By Chris Fichera
This blog picks up on some of the themes in the previous one that I wrote recently that looked at our relationship with Calrec and how that has evolved over the past four years or so. Here I’m going to expand on that through the lens of AoIP, where we’re at and how we’re working more closely than ever with Calrec and our customers to help everyone move forward.
We have undoubtedly progressed in terms of the number of IP (or hybrid) installations in which we have been and are involved in, and we’ve created a deep knowledge pool to overcome current technical frustrations and real-world installation issues. Then there’s the longer-term industry aspirations.
Both Group 1 and Calrec are seeing more IP products and infrastructures installed on a regular basis. We are involved in many hybrid installs, with a mix of products using IP gateways connecting to IP backbones in trucks and facility infrastructures, right up to full IP workflows, working in conjunction with other manufacturers’ equipment.
But we can’t ignore the frustrations that some customers feel; frustrations that we often share – that the whole industry shares – in terms of the progress that has been made with IP and true interoperability. We have been pushed by customers to work as closely as possible with other manufactures as we move through this process. I’ll come back to this shortly.
The importance of standards
We believe very strongly in standards; we always have and always will. In this instance, we’re talking about AES67, which has been added to ST2110 to create ST2110-30.
As ST2110 only addresses the transport layer, the focus is now shifting towards device discovery/registration on a network, connection management or network control. This is where NMOS comes in.
We have kind of figured out as an industry how to make connections using AES67; that has evolved naturally. What’s now emerging as a winner in terms of discovery/stream management on a Media IP network is NMOS. We all believe that the continued rollout and adoption of this is vital in the deployment of IP-based systems. NMOS standardizes registration of all devices and allows it to be managed centrally. Streams are advertised, so a user can go to a mixing desk, see all the streams and select what they want to receive. A single PC application can also be used to make these stream connections. This provides the ability to use an IP network as a router without having to go from device to device, login, configure and select.
Looking at NMOS, it’s clearer than ever that it’s needed to solve some of the key problems that we come across. It’s now coming up on people’s radar a lot more regularly and we’re seeing more products adopting it. We know that Calrec is working on a non-US project at the moment where it’s critical. They are just implementing their first project which is utilizing NMOS IS04 and NMOS IS05 alongside multiple manufacturers. When this is completed then there will be a group of manufacturers with a real, site-based NMOS solution.
We believe that NMOS has even greater possible capabilities and it will be interesting to see how far our industry can push it.
Closer to customers than ever before
While the NMOS story continues to evolve, what’s become very clear is that we have to have to be closer to our customers than ever before with IP installations. Take the example of switch design. The first thing that we do is work with the customer to understand their switch set up and the pitfalls we’ve found with some setups. We share our expertise about what’s required at a network level to make this work.
Building an IP backbone is not straightforward: it requires a lot of interaction with each customer to ensure that this fundamental stage is handled correctly. It used to be that we would provide a product, it would be plugged in and that would be that.
That is not the case with IP. Every piece of equipment places its own demands on an IP network and as a provider of major pieces of technology that sit on that network, we have to understand it and help customers to set up the technology. That doesn’t necessarily mean that we have to physically be there, but we have to understand each network.
In every case, we now have a much closer understanding of backend infrastructures. We know that Calrec has also developed a strong understanding, something we have been doing directly in the US too, of other manufacturers’ IP products. We have a range of installation knowledge that we can draw upon and that knowledge is constantly broadening.
Working closely with Calrec
I speak with the Calrec sales team several times a week; sometimes several times a day because we work on projects together very closely. We’re working with a new customer at the moment and we’re dedicating a lot of people and factory time because it’s vital that we do.
This is true on both a project and product basis. We had a very detailed call recently about product requirements, giving our feedback as to what functionality is important going forwards, particularly in light of the current COVID crisis. The demands of our customers are changing worldwide. It’s very often the case that major markets like the US, UK and France lead the global industry in terms of where we are going.
We look to these markets to flesh out our product roadmap and design. It’s crucial to our business.
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