As A/V traffic increasingly moves from just sharing cables within the IT network to actually moving through some of the same switches and other hardware components, one potential issue administrators must be ready to address is network latency (or a delay in processing network data).
“When you think of an A/V network nowadays, a lot of the information that’s being exchanged is very, very high speed data that has a very low latency requirement,” Joncas says. “If you pair that with a traditional IT network, that latency requirement doesn’t disappear.”
He adds something as innocuous as users browsing the web could inject increased latency into the network, but adds that most of today’s A/V devices include the processing capabilities needed to help manage and overcome the potential latency and quality of service concerns that may crop up when layering A/V signals over an IP network.
Scenarios where users are consuming content without any reference to when the content was generated may have a greater tolerance for network latency, Joncas explains, but “when you’re dealing with live signals, latency is the most important factor.” He cautions that careful design of the network’s architecture is paramount to managing quality of service issues.
Proactively addressing network latency and bandwidth issues could involve adding or upgrading equipment or services on the existing IT network, Colson notes. “One of the challenges you have with the need to distribute A/V signals is some resistance from IT directors as far as putting what they consider to be a bandwidth hog on their network.”
Moving from a data-only environment to a mixed environment may also require that IT groups increase their knowledge of how A/V really works, he says, adding that basics such as “understanding how resolution needs — whether it be standard definition or high definition — equates to bandwidth requirements to push A/V through that network” are crucial to designing a network that can successfully support bandwidth-intensive, low-latency applications.
Colson says that organizations that rely on older networks may find it necessary to upgrade their switches to manage video priority, or even add switches or change to a virtual LAN to achieve the sort of traffic separation their particular case requires.
The convergence of A/V and IT infrastructures will look different in every enterprise. Each organization must carefully evaluate its needs, the level of funds they can devote to either developing a single robust architecture or multiple standalone systems, and the expertise available to them to manage a wide range of components within a holistic network or to instead oversee the provisioning of each platform individually.
Where those needs and resources come together will ultimately dictate where the various systems share resources and where they remain disparate.
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