does not make the step any less interesting. After all, it enables the network supplier to help other markets with its technology.

We’re curious to see how Netgear will develop further in the AV market, and we’re keeping a close eye on the network company here at Techzine.