by Kirsten Nelson
The message has been received across the industry. In the months leading up to InfoComm, Biamp's marketing efforts have boldly proclaimed that "change is coming." This mantra was also ever-present internally at Biamp's sales meeting this past April in Portland, OR, where vice president of North American sales Ron Camden opened the proceedings with a mix of humble northwestern earnestness and genuine excitement. "This will be a game changer," he declared. "Not only in this business, but in the IT business as well."
Well, today that change has arrived with the unveiling at InfoComm of Tesira, Biamp's DSP-based networked media system with astronomical channel counts that stretch the limits of human understanding—all made possible thanks to an IT infrastructure and Audio Video Bridging (AVB). Because its seemingly infinite nature defies description, I'll quote directly from Biamp: "Tesira is an enterprise-wide solution made up of intelligent network modules that share and boost performance. It is equipped with modular scalable inputs and outputs, DSPs, and networked end-points, providing system design capabilities for unlimited scenarios, including centralized, distributed, and hybrid type applications. Integrators have the option of customizing Tesira with up to eight DSPs in a single chassis with up to 420 by 420 audio channels over a scalable digital media backbone (AVB)."
Encompassing some 20-odd products thus far listed under the Tesira umbrella, the new series was designed with the intention of improving relations between AV and IT. Along with the ease-of-setup brought about by AVB's streamlined approach to networking, Tesira also brings expandability and upgradability in a cost-competitive package.
Among the problems Tesira solves from a business standpoint is scale. Its enormous capacity will allow Biamp dealers to gain access to an increased number of medium to extra-large projects. Rather than supplanting Biamp's existing products, Tesira's aim is to help "get markets you haven't been able to get," Czyzewski said. "That's how this product has been envisioned and scaled."
Biamp typically does not announce a product until its ready to ship, but on this occasion the company is taking what Czyzewski likes to call an "educated risk," raising the Tesira flag long before its scheduled January 2012 ship date. "We felt the timing made sense in terms of where we are, and the gestation of projects," he explained, noting the duration of the design phase on the larger-scale projects for which Tesira is destined.
Tesira training will begin in November of this year, joining a Biamp educational roster which also includes Audia classes that continue to be a big draw. The way these products will coexist in the Biamp lineup is reflective of Tesira's ability to interface with CobraNet, a fact which will make it possible to approach existing projects and make them even bigger, building onto existing systems.
ABCs of AVB and IT
After joining the AVnu Alliance two years ago, Biamp jumped head first into development of products based on the AVB platform. "We were looking for a partnership opportunity to make our network dreams come true," Czyzewski quipped to the crowd at the sales meeting in April. That partner was AVB.
No stranger to network protocols, Biamp was an early CobraNet adopter and will continue to support the forma with its existing products. But "all Tesira products are going to be AVB, period," Czyzewski emphasized.
AVB brings larger channel capacity that is not tied to latency—you can add more channels without losing any speed. While it is still fairly new, the IEEE 802 standard protocol eliminates data traffic collisions by synchronizing multiple streams of audio and video, eliminating buffering delays. Looking ahead, Biamp and the other manufacturer partners in AVB's AVnu Alliance are working together to develop an IEEE standard to tackle device discovery.
In addition to AVB, Tesira also brings other design maxims from the IT world. The reason its so scalable is because Tesira offers a "partitioned" approach to compilation. This allows integrators to make changes on the fly without taking systems offline, and it also makes it possible to have several systems on one network, such as in a campus setting. Rather than rewriting an entire project with every single change to a system, partitions can be updated individually, without affection portions of the system that are in use, providing a better cure for headaches than just about anything offered by the pharmaceutical industry.
What Tesira Can do for You
As Czyzewski and members of Biamp's engineering team continued to detail the capabilities of Tesira, members of the audience at the sales meeting actually cheered. Among the crowd pleasers was the notion that Tesira's compilation engine automatically creates digital audio transport connections and automated hardware specifications needed to complete a system design. The description of this feature sounds like integrators have just hired a really efficient intern with Tesira: "The compilation engine performs a number of operations in a matter of seconds — from checking that the design is complete, to determining the most cost-effective list of Biamp hardware required, to finally documenting the necessary system interconnects to ensure proper, stable operation."
Further, a "self-check sanity controller" feature monitors the system for exceptions and ensures that internal parameters are in range. Additionally, Biamp's new SpeechSense and AmbientSense technologies improve intelligibility with "self-check sanity controllers" and algorithms that do smart things like removing the echo of a page before measuring noise level.
The mood at the Biamp sales meeting was buoyant after the Tesira sessions went more in-depth on features and software updates. Mike Wuellner of Online Marketing, who has been in the industry for 27 years, 23 of those working as a rep, proclaimed, "I've never seen a product that will have more impact on the industry than this. It's not just the product, it's the advent of AVB. It's refreshing to be a part of a new way of thinking through integration."
There will be a learning curve when it comes to designing with Tesira's system of servers, cards, and expanders, especially since the sever will dwell in one closet and the various end nodes can be installed across a facility. But as Wuellner pointed out, in the end, "Implementing a sound system is like plugging in a printer on a network."
If this comment is any indication, all signs point to a game changer for the AV industry. The card-based functionality of Tesira is a platform familiar to those in the IT world, and that industry long ago mastered the art of charging more for its services and the capabilities they can add with a single card swap. As the AV industry continues to move away from hardware sales into an advanced service provider model, Tesira will usher in new sales techniques to match its streamlined approach to hardware implementation.