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How to Meet Growing Customer Demand for Video Without the Headache

How clients across all verticals use, manage and distribute copious video provides big opportunities for integrators equipped to solve their challenges.

Tim Albright

With the acquisition of SVSi by AMX last year, it may seem like nearly every company has a strategy to put audio and video onto your client’s network. While that may be a stretch or over-assumption, it is closer to the truth than ever before.

With Dante, TSN/AVB, CobraNet, HDBaseT, and other transport protocols, any manufacturer could be creating their own version of AV over IT. The question is not when, the question is how you get audio and video onto the network seamlessly and with as few headaches as humanly possible.

A number of your clients are going to want video in disparate places; across their campus, multiple floors, or even simple overflow rooms. How you are able to handle this will determine your longevity.

This is not a new problem. For the past 20 years or so we have had the capability of distributing video to various locations. At first we had the RF encoders/decoders. These capitalized on the cable infrastructure that was typically already installed. You would modulate the signal onto a certain channel, send it up the line and demodulate it at the far end.

Then came along twisted pair. We were sending baseline analog video using the category cable that firms were getting familiar with. These were not yet true digitized signals as the systems in place were using the copper in the Cat x as signal transport.

Related: Periscope, Webinars & Google Hangouts: When Video Goes Mainstream

Today there are more than a few AV over IP solutions. These are true digital transports. Consumers are driven to manipulate and control the AV space, says Kaleb Plamondon, SVSi technical services manager. “IT managers are getting younger and younger. They like the control and tools available to see the video on the network.”

With the new paradigm of the IT department becoming involved in AV, you need to be able to provide a different level of customer service and sales tactics to this group.

Jan Eveleens, CEO of Axon Digital Design says “customers are not yet so familiar with doing video networking and do not really trust it can work reliably at high bit-rates. This means we have to more intensely and frequently educate our customers, as well as show them practical real-world examples of how the technology can be deployed.”

Video in an IP World

The IT customer has a different makeup than the technology manager of years’ past. Their incentive program will typically have uptime clauses that give them bonuses based on how few times their network is down in a given year. You walk in and pitch putting this “new-fangled” video transport on their network.

There are a few ways of meeting the customer’s need for video distribution using IP at the same time having little to no impact on the performance of their network. A typical VLAN will allow you to use their existing infrastructure and network, but gives them the separation that will allow them to manage the performance of the network.

Another is to create your own network in their building. Eric Snyder, CTO of Conference Technologies, uses this approach with a number of clients. “We use off-the-shelf switches the client is familiar with and put them into the system. Then we allow them to watch those devices for a given time,” he says. “If they want to put it on their network after that, we make the change.”

Related: Make Employees Happier, More Productive with Video Communications

Very few times has this happened, according to Snyder, as the savings in equipment cost are much lower than the labor involved in hand holding and port-by-port configuration of the client’s network. In this scenario, you have video and audio on a network; your client’s or your own that you have installed. One benefit to this is the ability to “future proof” the system. That’s a term that has been thrown around carelessly for a number of years. Now it is a bit more realistic.

The idea that regular copper infrastructure is future proof is a bit of over selling. Using true IP transports, packetizing the video and audio allows us to use a network to deliver the signal to places that may not have been an option just 10 years ago.

Meanwhile, demand for video solutions is prolific. “It’s exciting to us to see companies, enterprises, and public sector [clients] that are deploying video into spaces where they didn’t use it before,” says AVI-SPL VP of marketing, Kelly Bousman. This is due to the infrastructure being as ubiquitous as the network cabling they already know.

Network Moving Forward

That we are future-ready is a given. What does that future hold?

Snyder says “it is a network packet protocol that will win” the war to deliver audio and video. As we move to higher resolutions the manufacturers will have to keep up. “Dante is in the lead for audio and will be around until TSN gets adopted,” Snyder says. He equates this with the race between VHS and Beta of the early 1980s.

Eveleens agrees. “In 10 years the vast majority of facilities/ installs will have been migrated to video networking rather than traditional interconnect.”

“More or less, who wants to pay the license and who’s going to adopt [the protocol],” Snyder states.

It comes down to “understanding how they [transports] impact the network,” says Plamondon.

But Snyder warns, “The industry has over promised and under delivered by putting AV on the client’s network,” so understanding what you are putting in, or pitching, is key to your success.

One suggestion is creating a lab of some sort in your own facility. Get some off-the-shelf-switches that your clients will be familiar with, the ones they use in their facilities, and put some of these products in your own rooms or test racks. Have your network team watch exactly what they do, not just what the spec sheet says they will. Doing so will give you an advantage over your competitors that don’t.

Respect the network and the IT department’s desire for QOS (quality of service) and up time. Do your homework on what these devices you are putting into your proposals will do on their net-work, and really push the idea of video over IP.

As we sit at the start of 2016 there are still a number of players in this space and each one has a different impact on the network. It’s an exciting time, you just have to do a bit more homework.

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