Extreme Brings Ethernet Audio Video Bridging to the Network

802.1Q standard gets deployed, enabling Ethernet to connect audio and video components.

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Jan 30, 2013
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Audio and video professionals have long had their own sets of cables and associated protocols to connect their gear. Now thanks to the Ethernet Audio Video Bridging (AVB) 802.1Q standard, some of that gear can all be converged onto Ethernet networks.

Extreme Networks this week introduced its support of Ethernet AVB on its portfolio of networking gear, including the Summit X440, X460 and X670 switches, ushering in a new era of networking convergence.

"You can plug your microphone, mixing board, your camera or whatever the audio/video device is, right into the Ethernet switch," Todd Acree, Director of Product Management at Extreme Networks, explained to Enterprise Networking Planet. "The promise of AVB is to do it all over Ethernet making connectivity simple and cost effective."

Making Ethernet the basis of all audio and video is an effort that has had its fair share of challenges. For one, Acree noted that synchronizing Ethernet to ensure proper audio and video transmission has been an issue.

"Ethernet is an asynchronous protocol, that is it operates without timing and now we want to do timing with it," Acree said. "That has now been fixed with AVB standard."

The standard also provides for Quality of Service and predictable latency. What's more is that both AVB and non-AVB traffic can co-exist on existing Ethernet networks today.

There is however a catch. While the AVB standard is mostly about software, Acree noted that the networking silicon does need to be able to support time stamps in order to ensure proper timing. That means that in order to deploy AVB, vendor equipment that is AVB compliant is required.

"You have to remember, this isn't a deployment on a corporate WAN across continents," Acree said. "This is something that would be deployed for an audio video environment at a conference center or a theater."

Acree added that AVB deployments are likely to be contained within a layer-2 environment. That said, there are a number of different deployment topologies for AVB. One scenario is a centralized deployment where is just one switch and everything plugs into that. Another scenario involved having AVB compliant switches co-located at every endpoint.

Signal Quality

In the past, audio and video quality was often restricted by the quality of cable and environmental noise constraints. With Ethernet AVB, signal loss is not much of an issue since the signal is digital and the information is all transferred in Ethernet data packets.

"All the stuff on Ethernet that adjusts for lossy things, technology like crc correction and the like, comes into effect," Acree said. "So you won't have analog signal loss behavior."

Traditionally Ethernet has been the domain of networking professionals and bringing audio and video opens up new market potential. Acree said that when someone needs an audio/video setup they aren't likely to call a networking vendor. To that end, Extreme has partnered with many audio/video vendors including Harman,  Meyer Sound, BiAmp and Axon so they can pull through the Ethernet networking technology.

"There could be large AVB deployments where IT networking professional will become involved and then we will make our case about our switching technology," Acree said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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