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14 l November 2012


Ravenna age

comes of

Hall 8 at IBC was awash with manufacturers displaying Ravenna branding, suggesting that the networking technology could be approaching a tipping point.David Daviesexamines the present and possible future of Ravenna, and what it all means – if anything – for AVB

DEBATE SURROUNDING the long-term future of networking has been dominated by the Audio/Video Bridging (AVB) project for a couple of years now. The standardisation- promoting activities of the AVnu Alliance and the popularity of Audinate’s Dante technology – perceived by many as a pathway towards AVB implementation – have done much to ensure that AVB’s profile remains high. But on the basis of a robust

showing at IBC 2012, another approach to the networking problem could soon be rivalling AVB for column inches: Ravenna, which utilises standard IP to deliver real-time distribution of audio and other media. Of the 21 manufacturers who have signed up to the initiative (see box, right, for full list), no fewer than 19 – including such heavy-hitters as Merging Technologies, Genelec and Lawo – could be found at IBC, with many indicating their affiliation by displaying identical stand flags.

The announcement on

Day One that IP codec manufacturer Qbit had also agreed to implement the technology further underlined the feeling of momentum behind Ravenna, which was developed by Germany-based, Lawo-sponsored company ALC NetworX. Welcoming PSNEurope to the

Ravenna stand on the edge of Hall 8 at Amsterdam’s RAI centre, ALC NetworX senior product manager Andreas

Hildebrand agreed that a ‘tipping point’ appeared to be in prospect, remarking: “We have worked long and hard to communicate the benefits of this technology, and it is evident to me that the message is now getting across.”

ROAD TO ROUTABILITY If that has proven challenging at times, it is hardly surprising with so many approaches to audio- over-IP competing for pro-audio users’ attention. But in its ability to operate without licensing

Master Ravenna board for Lawo routers and consoles

purely on existing, Layer 3-based networks, Hildebrand believes that Ravenna has a strong offering. “Ravenna streams can

traverse subnet boundaries and, under certain conditions, can even use WAN connections. Since only standardised protocols and mechanisms are employed, Ravenna can operate on existing network infrastructures utilising available equipment capabilities,” explains Hildebrand. This contrasts with Layer 2- based AVB’s requirement for dedicated switches – an issue that could limit its relevance to complex existing broadcast networks. But with broadcast not perceived to be among the core applications for AVB, it may be that the notion of a rivalry between the two technologies is erroneous anyway. While he is careful not to dismiss possible adoption in other sectors including live, Hildebrand is emphatic that ALC NetworX does “not consider AVB as a competing technology at all. While AVB has other strengths which have a better match in other pro- audio use cases, we see the need for both Layer 2 and Layer 3 technologies for professional media distribution applications.” Perhaps more than any

of its other features – among them low latency, flexible payload format definition, scalability and

fully synchronised operation – it is the technology’s licensing-free status that Hildebrand regards as its greatest single selling point. “Manufacturers do not have to buy any black-box IP or pay any licensing fee to ALC NetworX to implement Ravenna into their devices – all protocol ingredients are fully published and freely available,” he clarifies.

REGIONAL VARIATIONS? But while there is a firm rebuttal to any suggestion of competition with AVB, Hildebrand acknowledges that another lingering perception – that which paints Ravenna as a primarily European phenomenon with only minimal support in the US – does need to be addressed, however mistaken it might be. “Although the majority of

Ravenna partners are actually based in Europe, most of them are engaged in worldwide business. Through the worldwide deployment of Ravenna-enabled devices, we actually experience a growing interest from other continents,” says Hildebrand. The adoption of Ravenna by US-based broadcast audio specialist Telos Alliance is likely to be particularly significant here. Telos publicised its Ravenna partnership at NAB 2012, where Axia – Telos’s studio audio division – also introduced a new generation of Ravenna-supporting IP audio interfaces, xNodes. And that’s not all... “While the xNodes are fully Ravenna-compatible, through close co-operation with the Axia development team we

“Where will we stand in two years’ time? Well, with Ravenna we can do a lot, but

soothsaying is not on the feature list…” Andreas Hildebrand, ALC NetworX


Those partner companies in full (as of October 2012): l AEQ l AETA Audio Systems l Arkona Technologies l Axia l Digigram l Dimetis l DirectOut Technologies l DSA Volgmann l Genelec l Infomedia l Lawo l Linear Acoustic l LSB l Merging Technologies l Neumann l Omnia l Qbit l Schoeps l Sonifex l Sound4 l Telos Alliance

even found a way [to achieve] interoperability between thousands of deployed legacy Livewire and new Ravenna devices – truly a major milestone.” Additionally, Axia is one

of the proponents of the AES X192 task group, which was established by CobraNet pioneer Kevin Gross (of AVA Networks) in 2010 to develop audio-over-IP interoperability standards. Hildebrand is confident that the resulting documents will be applicable to Ravenna – a development that would further enhance the technology’s market credibility.


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