Avoiding System Interdependence

“Mission critical signals, be them command/control or streaming, should be contained in separate universes to minimize the propagation of failures. The goal is to achieve interoperability without creating interdependence”.

Compartmentalization is frowned upon these days. It’s all about the team, the mesh, the one-mind vision of the A/V systems being homogenized, smart, completely aware of each other. There is a beauty to this vision that as of late has really begun to take shape across many sectors of our vast industry. From world-wide sporting events to the local night-club and the home recording studio, signals are intermingling like never before.

This intermingling is due to the enormous influence of the Information Technology industry on the use of a common data format. Simply, Ethernet, in some form or fashion, is everywhere. It carries command/control, TV Network feeds, video signals, telephony, audio, RF and intercom. Every technology specialty uses Ethernet in some form to transport their signals. Since the signals are the same format, the ability to place them all on a shared hardware platform exist, but at what cost?

This attractiveness of single-point-management is countered by the risk of single point failure. The best systems work to accommodate tight integration of systems without the risk of interdependence.

Interdependence is simply the case of otherwise disparate systems sharing any physical piece of hardware or cabling.  It is often thought that since all can be converted to a common data format, such as Ethernet, be it audio, DMX, IPTV, command/control or e-mail, that the signals should run on the same network equipment to minimize cost, rack space and cabling. The downside is that often these systems are specialties that are best dealt with by parallel management workflows.

•The lighting system technicians using DMX should have complete authority over the DMX system without having to contend with the security camera’s signal running through their Ethernet switch.

•The AoIP signals should be able to run independent of camera control so the audio         department can attend to changes, testing, training, etc. without disturbing the camera systems.

Separation of responsibility is also a personnel consideration. Corporate IT professionals are under strict orders to maintain security to the highest degree possible. Cyber-crime is a real concern and a real detriment to us all. It must be taken seriously and the IT professional that stands in the way of an audio technician adding an AoIP device to the corporate network is doing their job and it should be respected. It is for this very reason that corporate IT and A/V networks used in support of what is in essence the IoT in the A/V world, must remain separate. The old motto of “the show must go on” is as real as it has ever been, yet the security firewall and passwords are in place to eliminate ad hoc additions to the network, even if the need is urgent. Each network has its unique purpose and mandates for reliably, accommodation and facilitation. Just because the two industries use the same hardware does not mean they should ever intermingle.

The audio industry has a long history of pulling from existing technology bases. In the early days, we borrowed from the telephone industry, like the Decibel, balanced lines, wet/dry circuits, etc. Today, we have adopted the information technology and computer network hardware to transport, process and store our audio signals. As with the telephone technology, equipped with a firm understanding of network technology, a system designer’s ideas can be elevated above the generic, “catalog-based design”, to one that best supports a customer’s unique workflow, logistical and budgetary requirements.

“Never trade expedient installation for long-term serviceability”

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