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A new dawn for AVnu?

Despite some enduring perception problems, AVB still has an exciting potential future in pro-audio networking, incoming AVnu Alliance president Gary Stuebing tells David Davies

Reservations about the progress being made by Audio/Video Bridging (AVB) networking technology in pro audio are nothing new – but they were certainly given additional weight when RH Consulting published The Death of Analogue and the Rise of Audio Networking earlier this year. Among other findings, the report documented the availability of only 61 AVB pro-audio products as of December 2014 – compared to a whopping 296 for Audinate’s increasingly ubiquitous Dante media networking technology. (Main picture: Conference on Time Sensitive Networking, April 2015.)

It is within this somewhat challenging context that Gary Stuebing has assumed the role of president of AVB-promoting organisation the AVnu Alliance. Now four decades into a distinguished career, Stuebing’s background is rich in IT management experience. His current ‘day job’ is manager of engineering, IoT standards/architecture, at Cisco, while he has also fulfilled roles at several other alliances and standards groups such as IEEE, Wi-Sun and HomePlug.

Speaking to PSNEurope a few days after his appointment was made public, Stuebing (pictured) was candid about the current pro-audio industry status of AVB and AVnu. “I am a little concerned, and would like to see AVnu take off more from the perspective of what it is doing [for the future of audio networking],” he says. “It does not seem there is a general sense of cohesiveness in the pro-AV community about using open standards and trying to form some kind of compatibility and interoperability scenario. And I think that is to the detriment of customers.”

AVnu has held steadfast to the open standards principle, but there is little doubt that the limited quantities of AVB-supporting product – and in particular, the small number of currently available dedicated switches, which are needed to make AVB networks operate – has inhibited adoption. But Stuebing, who is more than familiar with the “extended timescales” involved in getting standards-based technologies to achieve market traction, believes that, aided by the forthcoming TSN (Time Sensitive Networking) standard, AVB could be on the verge of a productive new phase.

Billed as an evolution of AVB, TSN has been developed to provide users, not least those in the industrial community, with the ability to use standard Ethernet “to support highly reliable and precise synchronised networking appropriate for industrial control”. Completion of the related standards is predicted for July, says Stuebing, after which development of an interoperability certification programme and the relevant chipsets will mean we should anticipate ratified TSN product “about a year from now”.

Once introduced into the market, Stuebing expects the technological and businesses cases behind the technology to become increasingly apparent. “AVB/TSN will constitute a really powerful open standard for networking, with capacity for fast and effective time-sensitive operation over a real-time network. There will be scope for very tight synchronisation of an entire network,” he explains.

Stuebing also thinks AVB/TSN will add momentum to the development of new products: “Experience tells me that when you start to have commoditisation [around an open standard] a lot of things start to happen quite quickly, and that includes price points being driven down. With regard to switches, the Extreme Networks [family of AVB-compliant switches] is performing well, and I would suggest that we will start to see other manufacturers jumping into that with TSN standards.” (Pictured above right: Meyer Sound’s AVB-certified CAL column-array speakers.)

Pro audio remains an “integral” part of the future vision for pro-audio, confirms Stuebing, although AVB/TSN is also expected to resonate strongly with automotive, among other industrial sectors. “I do think it will help to awaken a large segment of the market,” he says “It is true that we are seeing a great deal of activity in automotive in Germany, and it seems a lot of [automotive networing] in Korea and Japan is basically going to be AVB/TSN-based as well.”

The perception of drift around the AVB/AVnu project over the last few years will take some time to dissipate in even the most favourable conditions, but Stuebing is refreshingly frank about the challenges that lie ahead and clearly determined to reassert the value of an open standards-based, fully certified approach to audio connectivity. “I am convinced this technology has a great future in pro audio,” he concludes.

(David Davies)