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52 l September 2014


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Has the AVB dream lost its lustre?


NO ONE actively described AVB (Audio/Video Bridging) as the panacea to the networking problem at the time the AVnu Alliance – the organisation established to promote the technology – made its debut in 2009, but there is no denying that it has often appeared to have attained that status during the past five years. Backed by companies active throughout the manufacturing chain from silicon to speaker, the AVB project of achieving low latency, fully interoperable streaming through IEEE 802 networks appeared – initially at least – to be essentially unstoppable. But somehow, somewhere along the way the industry perception of the AVB/ AVnu project has undergone a revision. The bridge and endpoint certification scheme created by AVnu to guarantee interoperability between devices has yielded only a few certified primary products and derivatives to date; the video product part


of the programme is still under development and won’t be ready for some time yet. Despite the best efforts of AVnu chairman & president Rick Kreifeldt, the organisation’s public profile appears lower than it was a few years ago when then- marketing work group chair Lee Minich was such an evangelical advocate for the project… and all the while, other approaches are continuing to experience impressive rates of adoption. In its defence, AVB has already achieved significant traction in the automotive market, with manufacturers including BMW and General Motors signing up to the


Two years ago with an eagerly-awaited certification programme about to commence, AVB (Audio/Video Bridging) looked like it might be the definitive solution to the networking problem. Now, with a perceived loss of momentum and something of an image problem, its future status appears less secure – so what happens next, asks David Davies?


Alliance. The purpose of this article, then, is to extrapolate five (easy) pieces from the puzzle to ascertain whether AVB still has a credible future in pro-AV – a market that, maintains Kreifeldt, is still “crucial” to its roadmap – or whether it now runs the risk of being overshadowed by other approaches.


1. MEMBERSHIP


This is one area in which the AVnu Alliance case looks watertight. From a five-strong founding membership of Broadcom, Cisco, Harman, Intel and Xilinx, the Association has steadily added members to achieve a total of 55 as of May


“There was a lot of interest [in AVB] four years ago, but it has gradually fallen away, particularly over the last 18 months.” Lee Ellison, Audinate


The AVnu Alliance has maintained a presence at many trade shows


2013. The fact that this has risen to 80 in the last 16 months confirms that this writer’s perception of a slowdown in membership was off the mark. “We are on an upturn as far as membership goes,” confirms Kreifeldt, who is also vice president of research and innovation at Harman International. Perhaps the misperception is due to AVnu waiting to group multiple additions into one announcement, for Kreifeldt confirms no fewer


than eight additions in recent months, namely: Coveloz, a provider of embedded and fully programmable media transport solutions; Imagination Technologies, a leader in multimedia, processor, communication and cloud technologies; IntoPIX, which provides compression, cryptographic and video transport FPGA IP-cores, reference design and software tools; networking specialist Ixia; wireless microphone and PA systems maker MIPRO; secure connection solutions provider NXP Semiconductors; personal audio mixer and networked audio solution developer Pivitec; and HD video, audio, conference and VoIP applications and products maker Xavtel. Collectively, says Kreifeldt, these announcements demonstrate coverage of “all parts of the ecosystem – from people like Imagination Technologies building licensable silicon to connective silicon expert NXP Semiconductors, through to MIPRO and Xavtel making professional equipment for different markets.”


2. CERTIFICATION The situation with regard to certification of AVB products is more complex. The reason for AVnu’s decision to launch a certification programme – to guarantee interoperability of AVB products – requires little explanation. But the impartial observer might wonder about the fact that, as of September 2014, it has yielded little in the


“I think that anyone who works on any kind of technology probably


looks back and realises that if they had made a few turns


differently, they could probably [have got there more quickly].” Rick Kreifeldt, AVnu Alliance


way of actual certified product. Joining forces with esteemed test house the University of New Hampshire InterOperability Laboratory (UNH-IOL), AVnu Alliance formally initiated certification for AVB bridges in February 2013 and audio endpoints two months later. To date, however, only two certified primary products (and, it should be noted, related derivatives) have completed the admittedly demanding schedule: Extreme Networks’ Summit X440 Series Switches and the Crown DCi


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