Five tips for adding AV over IP to your network
Over the years, AV and IT have been merging rapidly. Open any trade magazine, view any trade website, and see AV over IP is the hot topic. The industry is moving from relatively simplistic IT requirements such as primary IP control and traditional multicast IPTV systems to a more sophisticated audio visual system dependent on IT infrastructure.
The latest AV systems using IT infrastructure have substantial bandwidth requirements, switch requirements, and the need to engage the IT staff to ensure a successful deployment.
The industry change is not unlike the transition of digital phones in offices to VoIP in the early and mid-’00s. The burden of supporting the phone system became the responsibility of the IT department, whether they liked it or not. The same holds with AV systems; some organizations have dedicated AV staff, others do not. The rapidly changing technology requires the AV and IT groups to work together earlier in the audio visual design process, then co-supporting the audio visual systems for success.
1. Communicate Early & Often
While this first tip may seem a bit elementary, it is incredible the number of times this doesn’t happen. Whenever a new audio visual deployment project is started, always include both the AV and IT departments in the initial conversation. Then, when an audio visual project gets the green light, and you engage a consultant or integrator, bring the teams together. Both groups must hear the information from the start.
The consultant or integrator will be happy that both groups are part of the conversation. It’s always difficult when the AV department initiates a design or system, and IT has no idea it is happening. In addition, there are usually items in the scope of work they were responsible for. Surprises like this typically aren’t the best way to initiate a project.
2. Listen & Understand Needs
Truly listen and understand the AV system and IT needs. As systems get more sophisticated, the IT requirements also get more complex. For example, a single VLAN or subnet may not be enough for today’s audio visual solution needs. Typically, we implement several VLANs to properly segregate traffic for things like DANTE, control systems, or video streaming.
Bandwidth also becomes a genuine concern when using products like Crestron NVX, Extron NAV, or Visionary Solutions PacketAV Matrix products. While the devices are designed for 1GbE connections, ten and 40GbE uplinks between switches are often required to pass traffic properly. You must pay attention to the switching capacity of the ethernet switch to ensure it can support the amount packets being forwarded. If you want to utilize wireless collaboration devices, your wireless network needs to be up to snuff. It should use 802.11AC. There are still a lot of wireless networks and end-user devices that haven’t been upgraded yet
3. Collaborate & Document
During the design phase, the IT department should provide the company standards to the consultant or integrator. Not every organization will have documented standards to help the design. If you want to maintain specific models, brands, cabling, patch, or jack standards, these should be provided at the start of the design process.
4. Test and Commission as a Team
During the configuration, testing, and commissioning phases, someone from the IT department should work with the consultant and the integrator. This engagement will ensure that all devices have the proper IP addresses, are connected to the appropriate switch ports (carefully minding the VLAN scheme), and that traffic is successfully passing between the devices.
Often, a converged AV network utilizing the enterprise LAN/WAN instead of a discrete AV network will need modifications in the routers and firewalls for traffic to pass between VLANS. While an integrator can configure the IP address of the devices, the IT staff must take care of the back-end configuration, and both AV and IT staff should be doing the testing together to take care of any issues on the spot.
5. Plan for System Maintenance and Upgrades
Equipment maintenance and changes will happen throughout the AV and IT lifecycle of the system. For example, when firmware needs to be updated on the AV equipment, network switch configurations and firewalls will need to be changed. It’s best to keep the AV team and IT communicating during this process.
A wrong command in a firewall or switch can easily cause an AV system not to work. This issue can cause end-user frustration when a big presentation needs to happen. Also, if gear fails in the AV system and something needs to be replaced or firmware causes undesirable network effects, everyone will be prepared to resolve it.
The bottom line is AV and IT can’t be siloed when working on modern audio visual projects. For project success, AV, IT, consultants, and integrators must work together as a team.