Creating a well-designed, resilient, and secure AV over IP network that is integrated into the overall technology infrastructure of a university campus requires funding for equipment, training for staff and faculty, and the creation of a diverse and dedicated AV support teams to ensure proper maintenance and operation of the AV systems. All this adds up to a seemingly unsurmountable series of tasks.
In a session of the DDMC, Dr. Joe Way, the Director of Learning Environments at the University of Southern California, along with his senior team of Raj Singh and Chi Lo, discussed the challenges they faced and their approach to resolving them in their own AV network.
Raj Singh kicked off our session with pointing out initial challenges of managing multicast traffic and traversing between different switches and VLANs for the AV system in USC. They performed a stress test with about 40 rooms to create a playbook for replication and put network and security team guardrails to contain the multicast traffic. Challenges also include securing IP traffic, issues with bandwidth, multicast routing, and multi-MAC exemptions. USC’s approach to network AV is a top-down approach, designing rules and systems first and then propagating down to individual rooms. Data hygiene is important in network-based AV environments, unlike traditional AV where devices can be easily connected and swapped out.
Chi Lo further discussed stress testing a network to ensure it can handle high bandwidth traffic, such as 4K video. Recommend testing all scenarios and maximizing bandwidth to guarantee network readiness for future needs. The importance of direct connection of encoders and decoders to the distribution switcher is emphasized. Firmware updates that allow traversing across multiple fabrics and implementing software based VLAN separation.
The conversation continued with a question about USCs networking approach for distributing AV over IP system. Layer 2 or 3 and why? With a flat layer 2 network and the need for a layer 3 model with edge routing to avoid the whole system going down if a point in the network fails. Raj spoke to the use of router stacks on each floor of the building and keeping the AV system separate to that floor. The approach includes a mix of layer 2 and layer 3 with direct connections to network switches for multicast devices, and a registration and monitoring system for security.
The importance of security measures in the network and how USC went through an approval process with its own network security team to ensure the firewall rules and ports were secured was also discussed in detail. They partnered with the CEO’s office and IT infrastructure early on to get their approval and blessing, which slowed down the process initially but ultimately fast-tracked everything else. They were able to develop policies and tools to monitor the system and detect anomalies. They also used software-based tools to see what type of process is causing issues in the network.
Tracking metrics becomes the priority once an AV over IP network is in place, one on the engineering side and the other on the IT side. They are looking at things like network bandwidth, CPU cycles, packet loss, latency, and connectivity. Exploration of self-healing solutions for issues like cameras going offline, which can be fixed by power cycling. The team is also focused on ensuring that all their devices are running the latest software to enable them to connect to different platforms like Microsoft Teams, Zoom,and Webex. Compliance and security risks are also taken seriously, and upgrades are made promptly when necessary.
In conclusion, the DDMC session featuring Dr. Joe Way, Raj Singh, and Chi Lo provided valuable insights into the challenges faced and solutions implemented in the AV network at the University of Southern California. From network security and software updates to equipment maintenance and user support, the USC team demonstrated a comprehensive approach to managing a complex AV infrastructure.
While we have summarized some key points from the session, there are many more details to be learned from watching the recorded video. Overall, this session serves as a valuable resource for anyone involved in AV network management, particularly in an educational or large organizational setting.