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Network Misconceptions

Jul 11, 2014 3:22 PM, By Kevin Gross

Working with IT on AV networking projects

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There is increasing overlap between information technology (IT) and audiovisual (AV) roles in projects and events. It is essential for AV professionals to work effectively with IT professionals. Establishing a good working relationship means understanding the IT point of view and being able to speak IT language and, where possible, to use technology that is most compatible with systems already in use in IT. Understanding the IT point of view requires addressing common misconceptions the AV community may hold toward IT and vice versa.


The cloud is magic and amazing.

In network design, it is common to represent an entire network as a cloud. In this conceptual representation, the cloud magically interconnects devices at whatever capacity is required. It is probably not a surprise that there’s a lot that goes on in that misty representation of the network, but this conceptual representation allows for inappropriate assumptions to be made from all sides about requirements. AV integrators need to be proactive in communicating requirements of their media devices and the connections between them to those responsible for designing and configuring the innards of these clouds. Without proactive communication, IT designers will assume AV as no special requirements.

Just because there’s an Ethernet connector on a piece of media gear doesn’t mean the network will readily support it. AV equipment may need specific network services that are not part of standard network configuration and design. Media networks typically need QoS to achieve low network latency and accurate synchronization. Some media systems need IEEE 1588 support in the network to assist with synchronization. Others make extensive use of multicast messaging and require IGMP or PIM support in the network. Deploying AVB requires special considerations from the beginning, as AVB-capable equipment is required along any network path through which media will travel.

IT won’t give me what I need

You may assume that purpose of an IT organization is to support network users and system designers such as yourself in making effective use of the network. For demanding network applications, such as media networking, it is healthier to think of IT as a collaborator. You will need to work with IT, not just issue the department requirements and wait for them to be fulfilled.

Your collaboration with IT on projects will be most successful if, whether they request it or not, you can give your IT pros an overview of how the AV system works and what it needs to accomplish. Give flexible requirements where possible. Discuss requirements early in the design cycle and find reasons to communicate with network engineers regularly to resolve any open questions and keep things moving forward. Recognize that yours are not the only requirements that need to be met. Appreciate that many IT pros have limited experience with AV and that they may be unsure how to assess or apply stated requirements. Recognize that there are other potentially conflicting requirements—such as network management, maintainability, and security—that may be unimportant or less important to you but that also need to be met.

In some cases, IT absolutely won’t give you what you want. If you have communicated early, and this is caught before too much time is spent on an unworkable design, things can be changed in favor of something more compatible with what IT is able to provide. As in AV, technology in the IT field changes rapidly, and recently evolved IT best practices may be out of step with some current and past media networking technologies. Newer protocols such as Dante, Q-LAN, and AES67 have been designed to be compatible with modern IT best practices.

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