Jun 11, 2012 4:10 PM,
By Mike Sims
A view from the trenches
I sense change coming in the world of AVB, and many of us who have been following its progress are happy to see it. That change is AVB’s move from lab demos and plugfests to fully interoperable and deployable systems. Companies like Attero Tech, that develop networked audio endpoints used with many other manufacturers’ networked products, have been eagerly anticipating this change. Indeed, it’s the key to the development of a robust and varied ecosystem of AVB-enabled products. And it’s what will make AVB viable for the future, rather than just one more networked audio protocol.
In order to fully realize this change, certain key milestones must be met:
• IEEE 1722.1, the part of the AVB specification that deals with AVB node discovery, enumeration, and control must be finalized. Currently, 1722.1 is at Draft 19, and committee members seem intent on moving quickly to final status. AVB gear from different manufacturers depends on 1722.1 to interact reliably with one another. Otherwise, we have the Tower of Babel.
• Provable interoperability takes more than the occasional plugfest, and the AVnu Alliance has been working diligently with the University of New Hampshire’s InterOperability Lab (UNH-IOL) to provide rigorous AVB standards compliance and interoperability testing of AVB switches in the near term, and AVB endpoint devices later in the year. Without such independent compliance testing and certification, multi-vendor AVB systems are ripe for finger pointing (or worse) when devices fail to operate properly with one another.
The AVnu Alliance (www.avnu.org) has done a superb job of educating the commercial AV industry on the potential advantages of AVB. A number of high-profile manufacturers (Harman, Biamp, Avid, and Bosch to name just a few) have already brought pre-standard AVB products to market, and more will undoubtedly be introduced at InfoComm.
I believe the time has come for the AVnu Alliance to move quickly and deliberately to open up the AVnu Alliance for all manufacturers in order to further encourage the development of a wide range of AVB products. While many of the current AVnu Alliance member companies are also active in developing the IEEE AVB specifications, many more who are not members are simply interested in a clear and low cost path to developing certified AVB products.
Perhaps the AVnu Alliance might follow the lead of the Open Control Architecture (OCA) Alliance (www.oca-alliance.org). The OCA has announced that, when it incorporates in mid-summer, it will offer a membership level at $1,000 that will permit members access to all the information they need to develop compliant devices. If the AVnu Alliance offers a similarly cost-effective membership level, including a precompliance checklist of compatibility tests and expected results, this will go a long way toward encouraging product development interest among a much wider variety of manufacturers.
One of the major complaints with almost all networked audio protocols prior to AVB has been high licensing costs and the difficulty of connectivity product development. While Cirrus Logic has eliminated all license fees for it CobraNet solutions smaller than 16×16 channels, and Audinate has made its Brooklyn Dante modules available without extra license fees, the majority of proprietary networked audio protocols still carry added costs for both product development and per product sold. The AVnu Alliance’s challenge going forward is to make sure the product development path for AVB-enabled equipment is well defined and that the barriers are low for any company that wants to develop an AVB compliant product.
Mike Sims is director of marketing and sales for Attero Tech.