Adder and Avocent Branch From KVM Solutions To Streaming Delivery

This year, however, Adder has chosen to make the leap in to IP distribution for their DVI, audio and USB product that is a hybrid product sitting somewhere between a digital signage and a KVM solution.

"We're doing a different form of education this year," said Conway. "Today's integrators are being faced with questions about how to send the signal from more than just one transmitter to a single receiver. And we think this is the point at which IP streaming, including multicasting, begins to provide a compelling opportunity."

More on that below.

Like Adder, Avocent's background is in KVM switches, including KVM-over-IP that can support up to 16 or 32 machines, depending on the configuration and number of image frames per second. The company pioneered a LongView product a few years ago that used the 802.11a radio spectrum to send 15 frame per second (fps) VGA and 25 fps s-video signals wirelessly.

The initial approach to the market created some limitations, when early products were susceptible to interference from other radio devices, so the company also launched a wired solution that it recommended for high-frequency-congested locations.

This year the company showed off the capability to push DVI and HDMI content, including embedded audio, across the network using a combination of wired and wireless devices. The company's Emerge solution has a wired transmitter capable of sending HD video content to up to 8 receivers (wired) or access points (wireless across 802.11n MIMO-based radios) and each access point can connect to 8 wireless receivers. In all, the solution is capable of 4 transmitters sending to up to 64 receivers each.

"This solution is handled on a MAC-address basis," said Chuck Pheterson, VP of Product Marketing at Avocent's Connectivity and Control Division, "so it's not a true matrix replacement, until the management software is enhanced. Still the solution allows the flexibility of streaming HD video to both wireless and wired receivers, using JPEG-2000, capped at 80Mbps."

Pheterson also said there is a switched solution that is point-to-point only, where a receiver can be switched to receive another single transmitter, using a standard Gigabit Ethernet switch.

"The new HMX solution allows for dual-head, dual-link monitor sharing, keyboard, mouse and a 4-port USB hub," said Pheterson, "using a proprietary Avocent algorithm that can vary from zero bits transmitted for a static image to up to 500 Mbps for 60 frame per second computer graphics at 1900x1200. This is the solution used to share and centralize edit suites in Hollywood studios."

Why it Matters
So why does this matter to the streaming industry? The answer lies not in the point-to-point solutions but in the multi-point solutions that streaming can address much more cost effectively.

Integrators have been used to having point-to-point solutions be relatively cost-effective, but the need to send one signal to two or more receivers adds an additional hardware requirement as well as a significant cost. In a solution where one signal is sent to two locations, a distribution amplifier (DA) is required to double up the signal. So not only are the transmitters and receivers required, but also an additional box to act as a distribution amplifier. As most distribution amplifiers aren't capable of handling the non-standard signals sent across UTP point-to-point solutions, the typical setup of one signal being transmitted to two locations requires at least two transmitters, two receivers and a distribution amplifier, but can require as many as three transmitters and three receivers.

"At that point, the cost of the interconnecting boxes around the distribution amplifier, what we've called the 'core' of a data network, rises dramatically," said Conway. "Add the need to send two signals to both or either receiving location and the price goes up even more dramatically."

Conway is referring to what the AV industry calls a matrix switch. Used to handle multi-point solutions, a matrix switch is somewhat akin to the old telephone switches, where a single input can be routed to one output (a party-to-party call in telephone switch terms) or to multiple outputs (a conference call). While the end points might range from $500-$2,500, the matrix switch itself can easily run in to the $10,000-$100,000 range. So while point-to-point solutions are cost effective and more than adequate for moving uncompressed real-time images around local campuses, the cost to move it from one location to many locations is significantly more expensive than an IP solution, and the cost of traditional matrix solutions has kept them from being more widely adopted.

When priced out, the price for a matrix-less solution is much more appealing: Given the roughly $1,000 each for the transmitter or receiver, but with no matrix to buy, the potential cost savings of well over $10,000 against a 4 input - 8 output DVI matrix solution.

"We also think we can use the Infinity solution to address two parts of the market," said Conway, noting a way to drop the cost even further. "The hardware receivers / decoders can be used for digital signage and a typical software VNC solution can be used to deliver the same images to a desktop user's computer. What is required is a move from stand-alone solutions to those that integrate within an existing data switch architecture, so we'll have another round of education to explain these IP solutions to the AV integration community. The end result will be much more flexible and cost effective than current solutions while maintaining equal quality."

The part of my phone switch analogy, which I've used in previous articles, that breaks down is that a phone switch provides bi-directional communication, while a matrix switch only flows one direction, from input to output.

Since the Adder solution uses a data network switch, though, it has the possibility of providing some bi-directional signal flow.

"We can multicast DVI over IP, using our software management tool," said Conway, of the product set to be released at IBC, "and we also anticipate being able to provides bi-directional communication for multi-point USB and audio. We can already provide bi-directional communication in a point-to-point IP solution, since we have a microphone input, speaker output and USB hub at each receiver box, so multicast bi-directional audio and USB will be a software upgrade, not a hardware constraint."

InfoComm 2009 continues through Friday, June 19, 2009 at Orlando's Orange County Convention Center.

Streaming Covers
for qualified subscribers
Subscribe Now Current Issue Past Issues