AES67, AVB and Audinate's Dante: An Audio Networking Update After Infocomm 2017

Update June 25 2018: Latest thoughts here

It's become an annual tradition-since 2009 I've been writing about audio networking from a live sound perspective after recovering from Infocomm. You can see last year's entry here

This year, it seems, there's not a whole lot to write, since there was more of the same, with some exciting directions for the future which I'll get to in a bit.  It was interesting that the AVNU Alliance didn't have a booth as they did in previous years.  From what I can see, as I've been detailing here over the years, AVB/TSN has been accepted by some manufacturers in the live sound industry (Meyer, Avid, etc), and it's holding strong there. But the number of Dante products seems to keep expanding, both in the live sound and install markets.  Here's the Audinate display on the Infocomm floor:

Audinate kicked off the week with their AV Networking World, which as always features some interesting Dante-based products. Here's a couple favorites, based on Power over Ethernet (my fave). PoE speakers from SoundTube:

Dante PoE headphone amp from RDL:

They are also soon introducing Dante Domain Manager, which looks pretty cool for very large systems.

At the training as part of the event, Audinate rolled out Level 3 of their training program. Level 3 isn't really necessary for most users of Dante systems; it's really aimed at geeks working on large systems. It covers a lot of foundation networking technology, and some very esoteric issues you might encounter in complex systems. 

I think it's very smart of Audinate to put forward this training; Levels 1 and 2 (and some new tools available in Dante controller) really changed the way I look at these systems, and increased my confidence when working with Dante networks, where so much of the underlying functionality is invisible.

AVB/TSN

There were of course some AVB products on the show, but in my world of live sound, I didn't see a whole lot of new development. There was talk of new AVB capable switches, but as of this writing there's still only one that's been certified (Extreme), even though Cisco had an AVB switch on display last year.  Looking on that certification list, I do see L'Acoustics has added a couple new AVB-connected amplifier products to their line; unfortunately I missed their booth at the show.

I am excited to see that Meyer is now shipping their Galaxy (Galileo replacement) system (I love the Galileos and use them a lot), which interconnects via AVB:

A friend from Meyer assured me that there would be some solution to get audio in/out from their products to Dante; my uninformed guess is that it will be AES67.

AES67

As I wrote back in 2013, AES67, an open standard audio exchange method, may be the key to the success of audio networking for the future and there was a lot of buzz about it at the show. With AES67 in the picture,  manufacturers can choose the networking system of their choice, and then just include AES67 interfacing to get audio out (if not control functionality) for other systems. Even with AES67, though, there is still a very important place for Dante, AVB, Ravenna, etc.-all of these systems offer important functions to manufacturers, and in the case of Dante it offers an interface for the users through Dante controller.  I still view this unified interface as a key part of the system; it's literally all that most users see of the system.

And as of late last year AES67 is available in Yamaha products, and since we own a lot of Yamaha stuff at the school, I would love to get my hands on some AES67 compatible gear, and see what the process of patching and so on is like. If you have access to some shipping AES67 gear (something like a stage box would be perfect) please get in touch!  

I posted a lot of Infocomm photos and updates on my twitter feed; I have a photo gallery here as well. We also did our annual geekout; writeup here.

2016 Show Networking Best Practices

For my Networks On Shows and In Venues: What Do You Need to Know? panel yesterday at the North American Theatre Engineering Conference (NATEAC), I assembled a panel of experts and together we came up with John, Kevin, and Peter’s Show Networking Best Practices. That panel was Kevin Loewen, Engineering Manager at the Pathway Connectivity office of Acuity Brands Lighting  and Peter Stepniewicz, Principal Show Electronic Engineer, Walt Disney Imagineering. Special thanks also to Kevin Gross, AVA Networks, for giving us feedback on the document.  

We came up with the following list of what we consider current best practices for the use of networks on shows.  This list simply represents the personal opinions of the three of us and not necessarily our employers, etc. 

General Network Architecture

  • View cable/fiber plant as a flexible infrastructure, which potentially can be used for networking, audio/video distribution, DMX 512, or even analog signals.
  • Use wireless only for special use cases where you have no alternative.
  • Select entertainment control protocols that are modern and network-friendly where possible.
  • Hire a qualified contractor for permanent installations, or be sure to read and follow specifications and instructions, and performance-test all network links.
  • Consider venue/show staff knowledge and support sources when designing your system.
  • Choose Static or DHCP address assignment by type of gear that will be used
  • Keep in mind that well designed network/cable infrastructure helps to accommodate future technologies.

Network Hardware

  • 1Gb switches give plenty of bandwidth for most entertainment control applications today and likely into the near future.  10Gb might be useful or needed for current or future special applications (like video) or high capacity backbones.  
  • Avoid consumer-grade switches, and consider using managed switches, since in the context of an entertainment control system, switches are cheap, and some more advanced features (like Internet Group Management Protocol (IGMP)) available in managed switches are increasingly important in modern systems. 
  • Consider using switches made for the entertainment industry, since they are better focused on the needs of our market and our users, have accessible support, and are made to be easy to use; enterprise grade IT equipment can be very confusing to setup.
  • Consider (more expensive) Power over Ethernet (PoE) switches for some specialized applications like IP surveillance cameras and A/V network devices.
  • Consider (more expensive) AVB capable switches if running audio equipment that uses it (Meyer Sound, Biamp).
  • Ensure that Energy-Efficient Ethernet (EEE) can be disabled (or is not implemented) in switches used for audio networks like Dante. 
  • Incorporate monitoring ability.  Computers are cheap these days.
  • Use physically redundant switches or Virtual Local Area Networks (VLAN) to segregate traffic.  VLANs are very easy to configure with modern entertainment-oriented switches.
  • Use small business or enterprise-grade dedicated wireless access points (Cisco, Aruba, Ruckus, etc.) when necessary (and don’t use Wi-Fi for real-time control). Don’t use home grade routers (you don’t likely need the router anyway and if you do, you don’t want a consumer grade router).

Copper

  • Comply with the TIA/EIA-568 structured cabling standard.  The B version is more common, but either A or B can be fine if used consistently on a show/venue. 
  • Cat 5e Unshielded Twisted Pair (UTP) is suitable for Gigabit Ethernet and should be fine for most entertainment control applications in North America today and into the near future.
  • Cat 6, 6A or Shielded Twisted Pair (STP) may be required or recommended currently or in the future by some manufacturers for specialized (typically high bandwidth) applications. 
  • Use pre-made patch cables. Companies like Monoprice make cable so cheap that it’s typically not worth crimping your own connectors.
  • Don’t make loops (unless your network equipment specifically supports this sort of topology for redundancy using techniques like Rapid Spanning Tree Protocol (RSTP), or Ethernet Automatic Protection Switching (EAPS)).
  • Keep total Cat 5e segment length under 100m (including patch cables).  Cat 6, depending on the use, can have shorter working lengths.
  • Heavier duty Neutrik Ethercon (and compatible) connectors are available for show purposes.  
  • Heavier duty (and easier to coil) Cat 5e (like Belden DataTuff) is available.
  • For permanent copper installations:
  • Terminate cable runs to a jack in the wall, then use a patch cord for the short run to the equipment. 
  • Minimize the patch cable length since these cables are typically lower performance.
  • Remember that conduit runs are typically specified by others and can often be longer than you think. 80m is a good target length, 90m maximum to accommodate 5m patch cables on each end. 

Fiber

  • Fiber today is still complicated/expensive to terminate and is best for long runs or high bandwidth applications, or where lightning/extreme EMI immunity is needed.
  • LC Duplex is most common fiber connector in our market; you might also see SFP connectors on networking equipment.
  • Single mode fiber is typically needed for very long distances. 
  • Heavier duty Neutrik opticalCON Duo or Quad ruggedized connectors are available.

Security

  • Physical security is very important in our industry and is your first line of network defense.
  • Keep in mind that few of our protocols have any intrinsic security.
  • Consider not using or restricting access to DHCP servers
  • Use firewalls, start with firewall that is totally closed and open from there
  • Use VPN for remote access
  • Shut down unneeded Wi-Fi (which is very useful for programming, etc.) during the show.
  • Keep your network off the internet.  If you have to put it on the internet, limit and constrain access. A useful approach when this is necessary is to have one machine on the show network and use a highly secure external remote access method to that one machine. Then you are virtually in the show network without exposing the whole thing.

Cool Testing Tools

AVB and Audinate's Dante: An Audio Networking Update After Infocomm 2016

 A display in the samsung booth At Infocomm

A display in the samsung booth At Infocomm

Update June 25 2018: Latest thoughts here

Update June 25, 2017: Update now posted here.

Since 2009, when I first saw AVB at Infocomm, I've been writing here about audio networks and their applications for live sound. Over that seven years, the audio networking landscape has changed pretty dramatically.  I was a big booster of AVB, but in the end AVB just didn't get much traction in the live performance audio market, and four years later I wrote, "Audinate's Dante has won the race, while AVB is still being tweaked by the mechanics over in the pit lane."  And while AVB (also now known as Time Sensitive Networking (TSN)) is a great technology, as I wrote after Infocomm last year, Audinate's Dante is now really the dominant player in our live sound market.  So this year at Infocomm it was pretty much more of the same, but there were some interesting developments.

Audinate's Dante Audio Networking World

On the day before the Infocomm floor opened, Audinate held their annual Dante AV Networking World event. The highlight of this event for me in recent years has been Roland Hemming's great talk on the state of the audio networking world.  Here's one of the key slides from his talk, showing the number of manufacturers who have licensed each protocol.

And this is the count of products:

Some of Mr. Hemming's research is funded by Audinate, but from what I can tell his methodology is sound, and he is addressing the audio market that I live in--excluding automotive, consumer and industrial industries, which are certainly future growth areas for AVB/TSN (and in the other fields I cover, industrial control for shows, this is certainly a promising development).  

The key thing that I've been saying all along is that our live sound market is driven by end users, with manufacturers making decisions like what audio networking protocol to use and then selling us a solution. To me, once Yamaha--the 800 pound gorilla of the professional live sound market--started developing their entire product line around Dante in 2012, the choice of an audio network was made for many users.  And my opinion is supported by Mr. Hemming's research; here's another slide from his presentation:

My crappy cameraphone picture may be a bit hard to read, but the reasons for selecting a protocol went from "Most Products" to "Will be around" down to "Easy".  And, at least for the survey respondents reached by Mr. Hemming, that has translated to a lot of Dante projects:

So the continuing success of Audinate and Dante was not hard to see at Infocomm 2016; Dante was everywhere on the floor, and they had a lot of product in their booth (I actually got distracted there and forgot to take photos of the whole booth):

And one of the cooler Dante things I saw at the show was Amphenol's new Amphe-Dante endpoints which cost just a few hundred dollars:

Dante is a proprietary standard, and I of course would always prefer open standards. But seeing innovative, affordable products like this Amphe-Dante interface coming out is yet another sign that Dante is effectively a de facto standard in the live sound market.  

Certification

Another sign of the maturation of Dante is that at this show they rolled out two levels of Dante certification; a third, more advanced level is on the way. Level 1 is an online test that is pretty straightforward and easy to answer for anyone who has worked with Dante. Level 2 involves an online test and a practical test which right now is administered by Audinate at these kind of events. I've been working with this stuff for a while so I actually skipped out of the Level 2 training and jumped right into the practical test (avoiding a huge line later), but I passed, and can now display the logo to the right.

I think certification is a really interesting development and a smart strategic move for Audinate: further positioning Dante as a standard, establishing a baseline of knowledge, and also (of course) benefiting on the marketing front.

Another interesting development that was reported at the presentation that Audinate has left the AVNU alliance (AVB trade association), although some friends pointed out that some of the biggest Dante licensees (Yamaha for example) are still members. This slide from the Audinate presentation sums it up: 

And that leads to the next thing, with Dante so widespread in the live sound market, what about the companies that build their product lines around other solutions?

An Audio Ecosystem--Developments in Network Connections

In my professional work in live sound system design and alignment, I'm a big Meyer Sound fan and user. And Meyer made a big commitment early on to AVB, and their products are built around it  I used this picture in last year's blog to show why I hoped Meyer would at least include hooks into the Dante world; that's Yamaha Dante-based RiO boxes on the left coming out of the console system, and Meyer Galileos on the right feeding the speakers, and a whole lot of analog XLR running between them.

Youtube Brandcast 2015 Audio patch

Note: The picture above shows Meyer Galileos which didn't have any audio network interface, but if Meyer continued on an AVB only path, the photo is what future interconnection would look like.

Apparently I wasn't the only one wanting a networking connection from Meyer's AVB world to the larger Dante world; they had on display the replacement for the rightfully beloved Galileos (which have a limited future because of declining parts availability): the Galileo Galaxy line of processors.

Note the Extreme networks switch on the bottom of the rack.  It was until recently (see below) the only AVNU certified switch, with the AVB option costing about an extra $400/switch.

Friends on the Meyer booth told me that this Galaxy system--in addition to native AVB support--will eventually offer either a Dante interface or AES-67 open standards based audio inter-operability (see my writeup on AES-67 as an interoperability interface from 2013).  So for the future, the mess of XLR cables I show in the picture above should eventually be able to be replaced by a couple Cat 5 cables.  

How this plays out will be interesting to see, since Audinate has included AES-67 support in their products for a while; it's now up the individual licensees to implement it.  This situation was presented by Audinate's Brad Price in a series of slides at the Audinate presentation.  AES67 has been included since April 2015:

They are currently in the manufacturer testing phase:

But there may be some complications:

This discovery issue is an interesting issue, but I think even if it has to be manually configured at first there is enough market push to make this happen.  

And while Meyer talking Dante compatibility was a new development, as in past years other natively AVB-based live sound players were showing Dante interfacing--Avid had this on their stand:

And Digico, who are heavy MADI users was showing this again:

So it's pretty evident that the majority of players in the live sound market are embracing--in one way or another--Dante.  But what about AVB?

AVB/TSN Developments

So is AVB dead?  Absolutely not.  Dante is dominating the live sound market, but AVB/TSN is a well engineered solution that has found a home in portions of the live sound market (most notably Meyer Sound, Avid, Pivitech and MOTU). And at the AVNU booth I had a fascinating conversation with my friend Greg Schlechter who is a technology marketing strategist for Intel and Graeme Harrison of Biamp; they view the whole world of audio networking as an ecosystem with Dante and AVB and Ravenna all as parts of that ecosystem.

Biamp is probably the largest manufacturer of AVB product in the A/V market, and at the show they announced the ability to send video over AVB (I think this is the first company to do this in released, end-user oriented products), which is very cool. And as Graeme explained Biamp's decision to use AVB as the core of their product line it seemed like a very sound decision to me: they wanted to be freed from a single supplier who could disappear or change direction, the way Cobranet did when it was sold to a larger chip manufacturer who eventually stopped development.  But Biamp occupies a slightly different market space than the world of live sound where I operate--they primarily provide complete, integrated, "turn key" solutions to customers like airports or hospitals.  Of course they have to do some system integration, but their main customers aren't often patching up a bunch of mics from manufacturer A into a mixer from manufacturer B to drive speakers from manufacturer C, which is what we do in the performance audio world on a daily basis.

All that said, AVB/TSN is finding acceptance in the automotive and industrial markets, and one of the big developments on the AVB front at Infocomm is that Cisco, the dominant player in the networking hardware market, now (finally) has AVB support in some of its higher end switches:

This is a great development, and had this switch been 7 years ago, the live sound market might be dominated by AVB now. 

Update June 27: Arthur Skudra on the Theatre Sound Mailing List and Kevin Gross pointed out that Coveloz were demo'ing AVB AES-67 connectivity, demo video here.

Ravenna

Ravenna had a booth at the show, and it does seem that this technology is gaining wider use in the broadcast world, but hasn't crossed over much into the live sound arena.  Having different systems operating between live and broadcast audio isn't much of a big deal since Live and Broadcast are pretty much separate disciplines, but once AES-67 interoperability fully comes to Dante, this will give us an easy connection to the broadcast world.  

AES-70 (OCA)

I should mention too that the Open Control Alliance standard effort, spearheaded by my old friend Jeff Berryman of Bosch, led to an AES standard of AES-70, and unfortunately the picture I took is way too blurry to include here. The most interesting development I saw on the stand was that the industrial control manufacturer Beckhoff, whose gear has now found widespread use in theme parks and in stage automation has continued their push to embrace our market by incorporating AES-70 into their products.

Moving Forward

I storm chased my way 8000 miles to and from Infocomm this year (photos here and of the amazing show Meow Wolf in Sante Fe here), and therefore had a lot of time to think.  And one thing that I've been thinking about lately (which I hope to write up further later) is the way our market as a whole has matured in terms of business, techniques, and technology. It occurred to me going through an old missile silo in South Dakota on a boring weather day that things seem old and get obsolete when their underlying technologies are no longer modern. For example, this missile silo was built with almost all analog stuff, and while it was amazingly engineered, it just seemed old, because it's just not the way we would build things any more.  

But even though the newer generation of missile control systems--which is now pretty old--uses obsolete 8" floppies, it's still a computer so it's not really all that different fundamentally than what we would build today. With networks, the underlying technology--Ethernet and IP--is likely to be useful and current for the rest of my career. Maybe we move to fiber, maybe we get a bit faster, maybe we go to IPv6, but I would be willing to place a sizable bet that 25 years from now we'll still be using IP and copper and fiber and radio.  

And that means now that we're on the network as an industry (and nearly every department uses one now), the playing field has changed, and the constant acceleration of dramatic change we saw (for example in the 80's with the initial transition to digital audio), may have slowed a bit. And that's a good thing for the industry. For example, at my school I just got us a Yamaha CL-5 mixing console. I got that console because it is widely used in the audio market that I see here in NYC where my graduates work, and we want to train our students on commonly used stuff. But what's interesting is that the vintage 2004 Yamaha PM5D console we replaced is still fine (we will use it for monitors)--the only real difference from the user perspective of the new console is native Dante and a touch screen. And the CL-5 will probably be in our inventory for at least 10-15 years (our speakers are now nearly 20 years old and still working fine), and that means we are using Dante for the next 10-15 years. After that?  Who knows.  But with the market penetration of Dante now, any future solution will have to accommodate it. And if something new comes along, it too will likely use IP and Ethernet. And audio will still be audio, so as long as we have something like AES-67, we'll be good.  

So my advice continues to be don't choose an audio network, choose the products you want and then figure out how they can connect. As long as you build a workable network (and I have a book about how to do that) you'll be fine.

Note: Other sights from Infocomm are in a terrible camera phone photo gallery here, and I have coverage of our annual show control geekout here.

UPDATE July 13, 2016: Comments from Graeme Harrison of Biamp:

I thought that your blog article was well-balanced for the live sector of the market (things are very different in the install sector) and well written. A couple of things that I would pick up on are:
1. I wouldn’t consider the Cisco Catalyst 3650 mini switches to be that high end - about $1,800 (with the correct level of software to support AVB) for a 24-port switch with fiber uplink ports. Another point is that Cisco are including AVB in their core software - it isn’t an extra cost like Extreme (and Netgear). This is the way that we want to see things going with the ability to run deterministic data just being a tick box in a broad list of switch specifications.
2. The point about ‘AVB AES67 connectivity’ is a little obscure. What was actually happening was that Coveloz were showing AES67 (Ravenna is this case) running over AVB. What this means is using the 802.1 base level protocols already build into the AVB (or TSN!) standard is provide guaranteed transmission rather than ‘best effort’ data flow. Obviously, if one is doing this (and therefore using AVB enabled switches in order to accomplish this) one might as well just use the whole AVB standard to keep things simple (as well as to reduce the cost as there are then no top level license fees to be paid or proprietary hardware to be bought). I appreciate that in the live sound environment, probably best effort works just fine with the correct manual switch configuration, because the network is separated and is reserved for audio. We see in the future more convergence of video with the audio (indeed we, as you mentioned, introduced product to do this). Being able to guarantee end-to-end video latency is huge for our customers and this is just not currently possible without AVB. Looking further ahead (again in the installed AV market) we see convergence of deterministic data (in this case media) within data networks and for this to happen, AVB-TSN is essential.

Thanks to Mr. Harrison for the clarification!

AVB and Audinate's Dante: An Update After Infocomm 2015

Update June 25 2018: Latest thoughts here

Update June 25, 2016: I have a followup here.

In recent years, Infocomm has become the go-to show for the convergence of Audio, Video, Networking, and Control (all the areas I follow most closely), and this year was yet another great show.  My primary focus in my audio work and teaching is live sound, and walking the audio areas of the floor the hottest topic of conversation amongst my live sound-focused friends was Audinate's proprietary Dante audio network transmission system, and of course IEEE's open Audio Video Bridging (AVB) standard.  

Work on AVB started back in 2005, and I first saw a demo of it at Infocomm 2009 (my initial writeup with an introduction to the technology here).  It seemed like a great idea, and I was a big proponent of it.  However, by 2013 I was concerned that the AVB development was dragging behind the needs of the live sound market, and after Infocomm in June of that year I was thinking that it might succeed if it could be integrated with Dante, who by then was well established with major players in our market like Yamaha and Shure. Later that summer, I visited the AVnu testing lab in New Hampshire, and was still somewhat hopeful about AVB's prospects, but after AES in November of 2013, after the release of the AES-67 inter-operability standard, I peered into my crystal ball and wrote, "Audinate's Dante has won the race, while AVB is still being tweaked by the mechanics over in the pit lane. ".  That was further reinforced by what I my visit to Infocomm last year, and even more so this year.  Here's the products on the AVB/AVnu Alliance stand:

And somewhat telling in that exhibit was the Yamaha console:

That Pivitec expansion card apparently gets 16 channels of AVB in and out of the console (this 16 channel limitation, of course, is due to Yamaha's ancient MY card architecture--not AVB), but notice that the Dante support for a virtually unlimited number of channels is built in. Unless you wanted to interface with a Pivitec monitor system, which apparently uses AVB, why would you buy this expansion card?  And I write "apparently" here because looking at the Pivitec product page for that card, it doesn't even mention AVB:

Dante was in so many places on the trade show floor that Audinate was running a scavenger hunt promotion and were giving away T-shirts to people who could find a certain number of products. You can see the Dante booth in the photo at the top of this post, and here's just some of the several racks of Dante gear available today they had on display.

While there is still one big player in our live sound market--Meyer--holding onto AVB, it seems almost all the other big live sound market players have jumped onto the Dante bandwagon.  And this includes Avid, with their upcoming S6-L mixer; this is particularly interesting development since Avid was one of the few companies selling an AVB-based mixer system. [Update July 9--Avid's system is based on AVB but they now have a Dante interface card, see comment below]. And it seems that Harman (JBL, etc) is heading towards Dante as well.  

At the show, I asked an old friend at Meyer who would know the company strategy about connecting to Dante, and he wouldn't say anything. But it seems to me they have to come up with a way to at least interface with it.  Why? Back in May I co-designed and aligned a large, complex all-Meyer speaker sound system for the Youtube Brandcast at the Madison Square Garden theater.  

This is how we got signal out of our Yamaha CL-5 FOH and Monitor consoles (black Dante I/O boxes) and into Meyer's Galileo output signal processing system (blue boxes):

Fortunately this system was buzz-free and clean due to the excellence of our crew, but this mess could be replaced with a few Cat 5 cables if Meyer added support for Dante to their Galileo product line (to be fair, those Galileo boxes don't even yet have AVB--only analog and AES). Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Meyer fan, but when everyone else is using something different, and your users need to connect, we can't stay analog forever. And its just not likely the rest of the world will go Meyer's way and suddenly switch to AVB tomorrow.

At the show, I also saw that some other live sound stalwarts are also now supporting Dante. Digico have long been basing systems on MADI, and at the show they had an Dante bridge (sorry for the photo quality):

SSL also was showing something similar:

And I like the redundancy--Focusrite also now has its Rednet Dante I/O boxes with redundant power supplies.

And I didn't even mention Dante's Via, which Audinate was pushing at the show and introducing soon.  It's pretty cool and has a lot of theatre sound-style applications.

So where are we today?  I no longer need my crystal ball--Dante is currently the defacto audio networking solution for the live sound industry. And don't take my word for it, take some actual data from an excellent white paper from Roland Hemming's consulting firm (and funded by Audinate).  Mr. Hemming kicked off Audinate's AV Networking World sessions with a very bold slide:

Again, sorry for the terrible camera phone quality, but what the slide says is:

  • Protocols are products
  • Protocols are ecosystems
  • Protocols should not be standards
  • Protocols should use standards as building blocks to allow interoperability

Hmm, "protocols should not be standards" That one got me, because I've long advocated for open standards. But I think he's right at least in the case of audio networking. Dante is doing--and doing well--everything we need today, it's affordable, and as flexible and inter-operable as Audinate wants it to be (and it seems they want to connect it to anything that makes sense). And they were able to get into that position because they were able to be agile and innovative (and no one who knows anything about the standards-making process would use either of those words). Mr. Hemming went onto make a substantive case as to why Dante has come to this position--and much more thoroughly (and with real data) made the case I've been making here on the blog for the last six years.

So where does that leave AVB? I talked to a guy from Extreme Networks at the show, and it seems they are still the only company making AVnu certified switches, and the ability to carry AVB is still an option that costs about $400 per switch.  Biamp is often mentioned as an AVB success story, and they had an enormous booth on the floor, but don't really have much presence in my world. And while I heard from a few people at the show "more cool AVB stuff is on the way real soon", I'm afraid I've heard that too long--I just can't even imagine what the product or solution would be that would make everyone drop Dante and go to AVB. For example, we've been using Dante for distribution of audio on our Gravesend Inn haunted hotel for four years successfully.  Why would we throw out tens of thousands of dollars of stuff to switch to AVB now?

But AVB still has a potential (and fascinating) future: As I wrote back in January of this year, It seems that AVB and the AVnu alliance has shifted to offer a solution for Time Sensitive Networking (TSN), and this was reinforced on the show floor with an AVB/TSN graphic, which listed only a handful of live sound companies and Audinate itself, who list some of same companies as licencees:

Also the automotive market is apparently very interested in AVB/TSN as well--using special connectors and AVB they can use Ethernet to save lots of weight in cars, which is a big deal.

And so I'll be interested to see what the next year brings, but I'm willing to bet anyone a significant donation to a charity of their choice that Dante will be available in more live audio products on the floor of Infocomm 2016 than any other audio networking solution (beyond that, who knows). And in the end, as I've been saying for a while (and Mr. Hemming substantiates in his paper, which you should read), that's all users who actually buy this stuff really care about.  Anyone want to take that bet?

Update July 25:

After the comments closed, Kevin Gross, key developer of Cobranet and now a leader in AES-67 development, wrote in with this:

Although Dante clearly has critical mass in many classes of audio products, the same could have been said about CobraNet 10 or so years ago. Proprietary technology is dependent on its owners to sustain adoption (against the headwind of the license fees they must charge), for maintenance and support and to keep the technology current with respect to market and technological advancement. Over the long term, it is simply not safe to assume that an individual technology owner will be able to negotiate the business and technical changes required to sustain their creation. Although Dante is the current leader in this ongoing horserace, realistically, based on recent history, we have to expect there to be a new contender before the end of the decade.
While a succession of proprietary technologies may move AV technology forward, technology based on open standards offers a more robust alternative. Standards already exist for audio networking in VoIP, ACIP, AVB and AES67. Standards exist and are under development for professional video over IP. Audinate has recognized the importance of standards-based interoperability by implementing AES67. Based on how things play out in IT, it is hard to imagine a future where the means of network audio interconnect is not open standards based. The only question is how long it will take to get there.
Kevin Gross - AVA Networks

A New Direction for AVB: Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) for Industrial Control

Update June 25 2018: Latest thoughts here

Update June 25, 2016: I have a followup here.

For many years, I've been following and have written a lot about IEEE Audio Video Bridging (AVB), an open standard way of transmitting audio and video over Ethernet using special network switches. It's a fascinating standard, but in the live show audio market, it seems to me that AVB has been eclipsed by Audinate's proprietary Dante technology, which has been meeting our needs for some time (at CityTech, for example, we've been distributing audio for our Gravesend Inn haunted attraction using Dante since 2011.)  More on that subject in my post-Infocomm writeup here.

As a result of writing these pieces, last Fall I met Greg Schlecter, Technology Marketing Strategist of Intel, who told me about new developments in a fascinating new direction for AVB, for another industry that needs precise, timely delivery of data: industrial control. This work has been under way for some time; as part of the effort, in 2012, the IEEE Audio Video Bridging standards task group was renamed to the "Time Sensitive Networking" (TSN) task group to reflect the new, larger focus of the group. And late last year, the AVB trade association AVnu Allance released more information; you can read more here on their site, in their press release here, and in a 30 minute Youtube video here.

This effort is fascinating to me since in addition to being a live sound guy, it just so happens that I wrote a book about live show applications of industrial control technologies. But what does audio have to do with industrial control, which is used in factory automation, medical devices, elevators, oil refineries and to control all kinds of machinery? AVB was originally designed to transport audio over standard Ethernet networks; to do so, it has to be able to work to a very high degree of time precision. Pro audio, for example, often uses a sample rate of 48,000 samples per second, and the precise synchronization of those samples for playback is critical for digital audio to work properly. In addition, on live shows we often have to send signals far and wide around a facility, but typically not over the internet (unless it's streamed, which is typically a different specialty). Modern Ethernet is well suited for both of those needs.

Industrial control has similar needs. For example, a factory may have large machines spread out over a facility, which also need tight synchronization. For example, if the parts of a Twinkie manufacturing facility aren't precisely synchronized, there could be a gooey mess on the floor:

Note: That footage has no audio; if you want to see a peculiar mash up of Twinkie manufacturing footage with Van Halen music, click here.

I wrote in my book about the limitations of standards, the process of standards development and adoption (excerpt here); one fascinating thing that we often see is the unintended directions standards can take after they are released into the wild. MIDI Show Control, for example, was developed to control all kinds of things on a show, but these days mostly is found connecting lighting desks.  DMX was designed for dimmers, but now controls things like video servers. And while the live show industry share of the industrial control market is tiny, sophisticated stage machinery is finding an ever-larger home in live shows, and we often use controls equipment from large industrial controls manufacturers. Big companies like Intel and GE are involved in the TSN effort, so it's possible that this will gain traction in the controls market soon, and it's possible that AVB will still end up backstage as a backbone for scenic automation systems.  Let me know if you see TSN showing up on your stage.