One clear business lesson from the pandemic is that digital visual communication is paramount to sustaining cohesive organizations, effective business operations, and business growth. In the post-digitally-transformed economy, IT leaders in enterprise companies – including those in the government, education and corporate sectors – are becoming more AV-oriented, and are adopting more software applications for their visual communication needs. However, to ensure they have the flexibility, security, and interoperability required for modern business operations, they don’t just need a software application, but a software platform that interconnects applications with infrastructure with IoT and AI services for better management, scalability, and for a more effective integration into their business operations. 

AV-over-IP is the transmission of audio-visual (AV) information via data packets over an Internet Protocol (IP) network. In the AV industry, it refers to using the network rather than using traditional Audio Visual signal transmission. AV-over-IP has actually been around for a while, however, the recent convergence of AV and IT has opened up a new field of possibilities for technological advancement. According to the report Maia Research released in 2021, AV-over-IP is the fastest growing technology in the IT industry, with enterprise sectors including corporate, education and government being the largest deployers of the technology (taking up 85 per cent of the total market). And, it has no plans of slowing down. According to Maia Research’s 2021 study of the global AV-over-IP market, the AV-over-IP market is expected to grow from US$3B in 2021 to US$51B in 2027 (~55 per cent CAGR).

Source Maia Research 2021

AV will belong to the IT department

Over the past decade, Audio Visual applications and services have increasingly been converging technologically with IT responsibilities. Audio Visual sources can now be streamed and shared across the network from public and private cloud as well as on-premises servers. The rapid growth and adoption of video as one of the fundamental ways we communicate has been driving a veritable surge of rich visual and video content that is forcing IT leaders to reconsider their network, their management, and security tools as well as, of course, the AV content and applications themselves.  

Enterprise IT teams need to be ready to efficiently support and manage this wave of visual content coming their way. The good news is that software-defined AV-over-IP is ready for it.  

For several years now, conditions have been set for software-defined AV-over-IP to thrive, and surpass hardware-based capabilities of handling high-resolution, real-time content. The rapid increase in computing according to the following laws has meant that companies can finally manage AV and IoT assets in a distributed way through the cloud and through the network.

  • Moore’s Law:  This law stipulates that processing power doubles every 18 months.  This is also one of the driving factors behind the continued development and standardization of hardware solutions.  
  • Butter’s Law:  This law stipulates that communication speeds are doubling every nine months. Simple math tells us that network transmission speeds are doubling twice as fast as hardware processing.
  • Kryder’s Law: This law stipulates that storage capacity is doubling every 13 months.   

This is one of the key reasons Maia Research has found software-based AV-over-IP is growing faster than hardware-based.  It’s also the reason an IT leader concerned about bandwidth-consuming content that is starting to hit their network will look to software-defined solutions for mitigation.

A deeper look at the software-defined (SD-AV) approach 

There are two main approaches to delivering AV content and applications over the network: software-defined AV, and static AV. Software-defined AV differs from a static approach to AV in that it separates the control plane from the data/AV plane. What that means is that it delivers any and many sources to any and many endpoints, handling adjustments in resolution, aspect ratio, compression, etc. as required. In addition, any software-defined AV solution enables administrators to leverage control triggers for visual content from across the network, such as an IoT device, AI ruleset, or remote management via API.  

In contrast, because static AV does not separate the control plane and the data/AV plane, it enables a single source to a single endpoint (or several mirrored devices using multicast). It lacks the flexibility to provide accompanying adjustments to resolution, aspect ratio, etc. and also lacks the control layer that enables distributed management by IT, which is fundamental for the modernization of business operations.  

Software-defined solutions, by nature, are more flexible and futureproof than hardware-based or static AV solutions. Amidst our movement to a hybrid work model, as well as dependency on more automation from systems, the integration of and dynamic distribution of information and content to multiple locations has become significantly more important for IT.  This is another of the key reasons why companies, universities, governments are looking for Software-Defined AV.  

Do enterprises need a platform?

Interconnectedness is paramount for enterprise organizations and any company interested in breaking down silos (which are pervasive across legacy AV solutions). Looking to the present, we should be deploying a single modernized AV-over-IP platform solution, rather than siloed applications. Deploying a platform also ensures consistent security across an organization’s infrastructure as well as centralized management. By deploying an AV-over-IP platform with AV applications for each functional need deployed on top of it, IT departments retain end-to-end solution management across their infrastructure while providing functional departments access to the applications. Additionally, a platform with an open technology architecture and API makes it simple to add more AV applications and ensures maximum interoperability. Finally, a platform approach reduces both the total cost of ownership and complexity of enterprise deployments.

The emerging choice for enterprise customers 

Looking out into the future as digital transformation accelerates, more flexibility, interoperability and interconnected visual applications and services are needed, to not only sustain, but to advance business operations in the enterprise. The best way to deploy these at scale is an AV-over-IP platform. It is more important than ever to not be constrained by hardware or by dedicated static AV solutions.  According to Deloitte Insights, “Once a novel idea, digital platforms have become increasingly common. At the most basic level, platforms help to make resources and participants more accessible to each other on an as-needed basis.” Alongside that, a platform approach that effectively integrates AV services with IoT, AI, security, and infrastructure may just become the norm for the enterprise, university, and government markets over the next five years. The more distributed the organization, the more a centralized platform is needed.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
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John Marshall
John Marshall is CEO & Board Member at Userful, a leading provider of AV-over-IP solutions for enhanced video communication. He focuses on developing and implementing strategic growth initiatives for Userful; launching the company into new markets, and expansion through new technology and channel partnerships. He has more than 25 years of experience building innovative, market-leading organizations.