“Audinate, developer of the industry-leading Dante™ media networking technology, is giving visitors to ISE 2017 the first opportunity to see the revolutionary new Dante Domain Manager platform, a complete network management solution bringing enterprise-grade system administration to the AV world. Dante Domain Manager makes audio networking more secure, more scalable and more manageable than ever before.”
That’s the start of their press release anyway. I’m not at ISE, so haven’t had a chance to take a closer look at Dante Domain Manager (let’s just call it DDM for ease), but already my curiosity is piqued.
What Does It Do?
DDM allows you to ‘enrol’ your Dante devices into one or more ‘domains’ (both choices of terminology that will resonate well with IT admins) and group those devices by site, building or room. What’s more, a single Dante domain can now encompass multiple IP subnets. Large scale end users have been wanting to route Dante between Layer 3 subnets for a long while now, so this will no doubt make them very happy.
I’m guessing this new functionality perhaps incorporates elements of Dante Netspander; a technology that was spoken about back at InfoComm 2011. We were told that Dante Netspander would make it possible to deliver tightly synchronised networked audio across subnets in a Layer 3 TCP/IP routed network. Looks like this has now been repurposed and included as part of DDM – just speculation on my part, I don’t know for sure.
In addition to the logical grouping and routing functions, comes a host of security focused enhancements. Most notably, the ability to utilise users and roles (something else the IT admins will have heard before). Currently, there are four pre-defined roles within DDM: Site Administrator, Domain Administrator, Operator and Guest. It’s unclear how granular you can get with the various privileges available under each role, but no doubt there should be enough in there to be useful. Gone are the days of all or nothing access. Users can also have different roles within different domains, so that too offers a good degree of flexibility. I’d be interested to see how this lines up with Device Lock, a feature introduced into Dante Controller 3.10 that enables devices to be PIN protected; do the roles in DDM traverse this, or is it another layer? With all these users on the Dante domains altering settings, sys admins will be pleased to know that DDM also provides an audit log too, so that changes (as well as other events) can be tracked.
IT Spoken Here (in addition to Dante)
With the scheduled release of DDM (currently the second half of 2017), is Audinate perhaps giving a nod to the notion, touted by many, that corporate AV is eventually going to be the responsibility of the IT department? In many organisations, this is not news and has already been the case for some time now, but DDM certainly helps push this assimilation further. There are a lot of things about DDM that will be given a tick by many an IT manager and perhaps entrench Dante as a ‘preferred technology’ when considering the options available for a new AV project or upgrade. Once these features are available, any other solution which doesn’t have them (or requires more effort or outlay to achieve parity) may seem somewhat lacking.
In my view, the things on offer which make DDM attractive to the enterprise IT sector are:
- LDAP/Active Directory integration (combine that with RADIUS for switches/routers and that’s a very compelling solution).
- HTTPS support for communications between the server and the Dante network.
- SNMP traps for reporting and alerts.
- Compatibility with Linux.
- The option to run DDM on a virtual server and replicate across hardware.
- Simplified Layer 3 routing without the need for creative workarounds.
- The ability to push firmware updates to Dante devices.
Of course, some of those things aren’t solely attractive to IT, but this does seem to signal a somewhat new breed of IT-centric AV control where it doesn’t hurt solutions providers like Audinate to be more IT friendly. In fact, some concepts in DDM actually remind me of WiFi access point management; enrolling/adopting devices, pushing firmware updates, user management, there’ll be a welcome feeling of having seen this sort of thing before in the IT camp. It’s not all about IT though, Audinate has also addressed many of the feature requests that integrators and consultants have been asking for by way of scalability and security. I think DDM will be very well received by both integrators and IT departments alike.
Audinate isn’t the only company courting Big IT either. Also at ISE, QSC will be demonstrating their 4th generation Q-SYS software which can be run on compatible Dell hardware. That’s a huge shift in what’s achievable with networked AV – although there’s no product to ship yet. I don’t think it will be far off before QSC can provide elastic compute capabilities to what were once dedicated DSP functions; along with all the reliability, redundancy and replication advantages of commodity server hardware. Combine this with the fact that QSC also speak Dante, throw in a measure of DDM and from a network infrastructure and management perspective there are some very interesting possibilities ahead.
How Much Will It Cost?
It’s not clear as yet what the price of DDM will be, or indeed how many different flavours will be on offer either. The exact feature set will vary depending on which package is purchased. There are a few roads Audinate could go down here, perhaps moving up the tiers based on a combination of the number of domains, devices or users supported. I wouldn’t even want to hazard a guess at a figure, I’d probably be way out, but chances are, if you’re running the kind of infrastructure that warrants DDM, then your budget can probably stretch to accommodate it.
I’m looking forward to reading about the first projects which utilise DDM, it will be interesting to see what people’s experiences are like with it and how it changes the way they deliver projects. Well done Audinate, well played indeed.
If it looks like I’m evangelising about Audinate, just for the record, I’m not on their payroll, they haven’t asked me to write this piece; heck, it might even get a comment from one of their staff showing displeasure at something I’ve suggested or correcting a schoolboy error. No vested interest on my part, just sharing my thoughts.