Outlook 21 Part I: Scalable AV for IT

Panduit had long had its eye on the AV industry upon acquiring Atlona two years ago. We had seen growing interest from our IT customers seeking AV solutions that would cleanly integrate within our network infrastructure solutions. This was clearly influenced by the gravitation toward AV over IP with our enterprise-level customers, particularly in the corporate and education verticals.

The Layer 1 infrastructure has grown more critical to AV equipment through this gravitation. IT technicians are not only managing the networks and infrastructure; they are managing the IP protocols that run over these networks and how the varied devices communicate. Adding AV components into the mix raised concerns to network engineers that they now had to learn and manage a new function over an already-challenging ecosystem.

Our mission is to educate these IT customers on this unfamiliar AV universe, and help them bring streamlined value to their organizations. These ambitions have driven our initiative to create scalable AV products and solutions designed with IT in mind. This will become a core focus for Panduit and Atlona throughout 2021.

What It Means

The AV industry has a deserved reputation as a marvel of innovation, yet we still see customers weighed down by an overload of legacy products and proprietary protocols. These lock customers into inflexible solutions that are even more challenging for facility and infrastructure managers to navigate. System expansion, growth – scaling – is often more along the lines of system replacement and a hit to the bottom line. As more of these solutions migrate toward IP and Ethernet, we see a genuine opportunity to base solutions on IT protocols that cast off those shackles and return real value for the enterprise.

Our IT customers have long leveraged these protocols to manage devices, deliver firmware upgrades, and monitor system performance. There is a clear opportunity to build these same flexible protocols into AV devices that will operate on the same network. As AV management responsibilities shift to IT managers and network engineers, our experience with datacom customers will provide Atlona with the knowledge and resources required to build effective AV products for IT.

Beyond simpler system management, consider the IT professional tasked with scaling the network infrastructure. We have learned over the past 10-15 years that the IT community requires intelligent devices that can be deployed in a highly scalable manner. Whether deploying a device in a data center with 10,000 racks or across an enterprise with hundreds of locations, IT networks must be infinitely scalable to meet a business’s growth initiatives. Now we must consider how we deploy AV systems across a global enterprise and ensure that it operates the same in every conference room around the world.

The Path Forward

Our mission to create scalable AV for IT may be new, but it’s not our first rodeo. Our journey into the AV market began six years ago with the development of our Above-Floor Raceway products. These simple cable management and connectivity products were built with the meeting space in mind: A low-profile, barely visible means of providing a cable pathway without running it under a floor or above a ceiling. Importantly, they provide plenty of access to enable connectivity between racks, walls, and tables within the meeting space, while appearing as if it’s one with the floor.

These early Panduit innovations are more relevant to our customers through our association with Atlona. Industry innovations like AV over IP have helped Panduit to develop products that are more relevant to AV integrators, while our IT knowledge will help Atlona innovate more IT-friendly products in 2021. Similarly, Panduit product cross-training will enable the Atlona Sales team to offer guidance to AV integrators on a structured cabling approach that IT prefers for Ethernet deployment, versus stuffing everything into a closet.

Reliability is of supreme importance to IT managers and many have dealt with the differing measure of uptime in AV gear versus IT gear. Too many have long relied on third party providers to reset their AV systems each morning – an experience that Panduit lived while working with an Atlona competitor’s product. There is nothing efficient or reliable about rebooting and restarting devices daily to reset meeting spaces.

The IT mentality is that things should work indefinitely, and in rare instances of downtime produce immediate alerts that a device is offline. This encourages proactive troubleshooting to restart the device and solve problems without the customer noticing a meeting space is down.

Panduit and Atlona have already made significant strides together in developing AV solutions made for IT professionals – products that are not only scalable, but flexible, and reliable. Some of these efforts can be seen in Atlona’s latest Velocity™ release, which provides clearly scalable options for control and monitoring across rising numbers of meeting spaces and classrooms. We see 2021 as the year that Scalable AV for IT becomes a true reality, with new game-changing products and solutions on the roadmap that our common customers will both find innovative and valuable for their business operations.

About the Author

Marc Naese, Senior Vice President of Panduit’s Network Infrastructure Business Unit provides leadership and innovation to a dynamic global team. The Network Infrastructure Business Unit is comprised of Panduit’s Enterprise, Data Center and Industrial businesses as well as functional support teams responsible for the strategy, vision and execution of key strategic initiatives globally. Marc is also a member of Panduit’s Executive Leadership Team. He has also been a key contributor to industry publications and webinars such as Security Executive magazine, Cabling Installation & Maintenance, tmcnet, and greendatacenternews.org. Some of his hobbies include golfing and marine aquaria.