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How Netgear is Working to Drive the AV-over-IP Revolution

Netgear's 96-port M4300-96X network switch is preconfigured for plug-and-play integration with SDVoE networks.
(Image credit: Netgear)

Almost every AV manufacturer has spent the last few years hard at work on making their products mesh better with IT. But how many IT companies are working at their side of this relationship?

Netgear is one such networking company that sees the vast potential in pro AV, and it has gone to lengths of late to capture as much of the market as possible with solutions that “just work.” According to Laurent Masia, director of product line management, managed switches at Netgear, the company’s ambitions necessitated an organizational restructuring. 

“We went to InfoComm explaining that we made the decision to reshape the organization top down, from our CEO, from our general manager down to the expert sales, tech support organization, then operations and product people,” Masia said. “Altogether we are committing to helping this transition from HDBaseT to IP networks, and our way is to simplify that.”

To accomplish this, the company announced three new advanced Layer 3 switches that are preconfigured out of the box for AV over IP and multicasting. 

“We realized the hard way that AV over IP in general, but video multicasting in particular, deserve and require advanced switching,” Masia said. “Because it’s meant to be super robust, super stable, and you have a whole lot of interoperability potential issues when it comes to a job with video and Dante and AES67.”

Debuted at InfoComm, the M4300 series is a 40G, 10G, and 1G stackable platform with non-stop forwarding. Available in sizes from eight to 96 ports, these switches feature “zero-touch” configuration designed to make integration with SDVoE networks as simple as plug and play, with no need for programming.

Noteworthy individual models in this line include the M4300-16X, a 16-port switch with PoE+; the M4300-24XF, which features 24 fiber ports; and the M4300-48XF, which packs 48 fiber ports into a 1U chassis.

“This new platform fits with a new vertical, which is healthcare,” Masia said. “Because healthcare and hospitals worldwide are based on fiber, all the time. Copper, the good old RJ45, is not really allowed for certification. So, our AV manufacturers that are very active in healthcare were in the need of a cost-effective, full-fiber solution.”

To further help customers simplify the transition to AV over IP, the new switches will incorporate a new software enhancement currently known as IGMP+ that will enable them to run on Layer 2 at scale. 

“The problem with Layer 3 is that it adds a level of complexity,” Masia said. “It’s a long and fastidious configuration prone to mistakes, and customers don’t want that. They need a high-end platform in order to have a robust-enough switching platform, but [one that doesn’t] leverage Layer 3. So, we fixed the Layer 2 part instead, in order to offer the same scalability to do large installations but without fastidious configuration.”

Rounding out the company’s latest push is its Dedicated Pro AV Engineering Services, conceived to empower businesses with free network design assistance and installation support. From pre-sales and post-sales support to technical training, to white papers and best practices, these services are positioned to help educate tech managers and integrators to become masters of networked AV.

“It’s a design center with networking professionals capable of documenting, drawing, and producing architectures and explaining the configuration, publishing the configurations, and assisting during installations,” Masia said. “And when the shit hits the fan, those network professionals fix things, because you can’t miss a delivery date. This is a fundamentally different behavior and we’re really happy with it.”

Adding together its new products, software, and services, Netgear seems poised to capitalize on its mission of becoming the number-one networking partner for small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

“Netgear’s ambition is not only to stay, but become the absolute leader in SMB networking and our ambition has not changed,” Masia said. “We are on the market to simplify and streamline IP networking for small and medium customers who don’t have the resources, don’t have the budget, or don’t have the right IT teams to leverage more complex or prestige networking equipment. 

“We made the decision to reshape our organization to address the needs of the AV industry and the community of end users and systems integrators, and for AV manufacturers. We made the decision this year, and said ‘OK, our solutions work, but this industry deserves more. They deserve a real partnership.’”